With the depth of design talent commanding our attention in this capital of ours you'll have to forgive our hypnotic beat of the London menswear drum. However, despite our undeniable focus on the local, we do cast the blogging net wide from time to time and today we would like to take our time over Tim Coppens. We are certainly not the first, nor will we be the last to mention the name that has echoed its way across the Atlantic and beyond for the few months. Fantastic Man described him as "one of the most interesting new menswear designers in New York" whilst The Dandy Project recently gushed that "a surge of enthusiasm now surrounds this designer who brings the hope of Belgian progressiveness to New York’s fatigued menswear scene." From critics to buyers to hopeful followers alike, the industry is united by its excitement for Coppens' minimal yet at times unexpected exploration of menswear staples.
Born in Belgium, Coppens graduated from the internationally acclaimed Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1998. Resisting temptation to launch his own line he opted to further hone his talent and knowledge of the industry and most notably became senior designer for Adidas. Most recently, the design talent served as design director for RLX from 2008 until last year when he decided to launch his eponymous label. "Even though I enjoyed working for companies such as Ralph Lauren, my ambition has always been to venture out on my own and to be able to express my creativity in personal collections," types the designer as his collection lands in LN-CC (in addition to an enviable selection of the finest stores across the globe). The response to the presentation of his debut collection in New York last season was immediate and contagiously spread throughout the industry. Initially Barneys picked up the designs exclusively but the second season saw the addition Isetan in Tokyo, Dover Street Market and LN-CC here in London. In just two quick seasons, the emerging strong signature is Coppen's interest in athleticism and deft use of technical fabrics. Now, as the former design director of Ralph Lauren's active wear label, RLX, that's not surprising but under his own name, the design is relaxed, the proportions played with and the rigorous structure of classical menswear explored to express a marvellously modern sartorial vision of masculinity.
"For RLX, I directed womenswear as well as men's. The line started off as really focused on sports but gradually grew more into a complete modern collection with its own style within Ralph Lauren. It’s different from what I do now because the majority of my work for Ralph Lauren had a function created by the use of new fabrics or construction, seaming etc… My own work is much more about using these elements in a way that I feel benefits the design aesthetics not necessary the performance… There is a lot more of my world expressed in the collection. The story I build…. coming from art music, subcultures, film. These references and attitudes inspire me every day and have a substantial role."
Coppens on his experience at RLX and the new beginning with his own label.
For SS12, Coppens was drawn in to Jacques Audiard's gripping French thriller 'Un Prophète' and took sartorial inspiration from the everyday wardrobe worn by Tahar Rahim in his role of a young French-Maghreb who climbs the gangster career ladder. Coppens reinterprets the basic everyday style portrayed in “Un Prophète” by leveraging his technical inspired background into classic designer pieces with great attention to material choice and innovative tailoring. "The inspiration came from Tahar Rahim, in particular his roots and the typical ban lieu style… grey sweatshirt, leather bomber jacket trackpant…He has a very stylish flow with some arrogance mixed in." The result is classic designer pieces with an enticing mix of the basic everyday style of the film with technical inspired details, unusual material choices and innovative tailoring. Throughout, Coppens takes classic items of menswear, including Varsity, Field and Biker Jackets, and manages to make them appear new. Coppens himself makes the process sound simple by typing, "I take what I know and fuse it with those iconic pieces… It’s a lot about balance and not taking away or adding too much…" he adds.
"I have always liked the varsity jacket as a style. When I was in high school it wasn't as available in Belgium as it is here in the US. It was not a typical piece to wear but I remember I bought my first one from Vision Street Wear in a skate shop in Oostende. I like the linen bomber jacket a lot - It's easy but has enough details to make it special without overdoing it.. And the mix of different materials make it special. But my favourite is the brown suede blouson with neoprene cuffs. The washed suede is super light but still compact enough to keep a structured feel."
Coppens talks through his favourite pieces.
With introductions made and designs hinted at, it really is time for me to share the collection with you. Here, we supplement Coppens' look book with a selection of detail shots taken by LN-CC's Andy Malone exclusively for us...
Lookbook courtesy of Tim Coppens and details shots by LN-CC's Andy Malone
With such a startling ascent, the last twelve months must feel like an absolute blur for Tim Coppens, a dream. However, despite buyers eager to snap up his designs and critics running low on superlatives to describe them, Coppens himself remains refreshingly grounded. "My focus is to build a strong identity with the menswear collection first and then we will see if other categories or maybe womenswear are interesting to explore." No doubt we are all eager to follow Coppens' deft and well executed lead.