Simon English's Limited Edition Mulberry Bag

The FRED gallery collaborates on tote bags for the Bond Street flagship store.

Fashion Incoming
Simon English (left), Peter Jones (right)
As IT-bag ladies and free-spending art collectors scale down their desires, Mulberry has teamed up with FRED Gallery for a limited edition series of artist-designed Tote bags which merge fashion, art and function. On the eve of his bag's debut in the windows of the Mulberry Bond Street flagship store, FRED artist Simon English discusses the heady inspiration for its design.

Dazed Digital: Was the design you created for your Mulberry bag inspired by art, the bag itself or something utterly outside the context of the collaboration?
Simon English: Both. It all started when I was examining Giacometti's headscarves this time last year, at the Pompidou, little thinking I would be coerced into designing the surface of a handbag for Mulberry a year later…

DD:  What are your associations with Mulberry?
SE: I always thought of Mulberry as being synonymous with English Pony and nautical headscarves sported in the shires of my youth.

DD: That sounds pretty mumsy for the new artistically inclined Mulberry. Has your opinion changed since they invited you to collaborate with them on something obviously edgy and city-centrentic?
SE: I am clearly wrong. The Mulberry of today is very different.

DD: Did your opinion and approach to the project change as you revaluated your image of the brand?
SE: Well, I really didn't want to do it, I had a hard time justifying my relationship to a handbag ... if being Ernest is important......and as so often is the case, ended up really ENJOYING IT. An angry pattern, with a nod to Giacometti's headscarf soon gave way to my imaginings of glorious weekend at Daphne Du Maurier's Manderley.

DD: Why did you decide to shift your attention from an art reference to an illustrative homage to 'Rebecca'?
SE: It was to become a narrative bag, fuelled not least by my re-reading the novel at the time... and a curious love of fabergee. I so wanted to serve and subvert the classic Mulberry design of old and was reminded of Daphne du Mauriers two fold personalities manifested in the mischeavous, but absent figure of Rebecca and the annoyingly servile false-protagonist, the second Mrs De Winter. I think Rebecca won, though Maxim's somewhat "Maximus" coat of arms infiltrates the second Mrs De Winters failed attempt at getting a "pony-horse" onto the facade...p.s, I really do warm to the second Mrs De Winter and understand her love of Maxim only too well. For me, the beautiful pink poodle is woven into the magical bag history.

DD: Was that how the bag earned the name 'Maxim-meow'?
SE: Actually, the story had real-world roots. With one panel left to complete, I had to go to Paris for a friends birthday, taking a clockwork Hamleys poodle as an offering. I presented it to her at the opening of the Claude Closky show at the MacVal and proceeded to terrorise the events of the entire evening. The poodle was finally adopted and nurtured by a little girl who affectionately called the pink poodle "Maxim-meow".

DD: And then you adopted that name from her?
SE: On my return to London, I knew that Maxim-meow had to complete the badly spelt "Mandalay Mulberry bag". As we speak, a 100 Maxim-meow"s surround the bag at Mulberry's in Bond Street, playing, fighting and tripping over 50 copies of Rebecca, not quite sure of why they are there but having a great time.
More Fashion