As teenagers, Stefan Cooke founders Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt were surrounded by cultural references to Mulberry’s iconic bags. Think Tim Walker’s ethereal ’00s advertising campaigns starring Lindsey Wixon – all fanciful florals and saccharine hues – and shots of Kate Moss carrying every indie girls’s favourite bag, the Bayswater, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. So it was serendipitous when they received a call asking them to collaborate with the British heritage label on Mulberry Editions, a series that launched in 2021 in line with the label’s 50th year, and invites London’s coolest creatives to reinterpret the brand’s design DNA. Previous collaborators include Nicholas Daley, Richard Malone, Ahluwalia and Alexa Chung.
Stefan Cooke’s playful yet rigorously precise collections riff on an adolescent enchantment with indie sleaze. A signature of the brand is second-hand pieces painstakingly embellished with sequins, from ladylike vintage bags to “foam party” slogan tees sourced on eBay.
Cooke and Burt knew they wanted to work with vintage Mulberry bags, enchantingly worn by years of use, and so the duo travelled to The Rookery, one of Mulberry’s two carbon neutral factories in Somerset, to peruse a plethora of second-hand styles hidden in stacks of yellow boxes on shelves. “It felt like Christmas,” smiles Cooke. “We loved the idea of reworking something that physically needed an element of renovation.” For Burt, the visits were also something of a homecoming — he grew up close to Mulberry’s factories.
After much deliberation, the duo settled on 27 rare heirlooms which make up Mulberry’s first pre-loved limited-edition collaboration, ranging from the Bayswater to the Roxanne, the Lily to the Alana. These have all been reworked using painstaking processes developed through hours of trial and error with Mulberry’s artisans at The Rookery, with embellishments that reflect Stefan Cooke’s signature.
A tan Millie hobo bag has been top-stitched with softly folding leather bows, inspired by the jersey bow details, resembling Victorian surface embellishments, that adorned leggings and ruffled minidresses in Stefan Cooke’s SS23 collection. The surface of an almond pink Bayswater has been slashed with Cooke’s signature latticework, a deconstructed graphic that is most associated with the brand’s cut-out Argyle knits. A Lily shoulder bag in creamy orange, features an exaggerated white leather double strap, inspired by the oversized handles Cooke and Burt have added to vintage bags in the past. A mocha-hued shopper is accented with twisted braiding, a nod to military frogging and the idea of customising your shoelaces in your bedroom as a teen. “This collection was about using luxury processes to bring a new layer of meaning to bags that already have individual years of history,” Burt explains.
“This feels like a real marriage of ideas and a new blueprint in terms of pre-loved design,” says Cooke of the 27 bags which will be showcased on the Stefan Cooke’s spring/summer 2024 London Fashion Week catwalk this morning. Whether you are lusting after a limited-edition Bayswater or an Alana, the capsule collection will be available to buy at Mulberry’s inaugural pre-loved pop-up store in Soho, from 16-25 September. “Grandmothers restore their old Mulberry bags so they can pass them down to their granddaughters. We hope that in fifty years, someone will pass down one of these bags,” says Burt. Mission surely accomplished.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.