Peter Copping, the new-ish creative director at the Nina Ricci fashion house, came to Nieman Marcus in San Francisco last week to show off his Spring and Summer 2012 collection. Copping took the job in 2009 after Olivier Theyskens‘s contract wasn’t renewed, ostensibly because his designs were artful and interesting but not commercial enough. So part of Copping’s assignment is to create a line that will sell. If I can be any kind of indicator, I think he has succeeded. There were plenty of pieces I would have loved to take home with me, in particular the confetti print dress and the black palazzo-pant outfit.
I was super excited and privileged to interview Mr. Copping after the show. He has an extremely kind face highlighted by pale blue eyes and was wearing pink corduroys, all of which made him seem like a lovely guy. And he totally was. He could not have been more polite, friendly, relaxed and conversational. After I’d asked him my last question, he started asking me about myself. How often does the creative director of a major French fashion house do that? Find out below what he thinks about San Francisco fashion, potential future collabs, and why he’s the perfect man for the Nina Ricci job:
How are you enjoying San Francisco?
I feel slightly frustrated because I just arrived yesterday around mid-day and it’s been quite a tight schedule so I haven’t had so much time to look around and discover the city. And it looks like it really offers a lot, you could spend a whole week here easily I’m sure.
Are you going a fun restaurant tonight?
We have a dinner tonight at Spruce. And last night I went to the antique fair which was very interesting because it was good to see the women of San Francisco out and dressed up, so that was very nice. And then after that we went somewhere on Union Street called Beetlenut. And what was very impressive was there was a really great waiter who really knew the menu and could advise us very well. And also they made a mistake and brought us a salad that we didn’t odder and it was really the most delicious thing.
That was lucky! What did you think of women’s styles at the antique fair?
They were very varied. I really appreciate personalities and I saw some quite eccentric women. There was one who was dressed in an amazing long printed ikat coat, very chic with beautiful jewelry. Another woman had an amazing hairstyle that was gray and then it was dyed black on the ends. It looked incredible and very eccentric. And then the younger women were quite sexy, wearing more body conscious clothes. It seems that theres a real variety of women but they’re all very chic and refined and a lot of them were wearing very beautiful jewelry.
Did the styles surprise you?
Not really because I obviously knew that San Francisco is a cosmopolitan, sophisticated city and I visited Chicago earlier this year and it was very much the same case there. And I think the people had a real refinement and were not as showy as other big cities and that was kind of nice to see.
You mentioned you appreciate personality in dress and clothing. Do you bring that into your collections?
Definitely I think there’s a lot of personality in the clothes at Nina Ricci and then women themselves can project their own personalities onto the clothing. Because I don’t want to feel like I’m dictating to much. If women buy a total look yes that’s fantastic but for those women who may be slightly more confident and want to play around and take a jacket and pair it with something else that’s great too.
Do you have in mind a type of woman who would wear your clothing?
Yeah definitely, I think she’s very feminine, and has a certain amount of romance but then at the same time there’s a strength of character as well. I think also—which is something that we found with our own store in Paris—is that our collection applies to a broad age range. So there’s say 25 year olds right through to women in their 60s or 70s who have been buying the collection and that’s something that I feel very happy about.
I love the idea of a women wearing the same thing that her grandmother would like to wear. When you signed on with Nina Ricci what kind of changes did you want to make?
Yes, because obviously before I went there Olivier Theyskens was designing the collection and for various reasons maybe it didn’t work out for the house. But i think what he did was he brought an interest back to the brand. And then obviously when I started, my vision and aesthetic were very different from his. I wanted to go back to the core values of the house which was like I said very feminine, very romantic, and prettiness. But then I also wanted it to feel very French. You know the way in which a French woman wears her clothes and puts things together is very appealing to women all around the world. So those are all things I wanted to bring through with my design work. I wanted the colors to be very reflective of that as well. So for some seasons I’ll start with a very soft color palette and then I’ll see how I want to play around with that. Last winter you had the soft tones but then they were balanced with very deep color, say for example there was bordeaux, bottle green, there was a great chine as well. And then for the summer collection there was much more upbeat and fun in some ways with a strong basis around white with many textured fabrics and then a lot of color came through with the prints that I used and they contrasted with the softer tones which again were present. So these are all things that i wanted to bring to the forefront of the work that I do at Nina Ricci.
I agree with you about the appeal of the way a French woman dresses. Every woman wants to have that sort of je ne sais quoi that a French woman has. How do you define that, what are some characteristics?
You know I think it can come through so many things. It can be the way a woman moves or maybe the way she sits in her clothes. When you look at women sitting down in a Parisian cafe, the bag that she’s carrying, or the way she carries the bag—so there are are all those little telltale signs but then you’ve got maybe the garments that define her as as well: a pencil skirt, a little sweater or a blouse, a suit, whether or not it is a total look or the jacket is broken down. There’s all those sorts of characteristics. The little black dress is also very Parisian and comes very much from that whole Chanel aesthetic, as does the suit.
I read you were assigned a project in school on Nina Ricci?
Yeah! That was at the Royal College of Art and it was organized through the Comite Colbert which is an institute in France that promotes luxury brands. Not just fashion brands, there were various fine jewelry brands they were promoting and some glassware companies as well, Baccarat, I think. And yeah we had this Nina Ricci project, we had to design a wardrobe from morning to night for the Nina Ricci client.
And did that have any influence on you as far as ending up working for the brand?
Well I knew the house already and it gave me a focus on there, but I always felt comfortable living in Paris and I knew before I was living there that that’s where I wanted to go and work. And it feels comfortable and right. It feels like a good fit for me to be at Nina Ricci I must say.
Nina Ricci is very famous for perfume (L’air du Temps). Any interest in doing a new perfume?
I think that wold be really an interesting project for the future and I really would love to do that. It’s a great extension from fashion and I think it ‘s very important to do perfume that is very much in line with what the fashion is for the house. As yet I’ve been here just 2.5 years so I’ve designed quite a few collections with the cruise and the pre fall, but it’s still quite a short amount of time. So I think I need to establish myself so everybody understands very easily the Nina Ricci spirit and from there I can go forward and do something for the perfume side. I mean I already have started to have links with the perfume division and I think there’s a way we can go a lot further forward with that. Because, for example, I go to New York for the publicity campaign tomorrow, and that will only be the third campaign that we’ve done together. We’re still just defining a woman so there’s a visual image of the Nina Ricci woman. That will help the perfume division come more in line whith what’s being done. I think the fashion that I do is very commercial and I think the perfume division can really benefit from that as well.
That makes a lot of sense to establish yourself with the brand first and branch out form there.
Yeah I think that’s an intelligent way to do it and not try and do to many things too quickly or too soon.
That flows into the next question that I had—might you be interested in doing an H&M collaboration?
Well yeah I think those collaborations can be very fruitful and very interesting and it’s nice that you can design something which has a much wider distribution. But I don’t think there’s any point in doing anything like that too soon. And I feel already the collaborations people are doing, they’re kind of reigning them in a little bit. It seemed for a while every month someone was doing one.
Yeah and I think the Missoni Target collaboration had a few snags.
So there was a positive side but they weren’t exactly set up for it. That’s interesting. I think they’re interesting but I don’t think it’s the right time for us to do it at the moment. There’s so much more we can do. I did design a very tiny little capsule which was just exclusive to Nieman Marcus. It’s downstairs now but it’s not for sale as yet. It was shown with the cruise collection so it will be arriving in November so any week or any day soon. It consisted of a trench coat, there’s a little cotton suit with a little pencil skirt which can be teamed with some printed t-shirts and some knitwear. It forms a little complete wardrobe in some ways because there’s a printed dress which could very much go from day to cocktail. You just put a necklace with it or dress it up a little bit and it would be appropriate. Our main collection is sold in 10 to 12 Nieman stores but this capsule is aimed at a bigger network and it’s going to be in 38 different cities around the United States, so that’s already exciting. But it seems much more relevant because it’s a cheaper price point but it’s still luxurious, it’s still for a fantastic department store that has a very luxurious profile. It’s not going to mass market. It’s very interesting.
Last question: what do you make of fashion blogging?
It’s interesting but I’m not so good on the Internet. I like to check out the Sartorialist, I like as well Fashionologie, it keeps you up to date. I like that everyone can have an opinion on fashion. Some are definitely better than others—you feel that certain people have a better knowledge or history of the fashion industry so they can put it in more of a context. I think some of the blogs can be quite harsh. If you got drawn into that and read them too much you’d probably be completely destroyed so I tend to avoid those.
When you’re out there you’re open to everything so you have to take the rough with the smooth. But I do tend to be a relatively discreet person and I love my job and the whole process of it. It’s not necessarily the media side of it that is seductive to me although I understand it’s an important part of the job. Some designers seem like an open envelope, they’re out partying every night of the week. But I don’t know at the end of the day how appealing that makes them to somebody. It definitely works for some people because they feel they’re hip and happening but it depends on longevity as well.
Thank you so much!
Yes and thank you! I will check your blog out. What sort of things do you cover?
I do some personal blogging, sometimes I do outfit posts. But my site is a little more newsy. I do local events and news sometimes. I’d like to do more news because I come from a journalism background. I was a science and technology reporter until 2008 when I switched to fashion and lifestyle (although I still write about science for Gizmodo), so it still feels very new and exciting.
Which is interesting because it makes it a whole new territory.
Yeah exactly. And I try to make it more broad for women who aren’t necessarily die-hard into fashion.
I think that’s important. But even for those die hard fashion addicts you’ve got to broaden their horizons as well.
Yeah and I think they appreciate seeing some varied coverage rather than the same things over and over. I try to make it a little different. I also try to give it some personality and humor. I try not to take myself too seriously.
Do you read a lot of blogs?
I do! I read Refinery29 religiously, and it’s a very small community of bloggers in San Francisco so we all keep track of each other. But I also read the New York blogs and the international ones. I love Garance Dore.
A friend from college, her daughter has quite a successful blog in London called Bipling. She was featured in American Vogue recently, just a couple of issues ago they used her to do a jewelry shoot. She was one of several girls. She’s really quite eccentric. He mother and I were in the same class at Saint Martins, and now she’s gone into fashion illustration. She’s a brilliant illustrator, she’s called Tanya Ling. She makes very beautiful illustrations. They’re a very artistic family. In London her husband has FIG (Fashion Illustration Gallery). You should check it out.
I definitely will!