Tim Coppens is Taking Utilitarian Pieces and Making Them Fashion

The Belgian-born, New York-based designer collaborated with The Woolmark Company on an ultra-luxe reimagining of past garments.
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Tim Coppens, the menswear designer behind a CFDA award for “Best Emerging Menswear Designer” and making the final round in competition for the LVMH Prize, is based in New York. Well, to the extent that someone who travels four months out of the year can be. His wife and kids are in Brooklyn, and his studio is on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. When they have a free weekend (provided he’s not on another continent), they hang out either around Brooklyn or take off for the Guggenheim, to sweep down across Central Park and eventually find their way back home. While there isn’t much room for disorder in such a packed schedule, Coppens is able to produce an incredibly innovative and highly curated body of work.

In collaboration with The Woolmark Company, the Australian monolith that also has the first and last word in anything and everything Merino wool, Coppens has begun an ongoing collaboration with the company, including a select capsule collection of woolen outerwear pieces called COPPENS_Merino. Each garment is made to order and includes Australian Merino wool in both conventional and unconventional details. Wool is both biodegradable and heavily insulating, making the collection ultra-utilitarian, leaving no need for form to follow function.

The collection features six pieces: two bombers, two coats, a parka, and a windbreaker. Each garment, rendered in black with the occasional leather accents and chrome hardware, brings its own interpretation to otherwise classic pieces. Coppens’ iteration of the parka, for example, gets its warmth from Australian Merino wool; various leathers can be found on the cuffs. The hems have snap studs going up the back of the piece, adding a layer of movement and also variation: slitted parkas, anyone? Upgraded materials are what add updated flair to pieces that have been done before. “How do we combine things and make better versions of those archive pieces?” he asks.

Coppens’s fire coat was inspired by an outerwear piece he saw from the first World War; the parka’s conception started with Vietnam War-era hyperfunctional garments. The varsity bomber, perhaps the best received piece of the collection, got its own inspiration from a similar piece he did four years ago. The sleeves on several of the pieces feature ribbed cuffs—each done in Australian Merino—as well as the collar on the varsity bomber, for example, done in a straight-textured shearling. “The price point is super high,” Coppens admits, “but it’s all handmade. It’s what you get when the materials are handmade, and they’re treated, and they’re layered.”

As for choosing favorites, Coppens says he’s been wearing the varsity bomber out more and more often. And although the collection is a limited run, he’s seeking to make it more than a one-time thing. The result? A perpetual dialogue between functional streetwear, luxury materials, and contemporary retellings of past silhouettes.

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