One of my favourite stories, both as an adult and a child, has always been Road Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox. As some of you may know from previous posts you have read, I get a bit excited when fashion houses and designers manage to successfully distil the creative magic of fairytales and folklore into their runway collections. British clothing designers tend to have a knack for creating the unexpected, runway shows are all about thrilling audiences with the spectacle and drama of fashion and capturing their imagination, but a bit like the fairy tales we read as a child there is often an enduring and real message behind the fantasy that resonates with us and has depth, which is why children's stories are often such a powerful medium to use in the world of fashion - something the Mulberry team understand only too well.
A recent short break to the breathtaking, verdant countryside around Buttermere in Cumbria, where I found a furniture shop selling lifelike woodland creatures made to scale, such as badgers and foxes clothed in tweed and flannel, meant I was finally united with my perfect fantastic and very dapper Mr Fox.
Having met up with fantastic Mr Fox again, I was inspired to write about Mulberry's Autumn /Winter 2011 campaign and collection which have used the story of Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, as their source inspiration. The stroke of genius in choosing this children's story as the central theme for their collection and campaign from both a fashion and marketing perspective, in my opinion, cannot be underestimated. They have managed to successfully showcase very current cultural themes whilst capturing the mood of Britain right now, through their visual interpretation of English woodland and countryside animals in Roald Dahl’s story Fantastic Mr Fox. Mulberry have tapped into the public's reawakened fascination with British Royalty and aristocracy who have long been associated with country pursuits and state visits to Wales and Scotland. Birds in flight were also very symbolic of the late Alexandra McQueen and his collections, so again the subliminal use of wildlife, foxes and birds in particular in Mulberry's Autumn/ Winter campaign, I believe, sends out a very potent message in the wake of the sad death of McQueen and his successor Sarah Burton taking over at the helm and being tasked to design Kate Middleton's bridal gown, for the Royal Wedding.
Mulberry could have taken a far more gritty but still very British path with their Autumn/Winter 2011 campaign choice and created visuals that alluded to the powerful connection between the pursuit of hunting, gentry and aristocracy in Britain, however that would have been too masculine. Their women's collections are known for being slightly quirky and yet very definitely feminine, added to that Mulberry's fan base identify strongly with them as animal lovers.
I believe the message behind the story of Fantastic Mr Fox itself, that fans of the film or book and quintessential British children's author Roald Dahl will be familiar with, is a very apt and sympathetic one. It resonates with the adversity some families from all walks of life and the globe find themselves in and alludes to the value of family and sacrifice. The dilemma that some people face, to stockpile for the future or live for today. Although all the characters in the story are woodland animals, the story is in essence of a husband with his back against the wall, his lively hood at stake, his wife fearful of his risk taking and the family and communities triumph over adversity through their ability to adapt. Like all great children's stories it contains a message of hope, a message that most certainly runs right through the Mulberry brand.