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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

    Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue