Inspired by the everyday lives of the women around them, the LVMH prize finalists are reinventing Parisian minimalism
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Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer are the embodiment of Rive Gauche chic: impossibly charming yet understated, impeccably dressed in cashmere sweaters and woolen blazers yet always discreet. Just like their collections. In only two years, Coperni has gone from one-off young designer capsule collection to winning the ANDAM Award, to being nominated (with the likes of Craig Green and Jacquemus) for the next LVMH Award and being sold in 25 stores around the world (which will soon include Dover Street Market). Dazed met up with the talented duo to discuss success, the appeal of well-made clothes and the changing face of Paris fashion.
What’s the story behind Coperni?
Sébastien Meyer: We met seven years ago at fashion school in Paris. Arnaud was studying fashion management and I was concentrating on design, so we quickly started to work together on special projects. After we graduated, Arnaud went on to work at Chanel and Balenciaga, but I personally wasn’t looking forward to spending years doing internships and not creating. I knew I wanted my own brand, and Arnaud was up for it. We were both on the same wavelength; we were more interested in dressing our friends for their everyday lives than creating evening gowns for celebrities.
What does the name Coperni stand for?
Sébastien Meyer: It comes from Nicolaus Copernicus. He revolutionised astronomy and we were inspired by that. We aspire to be innovative with our clothing and at some point we would love to explore wearable technology to make it really contemporary and chic. Of course that requires a huge investment, but it’s something we’re looking forward to.
Arnaud Vaillant: We feel like someone pushed the fast forward button! And at the same time it’s really important for us to keep our feet on the floor and not try and grow too fast. We’d rather keep on doing small collections than triple production by sacrificing quality.
Sébastien Meyer: We haven’t even had the time to stop and realise all that’s going on… We haven’t taken a holiday in forever, and when we finally were starting to take one LVMH called us to say we were among the eight finalists, so we immediately had to come back to Paris. But we’re just enjoying the ride, it’s all super exciting!
What inspired your AW15 collection?
Sébastien Meyer: It’s actually the construction of the clothes in itself that inspires us. We don’t just pick a theme at the beginning of each season and change it every six months; we’d rather steer clear of the fashion system in that sense and concentrate in creating collections that evolve progressively. But this one was basically an exploration of round shapes: we cut the edges of shirts in curvy lines, constructed leather and suede dresses out of circles…
Arnaud Vaillant: The most important thing for us is to make clothes that are perfectly cut and draped, and that women enjoy wearing. We want our clients to have an emotional connection to our pieces, a real feeling, and we won’t achieve that by making collections that fall out of fashion after a season.
“We were more interested in dressing our friends for their everyday lives than creating evening gowns for celebrities” – Sébastien Meyer
Your model and muse is Parisian it-girl Lolita Jacobs, who has also worked with Jacquemus among other designers. How is she part of your creative process?
Arnaud Vaillant: First and foremost, she is our friend. We met her about two years ago (when she was working with art director Franck Durand) at a party and she was all dressed in pastel pink. She looked fabulous and we immediately hit it off. Then one day we needed a girl for a fitting and she was up for it.
Sébastien Meyer: So we started working more and more with her. Today she models our clothes for our lookbooks and does fittings with us but she also styles the collections and is in a way our consultant. We’re both boys so it’s really useful to have a girl tell us at the beginning of each season what she wants to wear and how she wants to wear it.
Arnaud Vaillant: Also, we live right next to each other in the Rive Gauche, so we spend most of our time together. We have dinner together literally every evening!
What are the main challenges of being a young designer in France today?
Arnaud Vaillant: We were talking to Faustine Steinmetz the other day about young designers in Britain and we were amazed to discover everything the BFC does for emerging talent over there. They have help putting together their shows, they have help with PR, they have help with commercial agents… in Paris, it seems all we have is a never-ending stream of taxes to pay! It makes it really difficult for a small company to get ahead, and it can be quite frustrating. Most of us over here want to stay independent and produce really high quality clothes while engaging new clients, and the only way we can do it is by adjusting our prices as much as possible, which leaves us with very little profit. Thankfully we have now more support than ever with the ANDAM and LVMH, which have been crucial in our development. But we still wish the system would be more supportive of emerging talent.
Do you think the Parisian fashion scene is changing?
Arnaud Vaillant: There is definitely a shift in attitudes. Lots of new interesting designers are emerging. You’ve got Jacquemus, Demna Gvasalia and his collective Vêtements, Pigalle, Études, Harmony… All of them are independent brands, and most of us are the same age. I think we all started our professional life at the beginning of the recession, and we just grew tired of the endless internships, the lack of creative opportunities and the monopoly of corporate brands. So we’ve now decided to do things our way, producing exclusively in Europe and mostly in France, crafting our clothes according to French savoir-faire and responding to the needs of real Parisian kids. It’s a silent revolution, but it is still a revolution.