Mulberry transformed Claridge's historic ballroom into an enchanted forest for its Fall 2011 show, replete with birds in trees, woodland animals, and a charming wooden shed. Inspired by Wes Anderson's twee fantasy The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Emma Hill, Mulberry's creative director singlehandedly responsible for bringing the formerly staid house into the limelight, perpetuates her momentum with this crowd-pleasing, feminine collection that remained loyal to its English luxury heritage: tradition with a naughty twist.
The glossy, polished models wore gorgeous, pleated maxidresses in an array of jewel tones, cosy cardigans, duffle coats, quilted trenches, fisherman sweaters, delicate turtlenecks, and nubby tweeds in autumnal colors. Masculine duffel jackets were thrown over luxurious eveningwear, evoking the carefree, outdoorsy girl leaving a ramble in the woods and dashing to a fabulous party. Occasional flashes of electric green and pink provided a jolt of color; one particularly arresting combination of a tea-rose colored tweed jacket over a fuchsia evening gown sent a gasp throughout the ballroom.
Instead of a traditional seating plan, Mulberry kept true to its theme, dividing the audience into foxes, finches, and hedgehogs. Red-coated waiters served toadstool-shaped cupcakes and berry juice as the onlookers marveled at the hotel's transformation. British starlets Gemma Arterton, Rebecca Hall, and Rosamund Pike joined international beauties Olivia Palermo and Kirsten Dunst front and center against a starry background and woodland scenery. As the lights dimmed, George Clooney's voice from The Fantastic Mr. Fox boomed out of the speakers. One couldn't help but wonder if the elaborate presentation was meant to distract the audience from a less-than-stellar collection, but Hill delivered, marrying nostalgic comfort and laid-back elegance that suited the relaxed and intimate venue perfectly.
While some of the floral skirts felt derivative of Prada and Michael Kors' demure mid-century collections a few seasons ago, Hill found her footing with the quintessentially English schoolgirl look. As one model walked by in a raspberry corduroy toggle coat, matching skirt, ribbed knee-high socks and wooden-heeled wedge booties, approving murmurs and nodding heads rippled throughout the audience.
The biggest surprise were the little furry friends walking down the runway: Hill designed adorable matching dog sweaters for terrier dogs to accompany the models. Unfortunately, some of the front row glitterati also brought their dogs, resulting in a barking contest that made the whole room laugh.
Mulberry is famous for its accessories and this show did not disappoint: not only was last season's insanely popular Tillie bag shown in an updated design, but I predict the elegant versions of knee-high wader boots will be the hot-ticket item for next season.
*All images courtesy of Mulberry.