Johnny Coca's florals for spring at Mulberry could be groundbreaking
Royal Ascot Ladies Day
It's like looking at an old photograph. Though faded, details abound if you squint your eyes at the sentimentality. Its old worldliness is not meant to be brushed aside; it's very much the point.
Johnny Coca doesn't need photographs. His memory of his idyllic childhood in the Province of Seville serves him right. He remembers ruffles. He remembers sand. He remembers conversations that went late into the night, and dancing. There was lots of dancing. That sort of journey isn't confined in personal life. Coca's visitation to his past, intimate as they were, inspired another kind of time travelling — a professional and creative one which tells of his spring/summer collection for Mulberry.
Your spring/summer 2018 collection is a lot of fun. Tell me about it.
I wanted to bring in something more colourful and picked up ideas when I went to three different parties. All these amazing garden parties with all these Ascot ladies and their giant hats — they were so well dressed. I also looked at porcelain trays and porcelain walls of British houses. With so much design, they're quite refined and that's how I curated the moodboard for my collection. [Points to a picture of a porcelain vase] This is the shape for the heels. The proportions, the textures, the colours. It was this kind of narrative and quite an unexpected way of approaching the product. [Points to pictures of striped seaside deck chairs] The dresses, swimwear, jumpsuits show the stripes from the chair at the beach; I tried to make it more poetic, more fresh, more playful, feminine and at the same time, comfortable.
You're known to be very adept at translating the British iconography. And we definitely see that in your spring hats.
You can only see that in the UK. And we have these designers working with us, to make it a very special kind of art, it's kind of amazing, yeah, these type of femininities. These ascot hats and garden party moments with poetic floral from the porcelain give me happiness.
And they way you present them, in a pixelated VHS-like footage... what's the idea behind it?
When you see these pictures, you see the grain, same as the video. So it gives something quite different, it's like something from the past combined with modernity.
It feels very nostalgic. Do you think about your childhood a lot?
I was looking at a lot of film, and I revisited this image in my head of when I was in school with so many girls; there were 23 girls in my class and only two guys. I was like 14 or 15 at the time. The girls were very close, they cared for each other, they go out together, they dress together, they play with makeup together. And I loved this sort of friendship between them. I love this kind of lightness and poetic moments. You'll see them in the dresses, how they are more fluid than ever. They're quite light, with all these ruffles. Very summer-in-the-countryside, very delicate.
"Spanish women really love to dress and they really love to shop. They don't spend a lot but they buy a lot of small things just to have that really specific outfit."
What were summers like growing up?
There was a lot of sand, because Seville. I remember going to the theatre in Seville where people were dancing and each family really takes the time to dress up in long ruffled dresses like the ones in the collection. And they're all like super proud to wear these dresses and they look beautiful. They're sharing the moment and dancing together. A few families will join ours, and they just keep moving. I loved the big tables where everyone would talk for hours until two in the morning, talking about their lives while spending time outside.
Apart from the hats, the dresses are truly standouts.
Yes! There's this dress in pink, the pink ruffle. When she's moving, there's all this movement like the Spanish dress with big layers. It's quite special. It's very funny because Spanish women really love to dress and they really love to shop. They don't spend a lot but they buy a lot of small things just to have that really specific outfit.
Small details make the biggest difference.
Oh yes, they buy a lot of shoes.
And are these made for dancing?
I had a dancing moment. I tried to make a fusion of shapes, to make the heel and to have it as an ornament with the embellishments, like with the fur running around. They're kind of like dancing shoes with the middle heel, those tango shoes you know.
I see it! Was that a big focal point for you? The shoes? Especially since you came from a very accessories-led background.
In all the experience I had, I really take time to make bags. And when I knew how to make bags, I went on to shoes and when I went on to shoes, I went on to sunglasses. And now, I moved on to ready-to-wear. And I think it's important to consider each category as its own category and after that, reflect on the consistency of message through all the categories to create that global lifestyle, from the jewels to the bags to the shoes. Everything is linked.
"When you go out on the street or when you go to shop or the countryside, look around you. There are things you can touch and introduce as ingredient on as memory to come. You create your own history."
At the presentation area, there was an enlarged quote on the wall: We are always creating our own heritage. What does creating your own heritage mean at Mulberry?
I think it's trying to develop and to increase the DNA of the brand. Because it's a British brand, you need to make it modern and at the same time, respect the heritage of the brand and the country. When you go out on the street or when you go to shop or the countryside, look around you. There are things you can touch and introduce as ingredient on as memory to come. So for me, I take those and try to explore and introduce and change the way people are playing with the treatment of details. You create your own history.
Will Mulberry's ready-to-wear ever catch up with its iconic bags?
In the past, it was very focused and no one remember the ready-to-wear. When I arrived, someone asked me, "What do you remember about Mulberry from the past?" I never knew there was womenswear because I didn't have references. But now, with strong interpretations and design. For sure, people will remember and go, "Oh I remember this, I remember this moment with all this colour, or this giant cake or this wallpaper dress with sequins." It's nice to be proud and there's so much to be proud of in the UK.
You mentioned that Mulberry is heritage mixed with modernity. What does modern mean?
Modern is what we need, in terms of design, in terms of function, in terms of product. If you look at bag from the '50s, it was really small but it was properly related to the need of the girl at that time. Today, their needs are different — you're working, you've a big bag, you want to put all your stuff inside. So you have to adapt your design to the period. So modernity is trying to catch and design what is right for now and making your designs really different and work with the construction and the proportion. It should be clever and sophisticated.
Mulberry's spring/summer 2018 collection will be out in late January.