Mark Cross's Creative Director On The Brand's 175-Year History
To celebrate their 175th anniversary this year, luxury leather label Mark Cross is partnering with Lane Crawford for a month-long “World of Mark Cross” experiential pop-up. The concept launches this August at the ifc mall in Hong Kong, as well as at other Lane Crawford locations in Shanghai and Chengdu throughout the summer.
At each pop-up, shoppers can preview Mark Cross' limited-edition 175th anniversary collection, vintage offerings and upcoming seasonal pieces. Local artist Kalo will be present at the Hong Kong pop-up for custom monograms, as well as jewellery trunks in custom colours on offer, making the experience both immersive and unique to each shopper.
We speak with Mark Cross's Creative Director, Sean Mathews, on his thoughts about the brand's legacy, inspirations behind their new limited-edition collection, and the unique relationships they've built in producing with the same Italian factories as they had forty years prior.
2020 marks one decade of the brand’s relaunch, as well as the band’s 175th anniversary. How has Mark Cross changed in this time?
Historically, the brand was founded as a saddle maker and catered to the needs of the time. Eventually the product offering evolved with changes in American’s lifestyles to include items for travel, work and home.
In this spirit, I have designed the collections over the past decade to reflect the brand’s rich history and past, but also embrace the future. Focusing first on building a strong women’s handbag collection, I designed the Grace box bag. The recognition and success of the Grace allowed me to expand and design a wider range of handbags from our core pieces, seasonal handbags, travel collections and small gift and home items.
How do you feel a legacy like Mark Cross fits into this time of It-Bags?
We have a unique legacy as America’s oldest luxury lifestyle company and I design our collections to showcase the timeless appeal of our brand. With this in mind, it’s more important to me to have created iconic bags that will last for generations. “It” bags are only for the moment. I think every woman, especially now, wants to invest in a handbag that she knows will remain relevant and continuously reflect her style and sophistication.
My designs are never driven by trends, and I have sustainability in mind when introducing new styles. My goal is always to create collections that will be the future vintage items that the next generation will want to collect.
You’re still producing in the same Italian factories as you did forty years prior. What are some of the unique things that you can do because of the relationships you’ve formed with these factories?
During my first few weeks at the company I visited a factory that used to produce Mark Cross handbags decades earlier. Upon arrival the patriarch of the family business, pulled out of his personal archive an amazing array of Mark Cross models they used to produce in the 1980s. At that moment I knew this was the factory to help us reestablish our brand. Their long history in the art of handbag making with the highest skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen, enable us to deliver to the quality and standards of which our brand was founded. Each piece is assembled by hand, one at a time, so having a strong connection and relationship with our artisans is paramount to our success.
What are some surprising things you discovered about the history of the brand when you first took over?
I was, and still am, surprised to discover things from our past. Our archives guide a lot of my process and few brands have that kind of access to history. The Murphy’s legacy in particular is a constant source of inspiration. They were known for introducing pieces into the Mark Cross collection that were inspired by their travels and their time living in the South of France with their friends, who were some of the greatest artists of the 20th century: Picasso, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Ernest Hemingway, among others. They lived an adventurous and eclectic life all over the world and that is something I refer back to often. I am constantly inspired by travel and I focus on designing pieces that accompany you throughout your journey and items you unpack once you have reached your destination to support your lifestyle.
Local artist and calligrapher Kalo will be customizing luggage tags at the pop-up. How did the collaboration come about?
We have really invested in supporting the creative and artistic community through our Artist in Residence program and so it was a natural fit to bring on Kalo and her signature designs for the Lane Crawford Pop-Up. We wanted an engaging and artistic element for the customer to experience and Kalo’s eye-catching monograms and designs will give customers a chance to make their new Mark Cross bag or accessory uniquely their own.
The 1845 Mini Trunk Limited Edition Collection is being created for this milestone. Are there any particular themes or motifs that you are celebrating with this collection?
Our 1845 Mini Trunk was launched to celebrate our 175th anniversary this year. It was one of the oldest “box” shapes we were able to trace back from a Mark Cross ad in 1904. Its original purpose was for small travel accessories such as a manicure set as well as a tiny sewing kit and note pad. Today’s model had been enlarged slightly to carry the essentials of today and tomorrow.
I wanted to build this style into our core collection offering to reflect our heritage while remaining an item to covet for years to come. With sustainability in mind, I looked back in our archives and selected leathers from my favorite collections of the past decade. Each Mini Trunk is a one-of-a-kind, we only made 20 (as a nod to our anniversary year: 2020) and each has a numbered, hand-engraved plaque fastened to the interior of the trunk. It’s the first time we have done a limited edition and we are pleased to offer the first look to Lane Crawford and give their customers the chance to own a piece of Mark Cross history.
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