This exclusive interview with Richard Malone is part of Jing Daily’s bi-weekly Collabs and Drops newsletter — your 360-degree lowdown on the world of collaboration. Subscribe here.
When it comes to collaborations, Mulberry has previously shown an established-name approach, working with labels such as Acne Studios and heritage raincoat brand Mackintosh, as well as A-listers like Cara Delevigne, Georgia May Jagger and Alexa Chung. Following the best-selling Alexa bag, Chung worked on an official capsule with the brand earlier this year, promoted across Chinese social media, such as via a livestream with Chung herself and Shanghai stylist Fil Xiaobai.
However, the latest collaborative series to celebrate the British brand’s 50th anniversary reflects an era in which young, artistically-driven designers are here to refresh older labels with progressive innovation; Mulberry asked Ahluwalia Studios, Richard Malone, and Nicholas Daley to explore what sustainable craft means to them in the 21st century.
London-based, Irish designer Malone is the latest to launch his reiteration of their classics as part of the series, presenting two styles from the Postman Lock family: the Bayswater and the Darley. The collection will be displayed in two shop windows in China, at the Beijing WF Central Store and Shanghai P66 store, as well as at the Hong Kong K11 Musea Store.
Malone is primarily known for creating exquisite sustainable design, incorporating upcycling, natural dyes and having worked with weavers in India since 2016, so the fact that Mulberry had a sustainability manifesto in place was a deciding factor on accepting the collaboration.
“I’ve always been stubborn about the fundamental core of what my brand is,” Malone told Jing Daily after his London Fashion Week show at the Victoria and Albert museum. “I immediately asked about the sustainability credentials at Mulberry and we had a lot of crossovers in terms of where we were headed with regeneration and how we support localized making, even their scotch-grain is biodegradable. It made sense and if it hadn’t, it wouldn’t have worked out.”
It seems that inviting external creatives to promote sustainability has become an inherent strategy for Mulberry, having asked TikTokers Daniela Contreiras, Callum Mullin, and Tzeshinn to re-imagine styles like the Bayswater and the Alexa in June 2021, as promotion of the Mulberry Exchange — a new initiative allowing customers to recycle their old bags by donating them to the brand’s factory in exchange for credit.
There’s a distinct trend in luxury whereby established brands are gaining a sense of newness by inviting talent to recreate their known styles. Strategist in Prints and Graphics at trend forecasting company WGSN, Kraggy, told Jing Daily, “Collaborations that bring together a devoted consumer base with creative communities and emerging innovators are a critical opportunity to capitalize on the growing customer desire to discover the next collectable item.”
Yet, despite how beautifully the DNAs of Mulberry and Malone have merged for this capsule, the designer affirms that this definitely does not mark the start of a string of partnerships for his brand. “I’ve been approached a million times. We’re not going to do loads of collaborations,” he explained. “It’s really important to me that the product is good. It’s not about virtuosity; it’s about doing good work that’s respectful about the craftspeople, the art practice. If these are all vital conversations that we’re having, then yes.”
Malone also said that the success of this capsule lay in having a great deal of creative freedom. “Having Mulberry’s team of experts giving guidance on how you might alter something to make it more functional felt really natural — it’s exactly what a real collaboration should be. It’s inspiring to see people get excited about making something that has newness to it, as ultimately the end game is to create an exceptional quality product, and when you feel like everyone’s voice is being heard, that’s a real collaboration.”
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