2 November 2020
In 2010, while the rest of the retail industry was barely keeping its head above water, Mulberry was surfing the waves. In January of that year, the fashion house unveiled its latest handbag, the Alexa – a buffalo leather satchel inspired by the ‘it’ girl of the moment, Alexa Chung. It became one of Mulberry’s bestselling products and its knock-on effect was felt across the board: handbag sales reportedly increased by 80 per cent that year, leading to new boutique openings across the world, including Asia and the Middle East.
The Alexa amassed a cult following and allowed Mulberry to reach a younger, more fashion-conscious consumer. It steered the future of the fashion house, paving the way for a new era of design that straddled heritage silhouettes with contemporary sensibilities. It was eventually fazed out to make way for a new chapter of Mulberry totes, but not before it had gained 'it' bag status. It's little wonder, then, that in the lead up to its 50th anniversary, the fashion brand is feeling nostalgic for one of its most-loved handbags. Ten years since its debut, the Alexa is back.
Inspired by Chung’s laidback, timeless style and her own beloved Mulberry Elkington briefcase, which she was frequently photographed carrying prior to the Mulberry partnership, the satchel was originally envisioned as a relaxed take on a traditionally formal silhouette. Designed by then-creative director Emma Hill, the crossbody tote spawned waiting lists across the globe and was snapped up by Princess Eugenie, Sarah Jessica Parker and the bag’s namesake herself, Chung.
The Alexa 2.0 is more structured than its slouchy predecessor, giving it a boxier shape in line with Mulberry’s other classic silhouettes, such as the Bayswater and the Darley — but it’s most contemporary update starts on the production line. Envisioned with 2020’s eco-conscious customer in mind, the new Alexa is produced using leather from gold standard, environmentally-accredited tanneries and is handcrafted in the brand’s carbon neutral factory in Somerset.
It follows the launch of Mulberry’s first ever 100 per cent sustainable bag, the Portobello, which was unveiled in the autumn of 2019 and is made using offcuts from the food industry. The Alexa is the frontrunner of a fleet of sustainable styles for SS21, with signature silhouettes the Bayswater, Amberley, Darley, Millie and Iris all reconsidered to fit in line with Mulberry Green – the nickname given to the brand’s responsibility targets. Like the new-and-improved Alexa, each of these bags has been updated with gold standard leather from environmentally-accredited tanneries, sustainably-sourced bag linings and BCI-accredited organic cotton care bags.
"We want to be the leading responsible British brand – which I’m sure we will be," Rob Billngton, the brand's group chain director, said. "We’re trying to stay two steps ahead of the industry on sustainability; we’ve set ourselves a lot of goals and objectives that we will achieve faster and better than our competition, be that carbon neutrality, landfill, virgin plastic – we’re not a big clunky organisation, we can move quite fast, so we want to use that to our advantage and keep ahead of the sustainability curve."
The Alexa's sustainable ties are particularly fitting given the inspiration behind its relaunch: Mulberry Exchange was unveiled in February 2020, a circular economy programme that sells pre-loved Mulberry totes and buys back old ones in exchange for money off a new purchase. It was witnessing a continued desire for Alexas, 10 years on from its launch, that prompted the fashion house to relaunch the nostalgic style.
Sustainable attributes aside, the new Alexa is physically much the same as its 2010 equivalent, which will be good news for its die-hard fans. It is available in three sizes and a host of colours, ranging from charcoal and chalk to neon pink and amber, with a starting price of £895.
The launch coincides with Victoria & Albert Museum’s upcoming exhibition Bags: Inside Out, for which Mulberry is a sponsor. In recognition of its cult status, an original Alexa will be featured within the show among a curated edit of fellow ‘it’ bags. Chung herself gifted the tote to the museum from her own private collection — no doubt the gap will be quickly filled by the new-and-improved Alexa 2.0.
The Alexa, Oversized Alexa and Mini Alexa is available now, mulberry.com