It’s five minutes into my conversation with Emma Hill and I’ve already asked Mulberry’s creative director her most hated question: What’s your favourite piece from the
Fall/Winter 2012/2013 collection?
"That’s really tricky," she moans but with a smile in her voice. "Hmm…I love the goat-fur gilet. The whole season was inspired by [British fashion photographer] Tim Walker’s film The Lost Explorer – the idea of a boarding school girl who goes on adventures and meets mysterious monsters." (Walker also shot this season’s campaign, starring Lindsey Wixson cavorting with creatures from Where the Wild Things Are.)
Mulberry’s fall show was similarly eclectic, featuring prim and proper British tweeds and wools mixed with Aztec prints and shaggy Mongolian furs. The finale track? "Mahna Mahna" by the Muppets. As Hill says, "I love humorous things that are also luxurious and chic."
Hill became interested in design when she was a child. "I blame my Brownies uniform for my lifelong obsession with bags and accessories," she says. "It had a belt, a belt bag, a sash and a hat-I loved it." She designed accessories for Burberry and Marc Jacobs before joining Mulberry as creative director in 2008.
Within a few seasons, Hill had transformed the brand – a British institution since its launch in 1971 – into a paragon of uptown cool. In 2009, 9,000 people were wait-listed for the Alexa, a handbag inspired by Brit It girl Alexa Chung. This fall, Mulberry’s celebrity-stacked front row included Elizabeth Olsen, Azealia Banks and Downton Abbey‘s Laura Carmichael and Michelle Dockery.
"I’ve been wearing the Del Rey a lot lately," says Hill, referring to the fall 2012 purse she named after pop chanteuse Lana Del Rey. "It’s a classic ’50s shape, because Lana reminds me of that old-world Hollywood era. But we made the bag quite soft and deconstructed to make it more ‘Mulberry.’"
Read about Emma Hill’s fashion anxiety on the next page…
Hill describes the Mulberry aesthetic as "fashionably rebellious" but insists that she got over her own rebel phase years ago. "In high school, I would wear the wrong uniform and smoke behind the back shed," she says, laughing. "But now, I get my rebellion out on the runway. I like to break the fashion rules and mix high and low. I don’t like things too perfect."
Her team is already at work preparing the Spring/Summer 2013 collection. "The closer it gets to Fashion Week, the more I worry about girls falling off the runway, shoe heels snapping and factories burning down," admits Hill. "The night before every show, I sleep in the same room as the collection to make sure it’s okay and that nothing interferes with it. That way, if I wake up in the middle of the night with an ‘Oh, no! Did we do this?’ I can check right away."
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