meet parisian lvmh prize finalists coperni
Off-kilter but chic always, young French label Coperni has earned its place among the eight finalists for the LVMH prize with an aesthetic that blends cool-kid ease and origami-like precision.
Photography Jean-Baptiste Talbourdet
Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant were in Marrakech when we first tried to speak. The phone line was bad and it was a little loud (maybe it was cocktail time?). Either way, they were definitely celebrating. This was last Tuesday and they'd just found out that Coperni, the line they started in Paris two years ago, had made it into the final selection for the LVMH prize.
Coperni is one of eight finalists for the prize, on a shortlist that includes Marques'Almeida and Jacquemus — brands that have been around for considerably longer than Coperni's four seasons. But Sébastien and Arnaud started strong. Arnaud left his job at Balenciaga at the end of 2013 to focus on the line full time, and the pair won the ANDAM prize for their first collection that year. Soon after, it was picked up and sold exclusively by Opening Ceremony.
The couple met at school in Paris six years ago. "Sébastien was on the creative side and I studied fashion business," explained Arnaud once he was back in the studio in Paris. "We already liked each other and we started working together on school projects." That dynamic has stayed the same ever since, in theory: Sébastien is the designer, and Arnaud manages. But in practice, they do everything together. "The company is so small that we really have to move forward hand-in-hand. Fashion has become such a difficult industry, so we're very lucky to be a duo."
When they first discussed launching a brand, it was Sébastien who came up with the name. It was inspired by the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. (Arnaud: "Sébastien is very into technology and futurism.") But both of them liked the ideas of revolution, light, and warmth the word conjured. And they've made interesting use of circles (a reference to the sun and its orbiting planets) in their collections — especially for fall/winter 15, which included a standout belted coat made from a patchwork of navy suede, metallic and white kangaroo leather and velvet cashmere discs.
Coperni's other signatures might be cuffs (extra-long, tied, or ruffled), technical details (laser-cut slits and origami-like folds), and something that the designers describe as "a cool, minimalist, French quality." Calling French style nonchalant is enough to make anyone's eyes roll. But there is something in Coperni's blend of classic navy knits with A-line metallic mini skirts that feels easy and inherently Parisian. And the high hemlines and op-art circles bring to mind pieces that Jane Birkin wore on some of her crazier outings. But the designers are careful to root their ideas in real life: "One of the most important things is wearability," they insist.
As the brand continues to grow, the designers are setting their sights on producing more technical fabrics and incorporating more ambitious technological details into their pieces. "Imagine having the best tailored suit with a little light detail in the collar!" says Arnaud "And we dream about working with heat and waterproofing."
Right now though, they're just imagining what winning the LVMH prize would mean. The financial award would give them the boost they need to grow their team and put on their first runway show in Paris. Maybe they could even develop their first photo-sensitive mini dress. "And the mentoring from the LVMH experts would be an amazing help for the brand strategy," adds Arnaud. If they win, he says, they'll be celebrating again. But this time in Paris: "we'd have a huge party in our tiny, tiny 45-square-meter apartment!"
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Jean-Baptiste Talbourdet