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Mulberry AW17
Mulberry AW17Photography Meshach Falconer-Roberts

Mulberry gets inspired by Britain, Bowie, and Princess Di

Creative director Johnny Coca breaks down his Sloane Ranger take on English style for AW17, styled by Lotta Volkova

Sloane Rangers are a world unto themselves. And if you didn’t grow up in England, it’s easy to see why their tribe and its hazy codes (however much both are shifting in an era of Made in Chelsea, Turbo Sloane money) can be quite fascinating. For Mulberry’s AW17 collection, Spanish-born Johnny Coca threw himself headfirst into 70s-80s Sloane territory with a collection that was free of the irony that a (jaded) British designer might apply to the theme, and instead offered a subversive take on aristo dress codes, bringing in new proportions and above all a new attitude.

This was the OG Sloane – a pearls and silk pussy bow blouse kind of girl in a Mitford-esque tweed hunting skirt – but brought up to speed with now: a lot of genderless vibes via menswear-y, oversized suits with broad shoulders, a bit of cool frump, some kinky mesh boots and the sort of sexy whip-cracking subtext that runs through riding gear. Coca’s girl had also translated her pony’s old-school quilted rug into quilted silk capes and large, deconstructed shapes. It was a sophisticated eccentricity, the right kind of wrong, and it makes total sense that Coca works with Russian-born stylist Lotta Volkova, who really isn’t afraid of tackling things that are a bit ‘off’. If anyone can appreciate the English town and country Sloaney look, it’s her.

“There’s freedom to express your own style and your own attitude” – Johnny Coca

At a preview at the Mulberry head offices last week, Coca spoke about his fascination with the British aristocracy. “When you go outside of London in the countryside, all these people with their titles, they are in this specific environment,” he said. But, he added: “I think (British culture) is extreme. It’s like, on one side it’s all these aristocrats with their families with the big heritage, the Queen, and on the other side, you have the rebellious side. There’s freedom to express your own style and your own attitude.”

Case in point, the mood board. This had David Bowie fans outside a 1973 concert at Earl’s Court and 1920s sepia photographs of couples, but also Princess Diana in the pussy bow blouses she wore around the time of her engagement and a picture of the Queen in her silk headscarf. The outcome of it: a richly textured bricolage of textures and cultures, dotted with chintzy Mulberry Home wallpaper prints from the seventies and eighties that had been dug out from the archives. 

“For me, from outside, it looks really British. There’s a lot of legitimacy for us to do this,” Coca said of the mood he wanted to convey and the very classic look he had cleverly reinterpreted. Heritage houses (Mulberry was established in 1971) can sometimes have a slightly tricky time balancing their history and bringing something new and exciting to table – while also letting their current-day designer explore his or her own ideas – but what Johnny Coca did on Sunday was heritage done right: from an outsider’s perspective.