Tim Coppens was the big news out of last season's New York shows, presenting a debut menswear collection that was promptly scooped up by Barneys New York, LN-CC, Dover Street Market, and Isetan in Japan. There are some good reasons for the buzz around Coppens, and one very, very good reason. The good reasons, confirmed at his sophomore outing today, include the facts that Coppens is a precise and inventive tailor, as well as a dab hand with color, which he uses with great care and subtlety, and he's also a designer with real sense for material. The very, very good reason for paying heed to Coppens, which was likewise attested to in his new collection, is that he's the master of his references. Last season, Coppens was riffing on the film A Prophet, and the tracksuited look of the banlieues; this time out, he derived ideas from the Ryan Gosling flick Drive, along with hockey and racing apparel. The references aren't notable in and of themselves. What makes Coppens special is that he doesn't fetishize his influences, but rather uses ideas from outside himself to advance a point of view on masculinity that feels considered, singular, and coherent.
Coppens' emerging strong signature is his interest in athleticism. Given his background as the former design director of Ralph Lauren's activewear label, RLX, that's not surprising. Neither is his deft use of technical fabrics, which he plays against the warmer textures of popcorn-knit merino wool, close-shaved shearling, and ultrafine lambskin. He's clearly attuned to the way that athletic apparel lives a double life, as both a wardrobe of functional garments and as streetwear with its own tough attitude. His trick is to give that attitude an air of refinement: Here, the Coppens strategy played out in narrow jogging pants with angular seaming, sharply cut varsity and moto jackets in unexpected materials such as shearling and tan mac cotton, and slim, elegant trousers with racing bands down the sides. He also made a lot of use of motocross-inspired patching, a reference that, although overt, never felt slapped on or kitschy. You could imagine a guy sporting Coppens' clothes, in particular his very fine outerwear, in a totally natural way. The collection was fashionable without screaming "fashion."