Tim Coppens

experiencing street culture, going to cities where you’ve never Been. it all contriButed to what My style is.Tim coppens

Tim Coppens learned about fashion on his skateboard. That wasn’t his only education—like Haider Ackermann and Kris Van Assche before him, the 37-year-old Belgian designer attended Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1998— but it was after school, living and skateboarding in Barcelona, Berlin, and New York, that his distinctive, functional, sport sensibility for menswear came into focus. “Experiencing street culture, going to cities where you’ve never been,” he says. “It all contributed to what my style is.” His vision landed him first at Adidas, then at sportswear brand Bogner in Germany, where he was tasked with making innovative sportswear more fashion-forward—“Like a Stella McCartney thing, but for men,” he says—and then, in 2008, he moved over to Ralph Lauren in New York, where he was the director of men’s and women’s for RLX until 2011, when he founded his own label. With his masterful technique of bridging the gap between streetwear and sportswear, Coppens imbues his collections with artfully applied references that critics adore—the shorts from the fighter-pilot-inspired Spring 2013 collection have drooping exterior pockets taken from the pouch pockets on flight suits; a graphic from a flight simulator defines a garment’s entire shape. Such imaginative leaps won the New York City–based designer the Ecco Domani award for best new menswear designer in 2012. Looking toward Fall 2013, Coppens is returning to the boards and trucks of his youth. “What I’m doing right now, I think it’s more personal. When I started skateboarding, music went from Guns N’ Roses to Mobb Deep. All our T-shirts were XXXL and the neon colors were all faded,” he remembers. “But you also had a tendency to take your dad’s clothes—like a big peacoat—and translate them in your own way. It was an interesting time for me to explore. I’m looking at the McTwist [skateboard trick], which came out at that time, and asking myself: ‘How do I involve that?’ ”

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