Thursday 28th November

| BY Dino Bonacic

Ten Meets Coperni, The French Design Duo Leading a Tech-Fashion Revolution

If you were to describe a fashion designer’s venture as a “social media brand” a couple of years ago, they would most probably be offended. But as tendencies change and the virtual universe becomes an increasingly more dominant aspect of the industry, that description completely changes meaning. Right now, it signifies a tech-savvy brand that has “cracked the code” when communicating to their audience. And while most are still playing catch-up, Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer are exploring unchartered territories. The two Frenchman are leading the way for a tech-fashion revolution behind the reigns of Coperni, a brand they originally launched in 2013 as Coperni Femme but have brought back earlier this year with a new mission – to Copernize your life.

The first time most were introduced to Vaillant and Meyer’s work was in May 2015 when it was announced they were taking over as co-creative directors of heritage brand Courrèges which was making its comeback after decades of absence from Paris Fashion Week. Their debut was received with mixed reviews, a lot of people dismissing it for being “too Courrèges” and not innovative enough. “It was amazing and we learnt a lot as we have literally re-launched a brand in front of the fashion scene,” tells me Vaillant on the phone from Paris, remembering those beginnings. “We were working for a brand whose name is Courrèges – so you have to follow and respect the identity. We were respectful and young designers so we didn’t have the power to destroy everything and start again from scratch.” With each of their collection at the fashion house, they introduced new ideas in order to tackle the impossible task of returning the name of the brand to its hey-day. “We wanted to follow the DNA of the brand and the roots of Mr Courrèges who was still alive at the time which was pretty special.” After two catwalk shows, they decided to disturb the format by showing just individual pieces in still-life installations or allowing their friends and collaborators to style the pieces with their own clothes for images that were then presented as lookbooks. Perhaps too extreme for the industry at the time, they departed after five collections, leaving a space that was then justly filled by Yolanda Zobel, who took the brand into her own radical direction.

Coperni AW19; photographs by Julien Martinez Leclerc

As far as earth-shattering ideas go, Nicolaus Copernicus is probably the one that embodies the expression best – he was a Renaissance genius who was the first to suggest the model of the universe that has Sun rather than Earth at its centre. It’s then fitting that he is also the inspiration behind Vaillant and Meyer’s brand, who are in a constant flux of conceptual evolution. While Coperni Femme was all about garment construction referencing geometric forms and philosophical simplicity, Coperni is more about the technology of tomorrow. They announced their comeback via their Instagram account, with images of Teddy Quinlivan in a 2001: A Space Odyssey-like setting, captured by Julien Martinez Leclerc’s lens. That first image also featured the Swipe bag, their latest invention. And yes, when I say invention, I do indeed mean it. Inspired by the shape of iPhone’s swipe-to-unlock function on an iPhone, it has since become somewhat of an IT bag due to its recognisable shape and approachable luxury pricepoint.

Actually, the price-point is another thing that makes Coperni an anomaly on the market. In the “contemporary” category, which is often filled with cutesy floral dresses and crafty bags in matching fabrics, they stand out as a tech-y, structural counterpart, which visually goes closer to the high-luxe end of the fashion scope. “I have been working at Balenciaga and Courrèges and everything so I know how it works and of course we are not artists we are working for an amazing industry that requires both magic and pragmatism,” Vaillant explains. They found it in the form of balancing production and fabric costs, while maintaining the quality of the final product. And there’s also the fact that they developed a complete, core wardrobe which is heavily relying on their signature black, accompanied with graphic accessories.

Like most successful duos, each person carries a unique role at Coperni – while Meyer is the creative of the two, Vaillant is in charge of the production. When relaunching the brand, they had the help of Tomorrow, a creative agency which evolved from a showroom space into a full-blown platform supporting brand development of emerging and established brand. They are now two collections in, each accompanied with a unique presentation, carrying the notion of anti-establishment ways they developed at Courrèges. “We don’t really believe in classical runway shows and the catwalk format. It was invented 200 years ago. It’s an amazing tool for huge houses like Chanel and I personally love them in some cases. But for a young brand, I feel it’s more fun, innovative and creative to take some risks and do it differently,” says Vaillant. Their first presentation, for AW19 was held at an art gallery in Le Marais, showcasing the clothes as design pieces within a curated selection of vintage furniture and artworks on the wall. For their second, SS20 collection, they took their digital dreams a bit further. “It has been a dream to work at the Apple and we had the chance to fit it in the Apple’s format. So we did a conference in their store, before which we spent 30 minutes with the fashion industry’s people. Then we did a keynote which was open to the public – it was amazing as a chance to meet the Coperni community.”

While most shows would look out of place in an Apple store, Coperni’s SS20 collection fit right in. The digital inspirations from their comeback outing were explored further. “There are some designers that are inspired by a trip in Morocco, but Sébastian is inspired by his everyday life. He is playing on his iPhone like 95% of the day like most people, and then he is like ‘Oh, wow the shape of the airplane mode is beautiful – maybe like it could be the start for a fall bag,” Vaillant tells me. For spring though, a new bag design was borrowed from the wi-fi band graphic and transformed into a triangular shape which morphs as you rotate the bag. However, it’s not just the inspirations that they find in tech – like André Courrèges did back in the day, the two are now incorporating actual technology as part of the garments. There’s a QR code on the label of each piece which, when scanned, allows you to track its entire production process.

Coperni SS20; photographs by Hugo Comte

Instead of your usual campaigns, the duo have also created special social media concepts entering the gaming world. Their first one, starring their creative family, was a choose-your-adventure Instagram game Copernize Your Life, starting with one profile and extending into 50 different ones – like a fashion-themed, slightly less dramatic version of the Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror. They worked on this with the founder of Unemployed magazine and image-maker Cecile Winckler, who directed each of the scenarios and masterminded all the options with Meyer and Vaillant – starting your day by getting ready and dressed (in full Coperni, of course), you can pick between transport options, a workout or a trip to the museum… It’s a day in the life of their muse who, naturally, finishes her day at a party with the rest of the gang. The play continued this November too, as they launched an Coperni Arcade. Each Monday of this month, the duo released a set of Instastories which allowed you to interact with their product and discover the collections in a new way. Three days of shooting on a green-screen with French artist Alexandre Silberstein resulted in graphics showing how the camera shutter became a skirt, an opportunity to tap to catch the logo in the mould or just dress their model friend Lily Standefer. All of the Coperni Arcade is now saved in the Highlights on the brand’s Instagram profile.

Since coming back to Coperni, Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer’s work granted them a nomination for the 2019 Andam Fashion Award. Despite not winning, they rightfully see a bright future ahead. “I see it growing and growing – at the moment we love the French vibe of the brand but we also love that it is international,” Vaillant says in his charming French accent. “And we want to keep innovating and researching for sustainable concepts and become a very techno-chic French brand that people know. It’s important to stick to our roots so we won’t go into like crazy prints. Instead, we will keep to our strengths and voilà.” Plans for next year also include launching their own e-commerce platforms, as well as launching their SS20 collection with Net-a-Porter, making it easier than ever to truly Copernize Your Life.

Coperni’s AW19 collection is available to shop online at Browns Fashion and in other selected stores. // @coperni

Coperni Arcade