British handbag and clothing brand Mulberry has set its sights on international expansion. Established by Roger Saul in Somerset in the south west of England in 1971, Mulberry has built a reputation on its dedication to craftsmanship and tradition. This balanced with a nose for high fashion and practicality has ensured it cult status when it launched the now iconic Bayswater in 2002. Named after the leafy West London neighbourhood, it was originally available in Oak, Chocolate and Black. Its success has seen new colours and finishes sent down the catwalk year on year.
With 123 stores and a market cap of £604m The Rookery, Mulberry’s original factory, could not meet demand. The second factory in Somerset has been completed and will run to full capacity by mid 2014. The Rookery has been the only leather goods factory of its size in the UK.
Bags are designed in the London studio. The entire process from pattern making and prototyping to fine tuning can take up to 28 weeks. Considering material qualities, it takes one skin to make one handbag. The Bayswater requires 12sq ft of leather. All off-cuts are used in smaller projects and recycled. Bags are handmade. Cutting, skiving, handle making, splitting, spraying, inking, ironing, stitching and folding are overseen by largely locally sourced and trained craftspeople.
The launch of the Alexa, named after British model, TV presenter and style icon, Alexa Chung, drew A-list stars to Mulberry’s catwalk shows. The design is derived from the Elkington, Mulberry’s Classic men’s briefcase.
American singer Lana Del Rey inspired the Del Rey bag featured in the 2012 Autumn/Winter campaign. Cara Delevingne, British model of the year for 2012 is the current face of the brand.
Mulberry launched the Cara Delevingne range at Claridge’s in London on 16 February 2014. It is hoping to revive it’s flagging bag sales; drawing on the model’s millions of international followers.
Chief executive Bruno Guillon has said plans to open 15 new stores were on track. A flagship store is set to open on Paris’ Rue Saint-Honore in 2014.
Guillon has repositioned Mulberry from an affordable to a luxury brand, with 36% of sales derived from bags priced over £1000 compared to 4% in 2012. Creative director, Emma Hill’s departure has left room for new direction.
Investment in prominent tourist destinations such as Asia and North America saw pre-tax profits down by 28% to £7.2 million, in the six months to 30 September. Revenues were up 2.1% to £78.1m with like-for-like growth of 4%. International retail sales were up 29%.
Research has shown that Asia Pacific is posed to be the biggest market for luxury goods by 2018. In readiness for the harvest, now is the time to invest. It is a costly process, but with the local market close to saturation, the promise of rich pickings may well justify investment in multinational expansion.