Enlisting superstylist Lotta Volkova to work on your show not only means that your work will have a heightened sense of mundanity fetishised, it will also bear a significant attachment to Volkova’s cool, Soviet-influenced aesthetic. (Her mainstream success derived from styling Vetements shows in the early days; she works with Demna Gvasalia on his Balenciaga efforts too.) For the Fall 2017 season she made two separate appearances, removed from the Vetements/Balenciaga bubble: Mulberry in London, Emilio Pucci in Milan. Her collaboration with Mulberry began last season when the show had an unmistakable Vetements-isation. There was a certain quirkiness, an accentuation of slightly off shapes. The most obvious aesthetic borrowing came in the shape of exaggerated and breezy silhouettes that are linked closely with Vetements/Balenciaga.
Volkova’s indelible influence aside, creative director Johnny Coca can work from his own initiative. His recent outing was an exploration of British heritage from an outsider’s perspective; effectively, he placed his notions of British history on a pedestal and dissected it. He was looking at the British countryside, the Sloane Rangers of the 1970s, scenes outside David Bowie concerts, Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher. Coalescing a litany of 80s reference points, the show was marked by sharp tailoring, wide shoulders, and a dialogue between rigour and ease. For every Princess Diana pussy-bow blouse fused with Margaret Thatcher authoritative dress, there was the elegant ease of a countrywoman. As the collection progressed it became less concerned with rigour and more inclined to express itself with sinuous, flowing shapes that were reminiscent of recent Balenciaga outings—particularly it was the eccentric floral-print dresses.
This show was about shoes and bags. Coca arrived from Céline, where he worked as an accessories designer, just over a year ago. His appointment as creative director of an accessories brand was smart—the problem many fashion labels have is hiring designers with no previous accessories expertise. You look at what Salvatore Ferragamo has done, inspiring a new format: the womenswear, menswear and accessories divisions are run by different designers, to ensure their individual success. Coca’s ready-to-wear endeavours have been somewhat satisfactory but largely they lack a deeper meaning. However, I believe shareholders and customers alike will be enamoured by his handbags.
Styling is essential in cementing a show’s impact. For every great show, there is a great stylist behind it. Despite the indiscrete whiffs of Vetements/Balenciaga, this Mulberry collection pinpointed references that made for an interesting fashion show. There was a visually-appealing polish. It was styling mastery, to credit Volkova, as the clothes, despite their lack of meaning, proved to be extraordinarily confident and arresting.