“When your halo slips for good, you’ll have to wear your hood.” Tim Coppens quoted lyrics from Madchester figurehead Ian Brown to set the mood for his new collection. It seems a little early in Coppens’ career to be tuning in to such a downbeat sentiment, especially now that he’s attracting major corporate attention (he was a finalist in the first edition of the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize), but he wanted the rudeness, the arrogance, the hint of hooliganism that Brown embodied. That was something that really appealed to him when he was a kid back in Belgium, and he felt it was an easy way to communicate what he called the undercurrent of violence in the 40 looks he showed for men and women today.
Violence? Clearly in the eye of the beholder. Coppens is a structured, methodical designer, in keeping with his Belgian origins. It shows in the precision of his cuts and his layering. But he insists he also has an appetite for imperfection. That’s how the errant Brown insinuated himself into the picture. “Violence” may have been too strong a word, but there was definitely something more militant than usual about Coppens’ clothes. It was there in a khaki field jacket or a blouson and trench in a camo-style print. The fact that he titled the collection Jungle Sunrise also steered you toward an Asian special-ops scenario, because there was otherwise not much that counted as tropical. Some blurrily aqueous neons offered a welcome flash of color in an otherwise coolly monochrome world. You craved more of their energy.
But Coppens has really built his reputation on a hybrid of sports- and utilitywear, and there was plenty of that here to feed his fans. Key fabrics were mesh and a cotton-nylon blend, cut into shorts, track pants, and parkas. “It’s a collection about movement,” said the designer, who himself has just taken up boxing. The silhouette was appropriately athletic, translated in his womenswear into a zipped, abbreviated body consciousness. The runway indicated how important womenswear is becoming for Coppens, so it bodes well that one of his best looks was a parka dress with a pleated back. At this stage, though, Coppens’ promise still outweighs his practice.