Jacques Tati's classic 1953 comedy Les Vacances de M. Hulot introduced the character of Monsieur Hulot, a loveable Frenchman who would appear in several of the actor and director's future pictures.
When Anna Kreeger saw the film for the first time, she was fascinated by Hulot's charm, innocence, and ability to "walk to the beat of his own drum," as she puts it.
"I watched Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot and loved the main character and the way he went through life in his own way, oblivious to the changing and vulgar world around him. He seemed rather charming to me, which is how I imagined my designs sitting, amongst all the 'It' bags which were so big 5 years ago when I began."
Provenance and transparency
After studying clothing design at The University of Central England, Kreeger ended up freelancing for various accessories labels and developing her skills on the job: "I've always been hands-on and a huge lover of the process of manufacturing."
During her time working for other companies, she noticed that many brands were failing to be upfront with customers about their production processes and the materials they used. She explains, "I realised that it was easy to put 'Made in England' on a product, even when most of it had been made elsewhere."
This spurred the designer on to create her own accessories label, sourcing only premium-quality materials and manufacturing all items in England. "Provenance and transparency have always been very important to me," she says.
The M.Hulot studio is based at the old Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End, a Modernist building from the 1930s which has been used for numerous film sets. The now thriving Arts Centre's characteristic décor serves as a constant source of inspiration, as does the unique opportunity to work alongside other artists and designers.
All M.Hulot leather pieces are individually put together and hand-finished in England using the finest Italian vegetable-tanned hides. When it comes to the selection process, Kreeger admits that it is essential for her to feel an "emotional response" to the leather.
Colour plays a vital role in the M.Hulot designs. Kreeger explains, "I am colour-obsessed and love the subtlety and earthiness of the tans and camels so often associated with natural leathers." In her pieces, earthy or classic tones are often combined with bright and playful ones. Navy and vibrant yellow are M.Hulot's signature colours.
"Navy is beautiful, it's so classic and goes with everything; I think that's why it's such a winner. It has more of a softness than black, yet you can mix it into a black outfit and it adds tone and a subtle contrast. Yellow has been a huge hit for M.Hulot. I guess it has such a playful feel and a yellow bag is an easy way to add colour into an outfit, without it 'wearing you' or having to match your skin tone."
Kreeger's palette has many sources of inspiration, from the clothes of the Yemeni Fishermen, with their mix of colourful Middle Eastern prints and more sombre Western tailoring, to the works of Picasso and Louise Bourgeois.
"I love the playfulness of Picasso's works, particularly his ceramics and paper sculptures. All of Louise Bourgeois' work is interesting and thought-provoking, but I am most drawn to her textile works and use of colour and print."
The small pleasures
The names of the M.Hulot bags are all abbreviations for objects which represent "the small pleasures in life," as Kreeger calls them, such as coffee makers or record players.
Some of the bags are also named after "things that no longer exist," including extinct animals and plants. The 'Tarpan', for example, is an extinct species of wild horse.
Kreeger is constantly developing her timeless yet contemporary accessories line. The existing M.Hulot collection is a clear reflection of her aim to offer pieces with "cohesion and longevity, unchanged by trends or seasons."