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Behind The Scenes: The Making of Coperni’s Next Act

How could Coperni follow last season’s viral spray-on dress? With a pack of robot dogs in a theatrical performance with models on the runway, of course. Staged at Théâtre National de la Danse, Coperni’s Autumn/Winter 2023 show was based on a reimagining of French fable Le Loup et l’Agneau (the wolf and the lamb) by Jean de la Fontaine. 


Coperni co-founders Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer in the brand’s new HQ. Photo: Jean du Sartel-Heintz


The runway models took on the role of the lambs, while the wolves were replaced by five robot dogs, one of which visited influencers in the front row and later pulled a jacket off model Rianne Van Rompaey in a choreographed sequence, before returning it to symbolise harmony between the two. Later, the same one held on to Lila Moss’s mini swipe bag, before giving it back as she passed by. At the end, the robots took a bow, as models walked the finale. The collection built on Coperni’s techno-chic aesthetic, with its signature spandex tops redone in leather, rubber versions of its signature Bridge boot, emoji-inspired silver brooches gathering draped tops and blanket coats. 


Expectations for Coperni were high this season, after the brand created the most viral moment of 2022, presenting a spray-on dress on supermodel Bella Hadid last September. “It was just crazy, we could never have expected the reaction,” says creative director and co-founder Sébastien Meyer, speaking at the brand’s new 400m² Paris HQ, three days out from the AW23 show. Coperni gained over 300,000 followers overnight and sales grew “significantly” on the previous season, both from wholesale and Coperni’s e-commerce store, where the brand couldn’t restock fast enough. “Our Instagram just broke,” Coperni CEO and co-founder Arnaud Vaillant says. “We couldn’t believe it.” The duo, partners in life and work, have since been cooking up their next act, while grappling with intense new demand and pressure from the industry.


Meyer and Vaillant have long been fascinated with technology and how it can interact with humans. Photo: Jean du Sartel-Heintz

Coperni was already on a strong growth trajectory before the spray-on dress. Sales had doubled every season since 2021, reaching a few million in 2022, which is all Vaillant will disclose. But SS23 was an acceleration of Coperni’s brand awareness on a global scale, says Stefano Martinetto, CEO of accelerator Tomorrow Ltd that works with Coperni among other brands. It took the brand from a buzzy up-and-comer known amongst fashion insiders to a globally recognised label, the founders say. 


A day ahead of the show, the team did a run through with one model and the full “pack” of robots. Photo: Jean du Sartel-Heintz

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen robots on the runway. From McQueen’s robotic arm spraying Shalom Harlow for SS99, to a giant robot walking the runway with Irina Shayk at Philipp Plein in AW18, designers have long experimented in this space. For Coperni, the performance is blending the old and the new, taking a well-known fable and rethinking it to examine the relationship between humans and tech. Plus, they’re coordinating a full cast of models and five robots to interact and move together. 


The AW23 collection sees the brand’s iconic bridge boot reimagined in rubber. Photo: Jean du Sartel-Heintz

Hours before the show, the casting was finally done. Meyer and Vaillant were watching a rehearsal with some of the models, making final tweaks. Vaillant himself ran onto the set himself to help correct models going in the wrong direction. Van Rompaey practised “the” moment, with varying degrees of success at first. “I’m so excited,” Vaillant beamed backstage, where champagne was already chilling for the post-show celebrations. “Did you see the rehearsal? It’s like being at the theatre! This is what we love, creating an experience for our guests and showing them innovation – we can’t wait.”.


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