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.”
Here’s the business look of the future, delivered by Coperni. A troop of hacker replicants took over Station F, a startup campus on Paris’s east side. Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant staged their Coperni runway show in the campus’s expansive atrium. The venue suited their vision – the look of the new collection is as sharp, sexy, and futuristic. The Coperni boys spent two years at Courrèges, whose founder André Courrèges laid the foundations for Space Age style. That DNA continues in their work. This was a highly persuasive outing: confident in its minimal concision. Pants suits were cut close to the body with very little in the way of excess, save for the flourish here and there of extra-long split sleeves or a jacket hem that swooshed to one side in a gesture suggestive of movement. A gorgeous little black dress cut asymmetrically at the neckline was just as lean.
Instead of the standard runway show format, Coperni’s Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant hosted a screening of a short film at the Apple store on the Champs Élysées in Paris. Meyer and Vaillant love doing things with a hi-tech twist, and their minimalist line-ups are as sleek as the recently launched iPhone 11. Their ‘airplane mode’ symbol bag is trending since its debut last season, so there’s no wonder why the couple decided on reproducing the familiar arches in new colours and other leather goods. There was a Bluetooth bow on the waistband of miniskirts. A customer can scan a jacket’s QR code to find out the fabric’s origins. It’s interesting to see how Coperni plays with technology that surrounds us everyday, even if the result is sometimes too literal. The simplest, least smartphone-inspired pieces impress the most: take the black mini dress with a razor-sharp cut, for instance.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki, photos by Hugo Comte.