By  on November 12, 2010

It’s Thursday morning, and Nina Ricci’s Peter Copping is on hour 23 of a two-day trek to New York. So far, he’s toured the SoHo design shops, including Moss (“I’m a little frustrated we don’t have something like that in Paris”) and Andrianna Shamaris, where he bought three cushions; checked out Guido Palau’s new Chelsea apartment, and hosted a trunk show at Barneys New York. Today, he’s hotel-bound in downtown Manhattan — in a few hours, the Oxfordshire, England, native will shoot a campaign with stylist Alex White and photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Then it’s off, back to JFK for the last flight out to Paris.

In many ways, this trip is Copping’s Stateside coming-out at the firm, where he took over as artistic director last year after a lengthy stint at Louis Vuitton. The trunk show, coupled with a similar event last week at Barneys’ Beverly Hills outpost, presents the designer as the face of the brand here for the first time; the ad campaign — also a first for him — presents his new Nina Ricci.

Sitting in the corner of The Greenwich Hotel’s drawing room, Copping is decidedly mum about the shoot — which will take place a few floors down in the spa — while acknowledging what a major milestone it is. “The markets are investing so heavily in the brand, but they need support, too,” says Copping. “We’re going to support the retailers and give the clients an image of who the Nina Ricci woman is.”

The only detail Copping will actually disclose is that the featured model is older and wasn’t on his spring 2011 runway. But he does add that he toyed around with shooting within “a very Parisian, French apartment,” but ultimately decided it was too obvious a move. “It wouldn’t have looked particularly new,” he says.

So what’s this new Nina Ricci? The company’s had a revolving door of designers of late, with his predecessor, Olivier Theyskens, being the most infamous of the exiles. Since Copping’s debut, he’s already begun to outline his vocabulary: something romantic and noticeably more commercial than Theyskens’ offerings. According to Barneys, which declined to release any figures, Nina Ricci is currently one of the fastest growing designer ready-to-wear business at the store. The image now: sensual femininity. “I want it to feel French, as well,” he adds.

To the critics who noted the early similarities to Louis Vuitton, Copping says, “There was a lot of Vuitton that was me, as well. When I read those comments, what I really wanted to know was, Is what I’ve done at Ricci still applicable for the brand?”

So this is one designer who follows his reviews — but, he adds, “I don’t ever want them to push me off track. You have to remember, it’s my vision, not the critics.” There is one oft-used adjective, however, that causes him to roll his eyes slightly — as Copping does now when he mentions the word: “pretty.” “When people write that,” he says, “I always think...I don’t know. I like it when people read something more into [the collection].”

While he admits that he’s not computer-literate, Copping says the Internet is integral in communicating Nina Ricci’s identity. Thus, next spring, the company will roll out a brand-new Web site. The one thing consumers shouldn’t expect, however: live-streaming runways. “I’ve never been into it. It appeals much more to the big brands,” he explains. “Their goal is to reach a huge amount of people. I don’t think it ever seems appropriate for Nina Ricci, because it goes beyond that sense of intimacy that I want to create for the house.”

Plus, for Copping, fashion is about much more than the visual impact. “I try to think, ‘How will the fabric be?’” he says. “What’s the actual sensuality of wearing the piece?” He aims, moreover, for a multisensory experience to his runways; last March, he perfumed the show space, and he often blankets walls with fabric. This time, it was meters and meters of parachute silk from the collection, which he hopes to recycle as decor for Nina Ricci’s upcoming Dubai store, opening in February.

In fact, ask Copping about Tom Ford’s new m.o. — no runway photographs released postshow; tightly edited guest list — and he’s all for it. “That was a really clever move,” he says. “When people feel excluded, when they can’t instantly have it, they want it more. Luxury fashion has to be, not elitist, but desirable.”

At the same time, however, Copping isn’t against designing a more accessible product. He’s been public about his interest in partnering with H&M, à la Lanvin and his old stomping ground before Louis Vuitton, Sonia Rykiel. Even an in-house secondary collection isn’t entirely out of the question. Copping notes that the two-tier approach is already in place for the company’s perfumes: The brand’s classic L’Air du Temps fragrance and the fruity Nina, which targets a younger customer. “It’s something that could be done at some point,” he says. “There are still things to do here.”

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