Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer’s year-old line, Coperni Femme, is named for Nicolaus Copernicus, who discovered that the sun is at the center of the universe. The designers grew up basking in the legendary rays of Southern France, but their sensibility is more urban than provincial. “We’re in love with Paris and have a certain idea of the Parisian woman and her elegance,” says Meyer, 25, who met Vaillant, 24 (above, from left), when they were both students at the city’s Mod’Art International. Vaillant has worked his way through the ranks at Balenciaga, from the marketing department to the design studio, where he is currently responsible for embroideries. Meyer, meanwhile, devotes himself full-time to the fledgling line, which is notable for its sharp tailoring, slits reminiscent of the artist Lucio Fontana’s sliced canvases, and mille-feuille-like layering. “We’re trying to keep our feet on the ground and create real, workable clothes that are still creative,” Meyer says.
Photograph by Jean-Baptiste Talbourdet.
Coperni Femme fall 2014. Courtesy of designers.
“The most exciting thing for me is dealing directly with women—seeing what they love,” says the 30-year-old Canadian designer Chris Gelinas. His CG collection offers women plenty to love: For fall, his second outing, he created a parka with a raccoon collar that detaches to become a scarf, shrug, or shawl. “I like the idea of more than one function,” he says, adding that the jacket’s innovative mohair- knit construction is both warm and lightweight. That same attention to comfort was applied to his laser-cut-engineered neoprene corset, which mimics the contouring effect of boning, without the pinch. Gelinas, who did stints at Proenza Schouler, Balenciaga, and Olivier Theyskens’s Theory before venturing out on his own, got his start at Marc Jacobs, where he put his business degree to use in the buying department. The logistics of building a fashion house still fascinate him: “I think we need to bring the customer back into the conversation.”
Photograph by Cyle Suesz.
Chris Gelinas fall 2014. Photograph by Victoria Stevens.
“I’m always playing with contrasts,” says Marie-Christine Statz, 32, the German designer behind Gauchère. For fall, that meant blending men’s wear details with feminine silhouettes and mixing sharp suiting fabrics with flowing silk. Statz studied fashion at Parsons the New School for Design in New York and went on to work for Diane von Furstenberg and Narciso Rodriguez. “I learned about sculpting fabrics to the body and putting seams in unexpected places at Narciso,” she says. “But after six years in New York, I was ready for a new adventure.” And so she moved to Paris, studied draping at the School of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne, and, in 2012, launched Gauchère. (The name means left-handed in French and was her nickname in school.) “Paris is a bit more relaxed than New York,” she notes. As a designer, it’s a vibe that evidently suits her: The city’s tony Bon Marché department store was an early buyer.
Photograph by Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schumm.
Gauchere fall 2014. Photograph by Anuschka Blommers & Niels Schumm.
Now in his third season, Joe Richards draws on references both deeply dramatic and decidedly down-to-earth. “My defining inspirations are the first time I saw a Visconti film, and the actresses Romy Schneider, Katharine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo,” says the 28-year-old Londoner, adding that memories of his artist father’s overalls and his mother’s nurse uniform have instilled in him a love of garments “you just put on for yourself.” For fall, that translates into tunics, smocks, soft jackets, and flowing dresses in panne velvet, crisp cotton gabardine, and tweed made from Yorkshire yarn. “The gabardine-smock look came directly from pictures of Nureyev rehearsing in the 1960s and Garbo on the street in New York in the ’70s,” Richards says. “They were both in exile in different ways. Life is so exposed today—I like the romance of being underexposed.”
Photograph by Charlie McLelland.
Joe Richards fall 2014. Courtesy of designer.
“It’s a struggle for me to sum up my collections with a one-liner,” says Phoebe English, 28. “I’m not one of those designers who says, ‘It’s all about the ’90s.’ ” English, who is, in fact, English, was raised by artist parents in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. In the six seasons since founding her London-based label, she’s developed a reputation as a fabric maverick: Her Central Saint Martins MA collection was made from long strands of synthetic hair, and the macramé tunics she presented for spring were hand-knotted from strips of athletic fabric. For fall, she mixed old-fashioned cotton mattress ticking with sex-shop latex to form soft slip dresses and flak jackets held together with satin ribbons. Despite such outré materials, the clothes are designed to have broad appeal. Swears English: “There are 18-year-olds wearing our bra tops in West London clubs and career women of 60 wearing them at board meetings.”
Photograph by Josh Shinner.
Phoebe English fall 2014. Photograph by Robert Oades.