‘Pink is a highlight colour for us,’ says Georgia Fendley as she talks through the first collection of bags from the much anticipated Hill and Friends. That’s an understatement. The new fashion and accessories line Mulberry’s ex brand director has just launched with long-time collaborator Emma Hill CBE, took place over Sunday brunch during London Fashion Week, and saw Claridges hotel awash with bubblegum hues.
A troop of bellboys, dressed head to toe in pink, marched the length of the breakfast banquet carrying the collection, while guests were served a cartoon biscuit ‘fry up’. From the big pink blooms (with rolling eyes) on the door down to the well-accessorised pair of Shetland ponies who made a star finale in the grand hotel’s ballroom, no detail was left unattended. ‘Claridges is so posh and grown up, you need to do something extraordinary and very visual to own the space,’ says Fendley. ‘The bellboys – our own models – were brilliant, they really got into the spirit of it!’
Having both left Mulberry two years ago, Hill and Fendley have been cooking up their new brand for some time. Full of wit and warmth, both the bags and their branding exude irreverent charm and magnetic appeal.
‘For us it’s very interesting. We had a reputation of doing a particular sort of product at Mulberry and by the end of it we had a big team to support us, but we brought a lot of our personality to the table as well. Now we are a start up but at the same time we’re not new to all this – and it’s a very strange position to be in. We’re very conscious of the fact that expectations are high,’ says Fendley. ‘It needed to be really confident presentation and we’ll do that impeccably because we feel that we’re ready to do it.’
It's easy to tell that Hill and Friends' designs have been born of a graphic designer (Fendley) working together with a fashion designer (Hill). Fendley’s own company Construct created the brand identity, brand palette, packaging and digital identity, which features a simple, clean san serif typographic logotype held in a lozenge shaped device, inspired by old railway sign formats. ‘We really love that funny, warm, curvy, fat line,’ says Fendley. ‘It’s got a chubbiness to it.’ Alongside that, they developed a little smiley face for the padlock and a series of characters has been created for the brand, that includes a walking cloud, heart, star and apple – an homage to Hill’s obsession with Keith Haring and the Mr Men. The palette is a clean white with black lines offsetting all those neon pink highlights.
Construct have also designed the Hill and Friends website, where customers can buy the catwalk capsule collection (it's also available on Net-a-Porter). A little fruit machine game on the purchase page promises all customers a lucky ‘prize’ with their purchase: whether a set of iron on patches, a lollypop, or even – in a few cases – another bag.
The brand name was inspired by the pair’s desire to recognise the teamwork required to build a fashion brand and the special relationship it shares with its customers. ‘We called it Hill and Friends because it takes a whole army of people to deliver beautiful craft. Often they go unthanked and that’s a shame,’ says Fendley. ‘We want to make it clear that we work in a very different way. We want to develop a close relationship with our customers because we believe that means success for a brand. We talk to our customers, their friends, and our friends too. We rely on them to take photos and share them on Instagram. It just seemed really right.’
The first season’s accessories collection is made by hand in England in an artisanal factory in the heart of Somerset (‘We just wanted to create jobs as much as handbags,’ says Fendley). And in line with what contemporary customers want, there is a ‘see now buy now’ capsule available to purchase off the catwalk.
The brand’s philosophy is one of generosity, transparency and Fair Trade – but more than anything, Fendley explains, the pair felt their new brand should be really joyful. ‘Fashion has really got friendlier recently – and that’s a wonderful thing.’