That's steep! Mulberry defies the downturn as profits rise 358 per cent

Emma Hill's hallmarks are supple and slouchy leather, shiny brass hardware and shapes that are classic but not too formal

While the economic outlook may be grim for most, it's handbags and gladrags for the luxury luggage label Mulberry, which yesterday announced pretax profits of £23.3m, a leap of 358 per cent from last year's £5.1m.

The brand certainly has a knack for delivering what shoppers want. In the past few years, it has hit upon several best-selling and paparazzi-friendly handbag designs.

"Mulberry has found itself a good position as 'affordable luxury,'" said Harriet Quick, fashion features director at Vogue. "Their prices are much lower than Marc Jacobs or Celine, for example. They're still premium accessories, but they're more within reach."

With some designer handbags retailing at over £1,000 and most around the £700 mark, Mulberry's £400 to £800 bracket is one that both diehard designer shoppers and aspirational high street consumers can slot into.

"There are several bags that underpin our success," said the chief executive and chairman, Godfrey Davis, of the 44 per cent increase in retail sales, "the Bayswater, the Alexa, and the Daria. They're great classics."

The company was founded in 1971 by Roger Saul, aged 21, in Somerset. Alongside his mother, Joan, they made leather goods, mainly luggage, in their garage, but gradually moved into the fashion accessories market too. Mr Saul was ousted from the company in 2002.

The current boom kicked off in 2002 with the Roxanne, which was seen in the elbow crooks of Sienna Miller, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet, and continued with the Mitzi, Tillie and Edie – and, of course, the Alexa satchel, named for Ms Chung, the television presenter, a fan of the brand.

Creative director Emma Hill – who last year scooped Best Designer Brand at the British Fashion Awards – consistently designs bags that are attractive not only to trendspotters, but those who favour practicality. And season upon season, Mulberry has successfully perpetuated the notion of a singular "must-have" bag; consumers have been only too happy to follow their directives.

"Emma Hill's bags have a very friendly sort of handwriting," added Harriet Quick. "There's a sort of loveworn, casual feel to them – they're not as uptight or designer-ish as other brands. They're never too precious, so there's an ageless appeal, and there's always a design element, so you can have the funky turquoise animal print, or the lovely battered calfskin."

Ms Hill's hallmarks are supple and slouchy leather complemented by shiny brass hardware, and shapes that are classic without being too formal; the release of the Alexa bag for spring/summer 2010 reinstated the satchel on the fashionable scene – and the impact of its launch is still rippling through high street stores. Such was its success that it sold out several times over, has been recreated in "mini" and clutch styles, and is a conspicuous presence on the shoulders of shoppers in every major city.

"We have significant international growth too," said Mr Davis, "and we're seeing a lot of tourist business. A lot of people are coming to London to visit Mulberry and shop there."

The brand's popularity abroad is spurred on by the vogue for all things British and posh; fellow heritage label Burberry has also felt the effect of this, announcing a 40 per cent rise in profits last month.

Mulberry also celebrates its 40th birthday this year and recently published a book detailing what goes on behind the scenes at its Somerset production plant, where all of the brand's designs are still manufactured, and where the recently extended ready-to-wear clothing collection is developed.

"There's a lot of goodwill and faith for heritage brands among British shoppers – they connect more," said Ms Quick. "Some bags can look so anonymous, but there's a friendliness to Mulberry. They've done it very, very well."

Luxury bags that made the brand

Bayswater

Launched in 2000, Mulberry's classic tote pays tribute to the simple styling of the Hermes Kelly bag, with its flapdown top and postman's lock.

Daria

Britney Spears was a fan of Mulberry's 2009 bag the Daria, which came as a shoulder bag and a satchel. Many believed the enlarged logo was out of keeping with the brand's traditional tastes, but it was an overnight success.

Alexa

Mulberry's hit bag of 2010 was the Alexa satchel, named after hip party girl Alexa Chung and its runaway success continues to resonate now, with the brand producing new versions of the style. Its vintage, preppy cool was an instant hit with shoppers of all ages.

Roxanne

The bag of the season during the boho summer of 2003, when Sienna Miller et al had it dangling from their shoulders, the Roxanne mixes traditional luggage detailing with something a little edgier.

Mitzy

2008's hit bag was the Mitzy tote, a slouchy, casual offering that became near ubiquitous, thanks to an accessible price and range of jaunty colours.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Nursery Nurse

    £40 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Nurse needed in salfordI a...

    Nursery Nurse

    £25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

    Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

    £21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

    KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

    £110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape