Backstory Behind the Bags: Mulberry

Mulberry Roger Saul

For our second label in our 'Backstory Behind the Bags' feature we have chosen to stick to the British designer theme and opt for the ultra-smart and much-loved Mulberry bags. Over the years Mulberry has arguably earned its iconic status, and it should almost be expected that giving the gift of a Mulberry bag will be met with screams of delight.

Yet just like many labels, these British designs didn't always have such a hype surrounding them, and in fact the Mulberry bags arguably derived from humble beginnings. There's no denying that the founder of Mulberry, Roger Saul, put in the work in order for his label to achieve the acknowledgment and praise it has to today. Taking the £500 his parents gave him for his 21st birthday, Saul went on to launch the British fashion label in1971.

Pulling out of his Business Studies scholarship at Westminster College and with the help of his mother, Joan, Saul turned his focus to the fashion brand that he wanted to build. By 1973 Saul had officially opened a factory in Somerset and it was then as his label grew in popularity that his sophisticated leather handbags and accessories really stood out, and by the late 1970's, Saul's success had translated into a number of key handbag and belt deals.

The inspiration behind the label truly was a family affair, with Saul's late sister, Rosemary, designing the iconic Mulberry logo, which is arguably the centre piece of so many of their designs. The Mulberry tree was chosen to represent the brand after Saul remembered passing one every day as he walks through his school grounds.

Yet, just like so many successful brands, the outlook for Mulberry wasn't always smooth sailing. The British label has faced difficult times as the world faced financial crisis during the late 1970's and early 1980's, but rather than accepting defeat Saul made the brave move to re-evaluate his strategy. At the time Mulberry was being sold only in department stores and Saul decided to change this by opening his own shop, and whilst it might have been a gamble it paid off as the company revealed massive growth throughout the years that followed.

In 2006, the company took a new direction altogether opening an 18-month apprenticeship programme at their flagship factory in Somerset. The programme, which is ran with Bridgwater College offers students an NVQ in leather skills and a technical certificate.

Mulberry, which prides itself on producing only the best products with natural leather materials has since expanded way beyond the British market, and currently has stores in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia, and Asia, as well as registered offices in Somerset, London and New York.

Sadly, Roger Saul, who had built the brand up to what it is today left the company in 2002 after an internal dispute. Saul who cashed in his shares invested in the label has since invested in Sharpham Farm, and upon the recommendation of his sister, Rosemary, focused upon organic produce, particularly spelt. It has been said that Rosemary took an interest in this during her battle with bowel cancel, which she tragically died from in 2005 aged just 57.

However, despite Saul's departure from the label, Mulberry continues to be an iconic brand today, selling worldwide to a crowd of adoring fans. So why does Mulberry hold such a prestigious title in the relentless world of fashion? Well according to a statement on their website, the bosses behind Mulberry have said,

"From its earliest days Mulberry has represented a very English sensibility, and a need to balance practical, wearable designs that are intrinsically and intentionally beautiful".

So, there you have it, for a label that has channelled simplicity throughout the decades, finding the right balance between practical and beautiful has kept it on the catwalks, in stores, and most importantly on women's arms.

By Stephanie Jade Sleaford

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