When Tim Coppens showed his first menswear line, Barneys bought the entire collection on the spot.
Three seasons later, he’s won the 2012 Ecco Domani award and his clothes are carried in fashion hotspots like Dover Street Market in London and Isetan in Tokyo: a regular bomber jacket goes for $2,495, a turtleneck is $905, while a shirt will set you back $435.
When we spoke in the SoHo offices of his agent just after Coppens’s spring/summer fashion show, he was relaxed in a black T-shirt, Acne jeans and Common Projects sneakers.
Tarmy: Are you happy with how your show went?
Coppens: Very happy. It’s only the third season. I like that it’s going fast, but I’m also trying to pace it a little bit.
I can’t develop 100 styles. You have to be contained, because everybody is pulling -- it’s difficult to produce all of these pieces. There’s a financial part to it that you have to keep under control.
Tarmy: Are you worried about expanding too quickly?
Coppens: No. I have a commercial background. I worked for Ralph Lauren, for Adidas, so I think I’m mature enough to maneuver through these obstacles.
Tarmy: What kind of obstacles?
Coppens: Making a collection and showing it is easy. You can just go out to the garment district, buy some fabric and make a jacket.
But then when someone orders it, there are a lot of other things: You have to grade it, you have to offer sizes, there are minimums, so it’s all these very bureaucratic things.
Tarmy: How much of your job is actual design?
Coppens: The presenting and the creative thing is so much fun, but it’s so short. Delivering the line on time to stores so they can actually sell it is the most important part.
Tarmy: When do buyers order your clothes?
Coppens: New York is tricky because we don’t really have a men’s fashion week. Paris and Milan are in June and July, so that’s when the menswear buyers go out and order. They come here then, as well.
Tarmy: You completed the collection you just showed two months ago?
Coppens: It’s annoying because you have your collection finished, buyers see it and only then do you show it.
Tarmy: If you’ve already sold the clothing, why do a fashion show?
Coppens: It’s important: You can view the clothes on a rack, but nobody has really seen everything together. With the hair, the styling, the music and the whole vibe, you can tell your story. It’s super important to build that brand language.
Tarmy: Who are your clothes made for?
Coppens: It’s difficult for the young because it’s a very high price point. I think it’s a young soul, definitely, but the clothes are sophisticated. They speak to an older customer.
Tarmy: What items of clothing should a man invest in?
Coppens: The classics. Buy a good suit and then buy jackets. I like making jackets because it’s something that really makes a guy look cool.
Tarmy: Do you have financial backers?
Coppens: No. It’s not easy. You work hard, but I know that I’m not an inventor who comes up with an amazing idea that makes millions.
It’s something that has to grow and take time. So everything I do right now -- the show, putting the clothes on the right celebrities, selling in the right stores -- is super important.
(James Tarmy writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)
To contact the writer on the story: James Tarmy in New York: Jtarmy@gmail.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.