Did you see Bella Hadid on the Coperni runway?
The one where people were spray painting a dress onto her body.
Oh., that. Yeah, I’ve seen it. Funny, even my dad texted it to me the other day, and he’s never been one to pay attention to fashion.
By now, runway star Bella Hadid’s moment on the Coperni Spring/Summer 2023 runway is so famous, even people wildly uninterested in fashion are familiar with it. I’m not surprised that’s the case – before the show even ended, influencers in the back rows were already uploading their phone-captured videos of it onto social media, spreading it online in real time. And while I’m sure that it’s the sheer impressiveness of the simple dress being created in that short time and Bella’s prowess as a model that turned the public’s attention onto it, the ‘fashion’ people were actively turning away from it.
Harper’s Bazaar’s Rachel Tashjian stated how ‘uncomfortable’ the performance (yes, not the dress itself) made her feel. I understood it – seeing a near-nude Bella stand still – resplendent yet obediently moved about and repositioned by the men onstage, totally at the mercy of the receiving end of a spray canister, initially made me feel as though I wasn’t quite understanding the thing that got audiences online liking and sharing the video. I get it now – besides the whole “women manipulating themselves to accommodate the ideas of men” take that Rachel shared in her article, I disliked the fact that Coperni was simply selling a spectacle.
To catch you up to speed on Coperni, they’re a French fashion brand whose claim to fame started when their collaboration with Home in Heven, a New York-based glass brand, blew up online. The three-piece collection consisted of a range of glass bags (yes, they can break) in various color variations, with one featuring tiny devil horns on each side of the handles. They’ve been a fixture on celebrity red carpets ever since, where they’re displayed with their transparent insides holding nothing, or a calculated few product pieces there to capitalize on the attention the paparazzi pictures will get. They’re clearly not made to hold anything, or do anything close to what a bag typically does, but acts instead as a (somewhat impractical) piece of jewelry. Before that, their Swipe bag supposedly gained traction online for being seen on a Euphoria star during an important scene.
Do we see a pattern here?
Coperni has come quite a long way since the first exposure of their Swipe bag, almost solely by riding on multiple five-minutes-of-fame moments where their products blow up on social media. Judging from their runway and their ready-to-wear offerings, though, the brand does not have much of a solid identity yet, serving up a range of ‘in-trend’ pieces with no particular standouts.
Is the value of the spectacle enough to carry Coperni to greater heights? Only time will tell whether this social media-first strategy Coperni is clearly banking on will work in the long run, but my money’s on the contrary. After all, everyone who saw Bella’s moment with the dress calls it exactly that – Bella’s moment – and the name Coperni is still foreign to everyone outside the industry and dedicated followers of fashion, who are more likely to nitpick the fact that they sent an unfinished piece of no remarkable design down the runway, made with technology almost two decades old and with no particular correlation to the brand.
When I saw this post I immediately clicked on it! I personally try my best to keep up with fashion and the latest runway shows. It is true that I was not familiar with Coperni until the debut of their glass purses (while very impractical I think they are so beautiful!). It is interesting to see how brands, particularly in fashion, have made a name for themselves through public spectacle, it reminds me a bit of Balenciaga. Also, it is noteworthy to mention that many don’t know that in the same runway, Coperni featured other sprayed-on tops alongside the dress. However, they were sprayed on back-stage instead of on the runway like the viral dress. This just proves the point you make in your blog even more. I think continuing doing stunts like these will be beneficial for Coperni!
I personally don’t mind Coperni selling a spectacle on the runway. Note: I am not into fashion that much. I see most of the runways as spectacles anyways, knowing I, and most of society, will never be able to afford the showcased pieces.
Although some of their pieces are very impractical, I do get very entertained by the designs. And isn’t fashion all about conspicuous consumption anyways? (no disrespect meant towards any fashion house, a statement based on a capitalistic society idolizing influencers).
I’m never a fashionable or, more precisely, trendy person. But I’m quite a big fan of fashion history. When I first read your article and the video, I thought you would discuss how Coperni references Alexander McQueen’s robot-made dress(maybe you already know, but here is the link to vids anyway:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P13oZsD-t4s&ab_channel=BartMoore). It is pretty interesting to see how Coperni used men to paint the free while years ago, MCQ used robot arms to paint; for me, I wonder if Coperni is implying something, haha (I didn’t watch the show, so I don’t know their concept of the show)
But, for me, it is not a spectacle in any way. First, Mcq did it, so I’d say it’s a reference. Since I was a teenager, soaking myself in Mugler, Gaillano, and more talented designers’ work, I never saw them as an eye-catching way to surprise or make fame. Some designers do it, but without further context, it wouldn’t last. The reason why I love clothing is that it’s not just a functional product but also serves as the viechles to carry Designers’ aesthetics, creativity and value. So my arguement is, no, those clothing without context and art representation won’t last long, especially in the age of fast fashion and social-media dominated world. They might fades faster than before.
While to people not in the know about fashion, this show was indeed an entertaining scene, like you said this concept is not new or based on any ideal/brand image to leave a lasting impact. I think brands looking at the “virality” of their product before anything else is a disease and it’s starting to permeate through anything and everything.
I do love fashion even if it’s impractical (like the glass bags) because I see it more as an art piece rather than an item to wear in everyday life, but pieces like this dress feel more soulless to me than anything.
Fashion can certainly be a spectacle, but it shouldn’t be made principally for uninspired viral consumption on platforms like TikTok.
Thank you for dissecting this phenomenon so thoroughly, it really sparks up a debate!