The past 18 months have been a long, strange trip for Mulberry, and at least one part of that journey got an equally strange ending last week. On Thursday, while every sector of the American fashion industry (including the press) was roasting turkeys in their hometowns, the brand named Céline’s Johnny Coca as its new creative director. The move had been rumored for weeks, but the particular timing indicates that Mulberry may have some more work to do before it’s ready for prime time again.
Coca was Céline’s accessories design director and the architect of the hugely successful Trapeze Bag; Mulberry’s business relies heavily on the success of its handbags, so poaching a designer from the brand that’s the biggest accessories success story of the past five years makes a lot of sense. That, combined with continued introduction of less-expensive Mulberry bags that seek to reverse the disastrous price-increases of the Bruno Guillon era, should have combined for a good few days of press for the brand and optimism for its investors.
Oddly, though, Mulberry chose to announce the move on Thanksgiving. Although the brand is British and Thanksgiving is an American holiday, the US fashion press is the most widely read in the world, and Mulberry needs strong consumer interest outside of the UK in order to plot a stable path forward. Waiting just a couple of days would have guaranteed a fashion press back at its desks and hungering for a fresh story during this slow news period, and the story would likely have created far more anticipation for Coca’s July 2015 than the diffuse coverage it’s getting now.
Perhaps this somewhat rudderless approach is all the more reason to believe that Mulberry’s true return to form will be possible only when both a creative director and CEO have been installed. Hopefully, the latter will be along shortly.