The Spotlight | Tim Coppens

Tim Coppens Autumn/Winter 2012 | Source: Tim Coppens

NEW YORK, United States — This month, the BoF Spotlight shines on Tim Coppens, a promising Belgian-born designer who is rapidly ascending the menswear ranks in New York.

Young menswear designers face the tricky challenge of pushing aesthetic boundaries while staying within the relatively limited sartorial confines of what the vast majority of men are willing to wear. Few succeed. But Coppens — who is a 2012 Ecco Domani award winner and draws on technical prowess honed at Ralph Lauren’s RLX, an activewear line where he served as design director from 2008 to 2011 — has struck a winning balance after just two seasons.

With an aesthetic that blends tailoring with the technical detailing of activewear, Coppens has carved out an enviable spot for himself in the narrow American menswear space, earning the attention of influential stockists like Barneys New York, Dover Street Market and LN-CC.

Jay Bell, vice-president and DMM of designer collections and contemporary sportswear of Barneys, saw Coppens’ potential early on. “With Tim Coppens, a seemingly simple concept — infusing classic tailoring with the technical details of activewear — is deftly explored and executed,” said Bell. “His design nuances exhibit an ingenious sensibility, without appearing over-worked; he possesses a perfect sense of restraint.”

For his Autumn/Winter 2012 collection, Coppens updated familiar menswear pieces with subtle, but technically complex design flourishes, for example, the equilateral polygon patterns of a chocolate shearling bomber jacket joined in impossibly precise miters. And while jackets like these are fast becoming his signature pieces, the collection also features other highly successful items with design elements of note. Particularly striking is Coppens’ use of buttons on dress shirts — moved a few inches to the right to create interesting plackets — along with pullovers that feature quilted shoulder pads, a nod to ice hockey uniforms, and neoprene cuffs.

For this month’s Spotlight, Coppens has created a custom BoF logo showcasing a sleek look from his Fall/Winter 2012 collection.

“I don’t think I bring something that is completely new to menswear,” said Coppens, who graduated from Belgium’s prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts, which counts luminaries like Raf Simons and Dries van Noten as alumni. But Coppens’ reserved approach to design is perhaps precisely why his brand resonates with so many men. Deft menswear designers like Coppens can often create the most impact with what they choose not to do.

Robert Cordero is a contributing editor at The Business of Fashion