By  on April 22, 2009

PARIS — Nina Ricci has named Peter Copping as its new artistic director, confirming a report in WWD Jan. 28 that the Louis Vuitton veteran was in line to succeed Olivier Theyskens at the helm of the Paris fashion house. Copping started Monday, with his first order of business being to design a capsule resort collection to feed Ricci’s flagship boutique on the Avenue Montaigne and several shop-in-shops around the world. However, the designer will likely not stage his first runway show for the 77-year-old brand until next March. The company stressed it is not a cost-saving measure but rather an effort to allow Copping sufficient time to immerse himself in Ricci before making his first big fashion statement for a brand synonymous with ethereal femininity. “I think it’s a name with a very nice history,” the designer told WWD Tuesday. “I love all the French fashionisms, and Nina Ricci is very much a French house. It’s going to feel very close to all the things I personally like.” Yet Copping also expressed a willingness to break with the past and make Ricci “contemporary again” and broaden its appeal. “We want to move away from a girl and be more about a woman,” he said. “I want the clothes to be very tactile, very luxurious — the kind of clothes a woman enjoys wearing, and with attention to detail, which is something I learned at Vuitton.” He said he’d also like to reclaim Ricci’s reputation for tailoring, not only flou, and expand its still-limited universe of accessories. An Englishman and a low-key figure on the Paris fashion scene, Copping, 42, is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins in London. Vuitton’s creative director Marc Jacobs recruited Copping as his first assistant in 1997, when the French luxury goods giant launched a ready-to-wear collection. Copping’s most recent title there was women’s wear studio director. Before that, he worked for several years in the design studios of Sonia Rykiel. “I think Peter’s very tuned into the consumer [who is] a very real woman,” said Mario Grauso, president of Puig Fashion Group, while allowing the designer would need time to acclimate to the house and the wholesale-driven nature of the Ricci business. Grauso said Copping’s first designs would be unveiled to the trade in late June and be delivered in stores around December. Copping’s appointment marks the final denouement to months of speculation, as well as tensions between Ricci and Theyskens, the Belgian wunderkind who won media acclaim for his five collections for Ricci while failing to ignite a commercial spark. Theyskens exited the fashion house March 10, ahead of the expiration of his contract in October. At the time, Ricci said it “wishes to reorientate its development strategy for the years to come.” Puig is keen to bring Ricci’s fashion house up to the level of success of its perfume business, buoyed by the perennial L’Air du Temps and recent hits like Nina. The brand has also recruited a number of senior leather goods designers from Vuitton as it seeks to gain traction in the high-margin accessories arena. Spain’s Puig Group owns Ricci, as well as the fashion houses Carolina Herrera and Paco Rabanne. Meanwhile, Theyskens, whose résumé includes a stint at Rochas, has kept mum about his career intentions since staging his swan song Ricci collection during Paris Fashion Week last month, its Goth leanings viewed as a creative kiss-off to Puig management. It is understood Theyskens owns the rights to his trademark, and he is said to be mulling a relaunch of his signature label. The Ricci label is sold in more than 200 doors worldwide, including about 50 in the U.S. Before Theyskens, Lars Nilsson was the designer of Ricci for three years, during which time ready-to-wear sales doubled. Prior to that, James Aguiar and Nathalie Gervais had design stints at the house.

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