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INSIDE PETER COPPING'S ALL-CONSUMING LOVE AFFAIR WITH ART

"It is very important to live somewhere where you feel at liberty to experiment and stylise the interior," says Peter Copping over Zoom. The former creative director of iconic fashion houses Nina Ricci and Oscar de la Renta's 15th-century manor La Carlière of twelve years is in many ways an extension of the designer himself. Resplendent with blossoming floral wallpaper, a striking tonal range and impressive art collection, the illustrious six bedroom house is reminiscent of the sophisticated charm and decorative whimsy of the Bloomsbury aesthetic.


Images via @lacarliere


When he's not working in Paris for the storied fashion house Balenciaga, he's with his French husband Rambert Rigaud in Normandy at the provincial La Carlière; which is also the namesake of the interior design brand the pair forged during lockdown. Not only does the label offer new creative potential for the designer, but is a love note to his dilapidated home and its extensive bricolage of antiques sourced from flea markets, antique dealers and auction rooms.


Images via @lacarliere


The symbiosis between art and fashion comes naturally to the designer who’s used artistic influences to infuse his work with depth and authenticity throughout his career. When asked the immortal question of whether the latter begets the former, he simply answered: "Fashion for me is an applied art and I find that both pathways can possess creative potential while also being commodities." Yves Saint Laurent’s captivating ‘Mondrian Dress’ of 1965, as well as his 'Irises' and 'Sunflowers' jackets (that paid tribute to Van Gogh in 1988) are his favourite art and fashion collaborations to date.


Photography courtesy of Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images.


An admirer of Seventeenth-century crewelwork, the Flemish Baroque artist Anthony Van Dyck and the eclectic bohemianism of celebrity decorator Jacques Grange, Copping's love for art originated from his childhood in Oxfordshire's provincial countryside. Surrounded by an "idyllic" bastion of fauna and farmyard animals, the designer discovered a staunch ardour for antiques, ceramics and china. In 2021, the designer told Christie’s that he still treasures a 19th century plate he collected at age nine- the first piece he ever bought. At the time, Copping collaborated with the seminal auction house by curating ‘The Collector’ sales collection in London. Reimagining six rooms at La Carlière, the lots included a series of striking mixed-media paintings by specialist interiors portraitist S.J. Axelby, a 17th-century Florentine cabinet and a Herend part dinner service.


SJ Axelby. Inspired by photographs by © Billal Taright of La Carlière via Christie's


While his parents had orthodox careers they also possessed a strong penchant for art, and Copping’s mother often took him and his sister to galleries and stately homes. "I imagine that other children would have found this tedious but I didn't, I loved it. Both my sister and I inevitably followed creative paths. It was kind of a given that we were going to art school." The designer soon discovered that his artistic childhood enriched his experience studying Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins.


"Whether literal or abstract, art became a constant source of inspiration," he says. "I remember making collections and works that were directly linked to artists like Gainsborough and the English landscape." More elusive interpretations ranged from illustrious colour palettes to the ways in which a garment draped across a canvas.



"I think that my mum would have been incredibly proud," says the creative of his acceptance into the fashion school known for nurturing notable talents like Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney. "She was aware that I had an interview with the course leader but died just one month before it was due. She never knew I was accepted." Since his mother hugely influenced Copping’s personal and artistic life before her tragic passing, it's heartwarming to trace the latter's presence throughout his meteoric rise in the fashion industry. Trained at both Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art, Copping's hard working mentality saw him excel when interning under the hallowed designer Christian Lacroix in Paris. He then took on senior roles at Sonia Rykiel, Louis Vuitton and Nina Ricci before Oscar de la Renta named him to be his successor before his death in 2014.


"I think my approach to femininity is what appealed to Oscar," Copping said to Christie's. Indeed, both designers shared green thumbs and an affinity for elegantly demure silhouettes and collecting furniture and paintings. Copping's inaugural show was a graceful carousel of silk, flounces and sheer illusion dresses, and was closed by a romantic cocktail dress cut above the knee (a shift from the house's traditional closing gowns). While his new position as the brand's creative director in New York was supported by fashion industry titans like Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and Chief Content Officer of Condé Nast, Copping found that he missed the European fashion system and sentimentality, and subsequently left after two years.


Art's enduring influence and impact on fashion was impressed upon the designer during his formative years working at Louis Vuitton headed by Marc Jacobs. Vuitton's collaboration with the Japanese Pop Artist Takahashi Murakami (which birthed a series of groovy collectables) for instance, made the 2000s particularly memorable for Copping. Alongside the label's creative team, he visited the Centre Pompidou and numerous art galleries and fairs including Frieze. For the label's 2007 Fall collection they travelled to Amsterdam to see works by Van Dyck, Van Gogh and Vermeer. “We worked with an atelier who specialised in creating an ombre effect on fabric,” says Copping. “This reflected how the artists painted one colour melting into another on the canvas." In Haute 'Luxury' Branding (2009) by Philippe Mihailovich, Copping attributes the lineup's exquisite merlot & Dutch blue palette, as well as its draped and ruched fabric to the artists' influence. y.


Throughout his life, Copping's tastes have largely remained the same and he's maintained a verdant fascination with paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. "The funny thing is, the period isn't so popular in the art world. This makes it easier to collect the works," he says jubilantly. When peering into the designer's La Carlière home of twelve years, it suitably feels like you're stepping into a rich vanitas by Maria van Oosterwijck or Evert Collier. There's a decadent santibelli collection of hand-painted XVIII/XIX terracotta characters of Saints, Virgins and personages, a Hervé Van der Straeten sitting atop an 18th-century commode in the salon, and the walls of the grand entrance hall is jewelled with four Aubusson tapestries and wood-carved deer heads.


From left to right: SJ Axelby. | An italian gilt-varnished-silvered ('mecca') mirror, Probably naples, second half 18th century. Photograph courtesy of Christie's.


From his recent foray into interiors to star-studded fashion career, time and time again, Copping's pursuits have provided precious glimpses into his artistic soul. Thankfully, the creative is looking forward to evolving his interior design label, and soon, we can enjoy the wonders of La Carlière at home to full effect.


 

Raegan Rubin is London-based freelance journalist specialised in art and fashion history, subcultures, social justice, sustainability, LGBTQ+ and Fetish culture.

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