I’ve Got My Eyes on the Mulberry Bayswater

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As the uptight Mary Louise Wright in HBO’s Big Little Lies, Meryl Streep toted one in a severe black, as did Renée Zellweger’s heavily pregnant Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Baby. Rihanna and JLo both had theirs in summery denim and exotic ostrich, while Kate Moss was papped with a different color each time, chicly nestled in the crook of the arm and artfully paired with low-slung jeans and Uggs.

Even today, the resale market offers no dearth of the design. Scrolling through the bottomless bowels of eBay, a grungy version illuminates the screen, its swathes of silver zips and chains glinting under artificial lighting. Further down is another in siren-red, with flaring gussets decreeing it to its new era under Mr. Johnny Coca. 

But eventually, what captured my attention was the classic oak; its slightly darkened handles, well-worn postman’s lock, and just the right amount of slouch harking back to a life well-lived. It is, after all, the OG, and that can’t be beat!

As fashion people, it’s often the case that we like to take a certain (if somewhat misplaced) pride in the unconventional in our attempts to supposedly “stand out” from the crowd. Everything, in fact, that the Mulberry Bayswater, now in its twenty-first year of existence, isn’t.

So, why is it that I bring it up yet again?

From West London to the World

Among the Mulberry ladies we’ve all come to know on first-name terms – the Alexa, the Lily, the Mabel, the Iris – the Bayswater stands tall as the biggest, and by far, the most popular, exception, easily the brand’s bestselling bag. 

Kate Moss is the OG Mulberry Girl

Christened after the West London neighborhood characterized by Georgian houses and lush foliage, the Bays draws inspiration from creator Nicolas Knightly’s muse, Princess Anne, encapsulating the essence of Britishness in a purse. 

And in true fashion form, when everybody else was gravitating towards somewhat questionably tacky things (it’s 2003 we speak of, after all), the Bayswater became the standout accessory, gracing runways and tabloids alike, perched atop the arms of Noughties’ it-girls Alexa Chung, Sienna Miller, Blake Lively, and Kate Moss herself, and spawning lengthy waitlists, like its spiritual cousin, the Hermès Birkin.

In 2016, the Bayswater was ushered into modern sensibilities by then-creative director Johnny Coca, with gusseted, zipped, backpack-ed, and even shrunken-down versions reimagined for fashion miniaturists – the original a staple, of course.

Mulberry Mini Bayswater

MULBERRY Mini Bayswater

$1,475 via Nordstrom

In Praise of the Bays

In celebration of the Bayswater’s 20th anniversary, Harper’s Bazaar writes, “The Mulberry Bayswater, the mother of all ‘It’ bags, is 20 years old. That makes it Gen-Z.” 

And like all things twenty-odd years old, the trusty tote has returned to the fashion scene as a Gen-Z favorite, a true icon of the indie sleaze trend, and the perfect ludicrously capacious bag to wield on TikTok.

But even as a specimen of the generation who’s not on TikTok, the Gossip Girl essential has me enraptured. Within our culture of visual overabundance, the Bayswater – especially vintage ones, in all their battered, split-piped, and patinated glory – is a uniform of cool, much like a beat-up Birkin.

As Jo Elvin, former editor of Glamour, proudly quips, “In a time before Instagram, the Bayswater was the validating ‘blue tick’ of its day. If my tan Bayswater could talk, she’d tell you tales of being felt up by complete strangers in the street. ‘Oh, my god, you have a Bayswater! I’m on a waiting list! Can I . . . touch it?’” 

But it’s not just buyers who are in on the frenzy. 

The house itself reportedly uses the Bays as the gold standard of craftsmanship, where artisans must first acquire the skills requisite in making the style, and its enduring demand necessitates that a full production line at Mulberry’s Somerset factories be allocated to it at all times!

But Is It Really a Classic?

Of course, the days when the Bayswater was priced at the sensible yet unassuming £495 are long gone, the latest prices on the Mulberry site ringing in at £1,395. And that’s ostensibly the newest sweet spot for it-bag price points, given how most contemporary labels in today’s retail landscape have moved upscale.

But through all of this, the Bays has managed to remain a Mulberry bestseller. Alarmingly, perhaps, the brand’s only bestseller.

Fashion folklore attributes much of its pre-social media popularity to early-influencer marketing. As Elvin goes on to joke, “Their PR was practically hanging out of the fourth-floor window of their Bond Street HQ, hurling free handbags at celebrities and the fashion press.”

Mulberry Exchange Mulberry Alexa
The Mulberry Exchange featuring an Alexa bag.

With every one of its social-savvy competitors vying for the prize now, however, the brand has begun to place even more emphasis on the Bayswater’s success.

With reprised colorways (a total of 19 are now available for sale), new maxi, mini and micro silhouettes, and the introduction of Mulberry Exchange, an in-store and digital pre-loved edit for authenticated and restored Mulberry bags.

And all this only goes to underscore the decline of novelty in the luxury space: for Mulberry now, Balenciaga before that with the City bag, and many more.

Certainly, the Bayswater, by most luxury price and quality standards, is still a bang for the buck. But what happens when the brand’s only bestseller no longer sells? It’s not an entirely unlikely proposition given how so many Bayswaters (and even the newly revived Alexa) command resale prices under the $500 or even $200 mark.

At the end of the day, as we await the day when fashion becomes fun again, the current market for Bayswaters remains a utopia for pre-loved shoppers such as myself. After all, our lunch pails, spare shoes for the subway, and back-to-work books must go somewhere. Preferably with a side pocket for the kitchen sink, too.

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