Document talks to Christophe Copin and Karin Gustafsson about art, design, dance and the COS x Pitti Uomo Soma Collection.
COS launched today its COS x Pitti Uomo Soma Collection which debuted in Florence during Pitti Uomo. Christophe Copin, the newly-hired COS head of menswear design conceived of the 17-piece collection of fashion-forward, minimal basics after seeing the ballet Tree of Codes in Paris at Opera Garnier. The ballet was choreographed by Wayne McGregor with music by Jamie xx and scenography by Olafur Eliasson. COS looked to McGregor to choreograph a dance to present the COS x Pitti Uomo Soma Collection during the menswear event last June. Document’s Ann Binlot interviewed Copin and COS creative director Karin Gustafsson at the St. Regis in Florence, where the pair discussed COS’s men’s line, the collaboration, and why the London-based brand relies heavily on the worlds of art, design, dance, and architecture for inspiration.
Ann Binlot—First let’s start with how does the brand stay competitive when there are so many brands known for basics and many that are start-up, direct-to-consumer companies trying to have a place in this area. How does COS stand out? How is COS staying different?
Karin Gustafsson—We have a clear identity as a brand and I think that sort of DNA lends itself to reinvent the collection every season. Every collection is working towards the right quality level. Not only in quality of fabric but also quality in design. Our product stands for a quality that is still really accessible and comparably affordable for what you in comparison with other brands. I think that obviously, all of these small details makes a huge difference.
Ann—Yes. The thing I like about COS is that it’s very fashion forward, yet it’s also timeless. I have a lot of pieces from five years ago I could still wear.
Karin—Yes. That’s the whole idea. We really believe that in creating a collection that lasts beyond the season it is focusing on high quality in design and in design language. It might be something that you bought five years ago and you wore but you don’t want to get rid of it. You want to give it a rest and then come back to it.
Ann—For the Pitti Uomo Soma Collection, you brought your design down to a very basic thing: movement. Why did you choose to focus on something that we so often forget about for this capsule collection?
“We really believe that in creating a collection that lasts beyond the season it is focusing on high quality in design and in design language.”
Copin—When the idea came to design an essential collection, it was based on a very small collection that would have a new take on the essential. To have a new take we thought it was quite interesting to work on something which nobody looks at, the everyday movement that you don’t even think about. We worked to find a new fabric which we created in house that would be very fluid and connected to your movement.
Karin—Obviously, the body is what carries the garments we create. When we work with fabric on the dress stands, we pin it and it’s quite static. Everything falls from the shoulder. But we really feel that it’s interesting to see when the body moves and how that creates shapes beneath the garments and what the relationship is between proportion and movement. This collection especially is very much a part of wardrobe classics, but that are reinvented and given new fabrics and proportions.
Ann—How did you discover Wayne McGregor, who choreographed the performance?
Christophe—The first day that I interviewed for the role of the menswear head designer with Karin in London I also had a ticket for the ballet that same night in Paris. When we interviewed together, I told her how I happy I was to see the ballet, which ended up being Tree of Codes. The music was by Jamie xx and it was amazing. I had never seen anything like it. I had never seen a dancer dance the way they did. It’s just stayed in my mind. So when we started to work on this collection, we discussed what the best way to present the collection would be. What could be the best way to highlight and show the movement. Tree of Codes quickly came to our minds. We decided it should be a choreographer, so Wayne was the first thought. Wayne was already someone who really loves the brand because of the way we collaborate with artists.
“We see a lot of guys buying womenswear, and a lot more women buying menswear and I think it goes very much hand in hand with this very timeless and understated aesthetic that we create.”
Ann—Tell me about what you think of the current state of menswear and what COS is doing to change that or have a presence in that.
Karin—I mean menswear is super important. I think what we’ve see lately is that the customer shops more and more without considering the definitions of menswear or womenswear. We see a lot of guys buying womenswear, and a lot more women buying menswear and I think it goes very much hand in hand with this very timeless and understated aesthetic that we create. The pieces lend themselves to be worn by many different people in many different ways.
Ann—Where would you like to see COS’s menswear line go?
Christophe—COS’s DNA is a very interesting…all of the definitions that we have had from the beginning at COS are really there and present. Eeach season we start from zero and we rebuild a new and interesting proposal. We begin by collecting different things, talking with each other, working with each other to build little by little what could be the next season. We have an incredible team of pattern makers who give us ideas when we show them the work of an architect we love. That’s what is really interesting is to try to build a garment in a different way and that’s come into our work and that’s the way we build the collection.
Ann—What artists, creatives, artists, architects, designers, choreographers, musicians, etc. are you both admiring right now? What pieces of art are you thinking about, or even museums?
Karin—I think Dia:Beacon is amazing, and having the opportunity to support them when they’re launching the exhibition of Dorothea Rockburne’s work, which is an artist that I really love. I saw her work in 2013 at MoMA—the paper and mathematic pieces; they were understated and simple. They had a lot of simplicity . They have all my favorites, like Agnes Martin.
Ann—Did you choose the Agnes Martin collaboration?
Kari—Yes, everything is teamwork at COS and we had the opportunity to sponsor the Guggenheim when [Agnes Martin showed there].
Ann—I love that show.
Karin—Me too. We’ve just seen it in London. The way the Guggenheim hang the paintings was so strong and it went so well with the building because it started from the beginning and it finished at the end. And you could just feel her changing as a person in her art. That was a special moment for us.
Ann—What about you Christophe?
Christophe—It’s no surprise. We are very fond of Wayne’s work.
Ann—Had you been paying attention to his work before that night you saw the ballet?
Christophe—Yeah, I had seen some ballet of him. I also went last week to a presentation at the Greenwich Festival, one hour out of London, which was absolutely incredible.
Karin—The dancers were wearing COS.
Ann—COS is a brand that is really embedded in creativity, do you guys make a point to see an exhibition or go to a performance every week?
Karin—Well I do have to be interested in it. If there’s something there then we try to see it.
Christophe—And we talk to each other a lot like, “I saw this exhibition this weekend you should go there to see it because it’s beautiful.” We share a lot of things like that.