This is Peter Copping’s Moment
Most designers taking over a storied brand are tapped specifically for reinvention. Not the case with Peter Copping, who, when he accepted the position of creative director of Oscar de la Renta in October of 2014, was taking on an enormous task: filling the shoes of the beloved namesake whose career continued to flourish into his 80s.
In fact, the Oxford-born Englishman was leaving a plum position as artistic director of Nina Ricci in Paris. But from his Fall 2015 collection, his first for the house (de la Renta died one week after Copping was appointed), he has been a natural fit. Rather than radically imposing a new aesthetic, Copping subtly developed the house signatures, such as the nipped-waist cocktail dress and evening gowns in bright bolts of silk faille. “I don’t think it’s always so nice to come into a place and say, ‘Everything needs to change,’” says Copping. “Oscar knew I would respect the sort of woman he designed for, but you can shake things up by making small changes.” It also helps that “Oscar and I both like sophisticated women, feminine and romantic,” Copping adds.
Yet Copping’s touch, however finely done, is evident. His dresses now breathe an air of modern European sophistication. Gone are the occasionally matronly stiff constructions and in their place are lightly layered skirts and intriguing print combinations. The result is that, in a little over a year, he’s attracted a new type of customer: the next generation of Hollywood fashion darlings. Sienna Miller wowed at last year’s Oscars in a black lace gown with lean, elegant lines and soigné velvet bows. With red carpet dressing, it’s about “the right dress on the right woman,” says Copping. “I think it’s fantastic when women on the red carpet make less clichéd choices.” He points to the bold embroidered Oscar de la Renta dress Zoe Kazan recently wore to the 2016 Critics’ Choice Awards, which “looked really fresh.”
As Copping settles in, there is also something wonderfully Parisian emerging from his finishes, particularly in his Spring 2016 collection. The coup was the closing runway look, an unforgettable light aqua silk taffeta gown trimmed with black grosgrain ribbons, fitted with pockets and featuring a daring standing collar. “I really do strive for elegance, but at the same time I always try to offset it with a kind of twisted beauty,” the designer explains. “When something has become too perfect I find it slightly uncomfortable. Sometimes when we’ve made the most beautiful dress I’ll ask the seamstress to take it back into the atelier and press it until it’s creased or piece-wash it to make it break down and crumple. Or something as simple as putting pockets in a specific place can be quite unexpected, and you create a new attitude.”
But Copping, who is loving the fast-paced energy of New York since moving there for the job, isn’t only interested in gala and red carpet wear. “The clothes I design are sophisticated and feminine, but I am also interested in what that means for day, for the office,” he says. “Plenty of people do dress up and go to charity functions, but not all the world is like that.”
Indeed, the designer seems to have the modern American woman on his mind. His Pre-Fall 2016 collection was inspired by the rich patchwork that is the U.S., and included the usual array of skirt suits and eveningwear the house is known for. But there were also a few new pieces, like a zip-front black ruched dress, which offered an appealing take on work-to-play dressing. Actually, you could easily see a Manhattan power woman slipping into the dress in the time it takes to hit “send” on an email. The truth is, although Copping admittedly misses “the Parisian boulangeries bakeries,” he finds New York infinitely inspiring. Working in the city, “you can see beauty in anything,” he says. “I’m looking out of my office window at the New York skyline. It’s completely industrial, grey and beige, with steam coming out of the vents on the roofs, and it’s beautiful. You have to use your eyes and see beauty in everything.”