A couple of years ago, anyone who wanted one of Mulberry’s heavy, buttery, hardware-laden, and very expensive handbags had to buy it abroad; there was no U.S. distribution, which gave the bags a restricted-access frisson akin to illegal cheese or the non-FDA-approved sunscreen that’s available only in European pharmacies. That, plus their determinedly logo-free, handcrafted look, some canny celebrity exposure (Sienna Miller, Kate Moss), and fashion’s embrace of the arts-and-crafts bohemian look fortuitously colluded to make Mulberry an “It” name. It’s quite a nice little turnaround for a 35-year-old brand that was on its last legs six years ago. That’s when Christina Ong, the multimillionaire Singapore fashion entrepreneur, began pumping money into the company (she ousted founder Roger Saul from the board two years later) and handbags became the linchpin of its global expansion plan. First, Bergdorf Goodman got the bags, in September 2004 (announced by a glamorous cocktail party); six months later, Barneys New York began to carry them as well. Now Mulberry is opening up its first U.S. shop—on Bleecker Street, of course, where it joins Marc Jacobs, Ruehl, Intermix, Lulu Guinness, and Cynthia Rowley on a strip that’s become required weekend strolling for the neighborhood’s rich-hippie population. The pint-size 530-square-foot store has a complete collection of the bags, all adorably named by the design team (pictured, clockwise from left, the Ayler, Annie, and Cody; $995 to $1,595), plus men’s bags, gloves, and scarves. If none of those suits your taste, you can concoct your own—say, a canary-yellow ostrich Bayswater satchel with your initials engraved on the lock—and it will be at your door in about eight to ten weeks. Custom prices start at about $1,500.
—Mulberry, 387 Bleecker St., nr. Perry St.;(no phone yet); opens early October. Next: alice + olivia Open Their First Manhattan Store