Meeting Johnny Coca Mulberry’s Creative Director All You Need to Know

Johnny Coca Mulberry
Picture courtesy of Mulberry

Before we get to know Mulberry‘s Creative Director, let’s talk about what Johnny Coca has in store for us for AW17 at London Fashion Week – the label’s show will take place on Sunday (19.03.2017) at 4pm at Old Billingsgate and you can enjoy all the backstage excitement by following @MulberryEngland on Instagram and Snapchat.

Last season, Johnny Coca unveiled his second ready-to-wear collection for the label and this show will mark his first anniversary at Mulberry. He is one of fashion’s architects (explained below!), so it’s fair to expect many new shapes in bags but also constructs in the ready-to-wear line. Indeed, for Autumn Winter 2017 he will look back to the traditional craftsmanship techniques of the brand – if you watch the pre-show video below this means soldering, metal work, leather cutting, embroidery and even crochet! There’s a reason why show is entitle ‘All That is Yet to Come’: Johnny Coca will spin all this tradition into something dynamic that punches into the ‘now’ with colour pops and textures that will leave you wanting more. He may be relatively new to the heritage brand but he’s building momentum slowly but surely, which is a very wise move in this often over-zealous industry which creates its own confusions (the ‘see now/buy now’ phenomenon being one). Johnny Coca is not one for jumping on any kind of bandwagon.


How Johnny Coca came to be Creative Director of Mulberry

Meeting Johnny Coca Mulberry’s enigmatic creative director is quite a surprise. In fact Johnny Coca is much more shy than his exuberant dress sense seems to suggest. The diminutive Seville-born creative director of Mulberry is instantly recognisable by his Elvis-style quiff, pirate hoop earrings and extensive collection of kilts. If he is not wearing this Gaelic uniform, it’s a swashbuckling pinstripe suit and chunky white trainers. Given his exuberant dress sense, he could be seen as an unlikely character to helm one of Britain’s most traditional labels. What is less known about Johnny Coca is his precision and his eye for detail. Coca didn’t study fashion design, but centred his studies on architecture and design at Paris’ famous Ecole Boulle for architecture, design and applied arts.

As such, he doesn’t come from a traditional ‘fashion’ background and has spent most of his career developing products, many of which have become iconic. But chances are that until 2015, when he took up his role at Mulberry, you would have never heard of him. Prior to Johnny Coca’s Mulberry appointment as creative director, Johnny Coca led the accessory design team at Celine under Phoebe Philo. It is now widely known that he is responsible for many of the French label’s sell-out sunglasses and hero bags, namely the Trapeze and The Trio handbags. He has an uncanny knack for creating best-sellers, which makes his appointment at Mulberry all the more clear, given the fact in 2014, the label’s profits had been on a downward trajectory.

Johnny Coca Mulberry
Johnny Coca’s Mulberry SS17 show was full of school uniform stripes on blazers and deconstructed dresses and skirts

Johnny Coca is paving a way for himself as fashion’s new architect. He is, in his own words “obsessed with proportion”. He is also a great believer in ergonomics and as a consequence, the designer is wary of superfluous hardware or decoration on bags and accessories that do not complement the overall structure. One of his first missions was to reconfigure the Mulberry Bayswater bag, first introduced in 2003.  His ready-to-wear collections (only two so far including Spring Summer 2017) are playfully inspired by British uniforms and dress codes.

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Mulberry’s previous creative director, Emma Hill, was also known for her irreverent spin on ‘Britishness’ with collections that lent towards the eccentric, the fun and the quirky, Johnny Coca’s style is infinitely more grown-up. His Spring Summer 2017 collection was inspired by the traditional liveries of the British military, school uniform stripes and Land Girl outfits spun into feminine dresses with bold ruffles. The shoes for this collection were his only French caprice. With their exaggerated ruffle-like structure, Coca describes the slip on heel as “Richelieu or classic Versailles” by design.

He has a way of explaining his designs with the precision of an industrial engineer. Here he explains his modus operandi as he guides Mulberry back into the realm of affordable and aspirational luxury

Johnny Coca
Johnny Coca for Mulberry Spring Summer 2017

Johnny Coca on is commercial approach to design:

“It’s important to be fair. At Mulberry, I don’t design for the windows.  I design to be seen in the street. Something that women can use every day.”

Johnny Coca on building a bag:

“First you look at the silhouette. You must have a shape. Then you work on the construction. You have to decide on the leather to be applied to that shape. For me it is like cooking! You have all the best ingredients… like making the very best chicken curry. You need a very good chicken, and you add the best spices!”

Johnny Coca on what makes him tick: 

“I like to revamp something classic. To make it modern. You always have to ask yourself ‘ what is the point?’ Every aspect of design must have one. If you change things every four years [at a label] you lose the DNA and identity of the brand.”

Johnny Coca on why Mulberry has stood the test of time since it was established in the 1970s: 

“Why we love Mulberry is for what it was before and how we want to protect it.”

Johnny Coca Mulberry
Johnny Coca’s new Piccadilly Bayswater bag for Spring Summer 2017