Lockdown has been especially tough for small and medium-sized labels. Coperni, the Paris-based label created and designed by Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Valliant, is somewhere between small and medium, and is known for making exceptional, well-tailored garments with a hi-tech twist. Also, they keep it quiet and unfussy, which makes it double-hard in facing the giant brands, which desperately produce mega-productions to lurk any customer to their shops in the COVID era. Yet somehow, the boys managed to present a remarkable fashion show in the first days of this very unusual Paris Fashion Week, and keep their distinct, understated style afloat. And also, they are the first to introduce as to protective chic! In lockdown, Meyer and Arnaud Valliant launched a DIY mask making project on Instagram. This was in the early days of the pandemic, when solution-oriented designers scrambled to fill in the gaps left by overwhelmed and underperforming governments. “We were inspired [to start making masks] by our family, most of whom work in the medical field,” they said at the time. “We immediately wanted to help, even with our limited assets.” Soon, they started receiving selfies from Instagram followers around the world who used their easy-to-sew pattern to make masks. As they started to work on this collection, they found themselves hooked on the feel-good results of their problem-solving and decided to make it part of their mission at Coperni. On a Zoom call with Vogue the day before their show, they proudly showed off a new technical jersey material dipped in a solution that renders it anti-UV and antibacterial as well as wrinkle resistant. For years, fashion watchers have been waiting for the runways to catch up with the technical advancements happening in the outdoors and sporting markets. Coronavirus, the drastic accelerator, has hastened that process for the Coperni duo. “The starting point of the collection was how can we improve things and how can we protect everybody?” said Valliant. Meyer added: “I think for designers it’s our duty to evolve the clothes and make them more protective and more comfortable.” The jersey, which they cut into aerodynamic jackets and body-conscious dresses is a preview of a future in which clothes do more work for their wearers, and a promising area of exploration for Coperni. The longer the coronavirus crisis draws out the more potential there is for fashion that’s merely decorative to seem frivolous. Then again, Meyer and Valliant aren’t about to abdicate the notion of fashion for fashion’s sake. Other parts of the collection showcased the graphic fabric manipulation and the spare but idiosyncratic patternmaking that they’ve made their specialities. They staged their show on the roof of La Tour Montparnasse, the highest skyscraper in Paris, under a light rain. The designers see it as an optimistic gesture in a moment that has sharpened their focus. “It hasn’t been an easy season and it’s been stressful,” said Valliant, “but we have to stand up.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.