Cover British designer Alexa Chung tells Tatler about her collaboration with Mulberry and why it's a dream come true (Photo: Courtesy of Mulberry)

British designer Alexa Chung talks to Tatler for an exclusive tell-all about her collaboration with Mulberry for the brand’s 50th anniversary and why designing for them is a dream come true

Alexa Chung has teamed up with Mulberry for a limited-edition capsule collection as part of the brand’s 50th anniversary. It’s a dream collaboration given that Chung is the inspiration for one of Mulberry’s iconic bags, the Alexa; now she is designing bags for them herself.

Starting off as a model and the face of many fashion campaigns, Chung has transformed herself as a trendsetter and went beyond her role as a muse to finally launch her own eponymous fashion label in 2017. Since then, she’s been working on various design and collaboration projects but Mulberry remains special: “Mulberry has always been a brand that’s very close to my heart”.

Chung sits down with Tatler for an exclusive tell-all about the creative process of her designs, why the collaboration with Mulberry is a dream come true for her and her advice to young designers.

See also: Mulberry x Alexa Chung Team Up For 70s-Inspired Capsule Collection

What does design mean to you?

Design means a lot to me. From how a song is designed, to buildings or clothes—I really pay attention to and enjoy aesthetics.

Are you more of a tote, handbag or crossbody person?

I like all bags! Currently, I guess I’m more of a handbag person.

Is there anything that has inspired you recently?

For this collection, I was looking at pictures of Lauren Hutton and Charlotte Rampling and also thinking about films like Working Girl (1988) and 9 to 5 (1980), this army of ‘boss women’ with careers, a new female workforce turning up to the office wearing tweed.

Who do you want to design for the most?

Everyone and anyone [as well as] my mum!

See also: Mulberry To Collaborate With Emerging Designers As Part Of 50th Anniversary Celebrations

You’ve been a long-time friend of the house, what makes this collaboration different and special?

When Mulberry told me, they wanted me to put my own stamp on the Alexa, I thought it was a great and quite rare opportunity. Although it was really flattering to have been the inspiration the first time around, it was at a point in my life when I was more of a muse to people. I never expected to be invited to actually design my own Mulberry bag, which is really a dream come true.

What was your approach in designing the new collection?

My approach was: How can I honour the Alexa that became so popular and create something that I’m really happy with in 2021?

The design I came up with was something that looks modern and fresh, is reminiscent of an Alexa in terms of buckle details and scale but also nods to the Elkington which was the bag I carried over a decade ago that in turn had originally inspired the Alexa. A lot of what I did was quite restrained, it was important to not get too overexcited and overdo it. I wanted a bag that was a boxier, stiffer stripped back ode to the Alexa.

The original leather was much more supple and soft and of its time, but we decided to bulk it up. And we added a chain instead of a leather strap, to make it more ‘city’ than ‘country’. I think it was crucial that this collaboration came about at a time when I had more understanding and experience of the design process that I could draw from.

I came to my first meeting prepared and didn’t expect to be able to rely on the Mulberry team as much as I could in the end. I did my homework and brought a fully formed idea to the table because I was excited and had been manifesting this opportunity for many, many years.

See also: Mulberry Launches "Icon Editions" Collection For 50th Anniversary

Was the design process different than usual or was it more or less the same?

We did some meetings over Zoom but we were lucky that most of them could be done in person. It was an incredibly straightforward design project because I’ve been thinking about this for years. I’ve been manifesting this opportunity so I knew exactly what I wanted.

I’m used to working in a startup [environment] that is my own company. It’s really fun and dynamic and challenging and joyful, but it’s a small company and it’s all hands on deck, so when you get to work with this well-oiled machine with a structure that’s been developed over decades, it’s a real treat.

Mulberry has all this construction know-how you can utilise, which is a real privilege. It makes the design process really easy. You can say, “What about if the handle had a topstitch? What about if we had a painted edge? What about D-rings?” And within days they can show you prototypes. It’s a design dream.

What’s your favourite memory or moment with Mulberry?

When the Alexa came out in 2010, we had this really wild time going around the world talking about it. I was suddenly so famous, it was really funny. It was like being a really famous footballer or actor. It was bananas!

To you, what makes Mulberry special from other brands?

Mulberry was the first handbag I bought myself with the first paycheck I made as a model and so they’ve always been a hugely significant brand to me. It was an investment piece because I thought it would last forever—and it did. When I was younger, I thought Mulberry was about as sophisticated, classic, elegant and forever as it got and I can’t really shift that, because what I thought as a teenager is part of my essence. It’s always been synonymous in my mind with success, treats, classic, heritage.

I welcome this extension of a relationship that’s been unfolding over decades. We do all like an origin story and something authentic, and I suppose it doesn’t get more authentic than this. In my mind, it’s been quite a romantic journey.

How did you make sure to pay homage to the Alexa—a bag you’re named after—while also incorporating your own style?

I knew I wanted to revisit the Elkington briefcase, which is the predecessor to the Alexa, and to tie that whole story together. My interpretation of the Alexa has more to do with the Elkington than the shape that came to be in 2010.

The new bags are less puffy, more structured. The shape’s more streamlined, boxier, they had a refresh for 2021. The original leather was much more supple and soft and of its time, but we decided to bulk it up. And we added a chain instead of a leather strap, to make it more ‘city’ than ‘country’.

What’s your advice for young designers?

Do what is true to you. Don’t be intimidated by the business side of things, just make what feels right and hire people you trust.

See also: 7 Emerging Female Asian Fashion Designers You Should Know

Above Alexa Chung talks about how to build a bag