Coperni‘s spectacular – and wildly viral – spring-summer 2023 finale could easily be a separate fashion show in its own right. The whole process lasted around seven minutes. Bella Hadid came out in her underwear, arm across her bosom, and stood on an underlit platform. What followed was down, Arnaud Vaillant said, to “our little geek” Sebastien Meyer’s specific obsession with cutting edge technology. A scientist Meyer had befriended named Dr. Manel Torres came out with a colleague and proceeded to spray the near-naked Hadid from neckline to mid-calf with a white substance that looked a bit like spray snow. When it hit her skin it had the sheen of liquid, but in the few minutes of its application it became matte. The smell, strong and synthetic, filled the Musée des Arts et Métiers’ Salle des Textiles. Hadid kept her poise during the spray-down, before one of Meyer and Vaillant’s colleagues came out and spent a minute cutting at the hem and tugging at the shoulder of the layer of who-knows-what that covered the model. And then Hadid walked the runway in a pure white dress – perfectly fitted – hat until five minutes ago had been liquid in a bottle: fashion alchemy. The final look apart, the rest of the “Femme” collection felt rather plain and flat. Highlights had included dresses made in a thousand pieces of embroidered glass that tinkled uproariously, like a recycling truck driven by an amphetamine-addled getaway driver. Other dresses came in panels connected by a sort of brutal metal suture. There was a solid gold version of the designers’ Swipe bag which – all 1kg of it – will be melted down after the show. It was created by an artisan goldsmith named Gabriele Veneri in Italy, and was accompanied by a considerable security retinue. No one got a clue what was the point behind it, expect for another “viral” moment. In the next seasons, the Coperni boys should definitely focus on their new, hi-tech patent for making a dress – or any other piece of clothing – and try making it the future of fashion.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Coperni ate it up this season! This is definitely my favourite collection coming from Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer‘s Parisian label so far. The hoodie-lapelled blazers, overcoats and fleeces that you see Coperni’s It-model cast wearing so coolly here represented a challenging design brief for Vaillant and Meyer’s tailoring atelier to achieve: they had to look good worn both up and down. As Vaillant showed on his phone pre-show, the women of that atelier – named Cap Est Sarl – sent the designers pictures of themselves wearing the prototypes as that development progressed towards runway-readiness in the last few weeks. “They are so cute, always trying the pieces before sending them – I love them,” said Meyer. Added Vaillant: “They are in Ukraine, in Kyiv: we hadn’t heard from them for a few days. They are safe for now. And we dedicate this collection to them.”
This show placed this collection within the pressure cooker arena in which the insecure adolescent chrysalis is forged into the self-aware young adult butterfly: high school. On a runway framed by school lockers and to an excellent faux-radio broadcast of upbeat disaffection the models first emerged as laconically withdrawn, cloistered in those hooded pieces of generically reinvented tailoring. These did indeed work with the hood/lapel worn back off the head. Other cleverly twisted takes on tailoring were the disassembled jacket crop tops and miniskirts and a twist-fronted Le Smoking jacket with cut outs at the midriff whose construction translated finely into menswear fleeces and trench coats. A waistcoat, sometimes cut in a crystal pinstripe, also incorporated a hood that came with cute little Batman ears. Aran knit short-sleeved bodies featuring that hood and a circular cutout at the back were eccentric takes on a preppy knitwear mafia staple. Jeans and leather pants that were worn as gaiters cut to just above the knee were a funny riff on low-waistband rebellion. Upcycled Adidas Gazelles and zip-decorated pumps aside, notable footwear included chisel toed articulated soled derbies whose vectored shape was inspired by the Tesla Cybertruck prototype. Coperni’s emblematic Swipe bag appeared in blown glass: calamity was avoided when the model carrying it caught her heel on the runway and pitched forward before pulling off a graceful recovery. We shifted towards the big butterfly-emerges moment – prom night, of course – via a grungily pretty asymmetric dress in white French velvet worn with those Adidas, and a super clever minidress made entirely of upcycled ties. Prom queen candidate gowns substituted tulle for rose strewn latex and a dancefloor’s worth of who’s-sorry-now sheer minidresses. This was an extremely witty collection that was very cleverly conceived by the designers – and wonderfully cut by those Kyiv craftswomen.
Coperni’s Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer named their latest collection “Spring Summer 2033”. As Vaillant observed, “The industry is a nightmare now. But we want to escape and have fun.” By setting their collection not next season but next decade they were at least acknowledging the issues of now while simultaneously evading them. In the middle of the runway was a literal field of hemp, which was related to a sustainable fabric initiative in which the designers are involved. Through these plants Coperni’s 2033 crew walked a sand runway as if, perhaps, making their way down through the dunes to a beach bar like the mighty Sa Trinxa in Ibiza, an island the designers said was a contender for this collection’s imagined location. Tailoring in a beachy environment is often as incongruous as boardshorts in a boardroom, but here Vaillant and Meyer applied this pillar of their work in way that blurred its inherent formality, both through their ingenious deconstructions of the tailoring itself – as in a jacket sliced vertically away above the armpit and suspended on the body by an acetate chain halter neck – as well as the pieces they placed against it. A print collage that included images of Felix the Cat, the yin and yang sign, alien faces and Beavis and Butt-Head was like some ’90s dropout scrapbook. It was used on camp shirts for men and a slip dress hemmed with three layers of the whorled, vaguely molluscoid edging detail that recurred on bra-tops and skirts. A swirly, vaguely psychedelic print was applied to the swimwear and shirting that punctuated much of the first, twistedly conventional section of the show. As we edged to evening, certain pieces began to shimmer a little on the eye – thanks to the treatment given to French lace worn as pants against a bra-top of Indian seashells or another slip dress. This heritage-rooted futurism was true to their Ghesquière-mentored roots, and repeated in a new bag whose shape was inspired by the iPhone photos app icon, named the Origami. This is a collection for the hot lovers from the future.
Coperni boys are sure we will again have parties (at some point in time). Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant decided to do a physical show, so they came up with a sociall-distanced idea of a drive-in, and selected the Accor Arena, a giant stadium on the outskirts of town as a venue. This season showed that Coperni is taking a new (and less uptight) direction. Meyer and Vaillant have made a signature of an efficient, athleticized minimalism, and for autumn-winter 2021 they wanted to give their clothes a night-time gloss. Adut Akech opened the show in an off-the-shoulder A-line minidress, and Mica Argañaraz closed it in a see-through painted lace shift. There was also a robe coat in faux fur (worn by Jill Kortleve), very Madonna in her ‘Music’ video. Some of the brand’s most compelling thinking happens on the accessories front, a growing part of the brand. A new bag in apple leather unzips completely flat, while their signature handbag comes in shiny rhinestones. The Coperni girl (and guy) long for a crowdy, chic dancefloor.
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.”