It’s almost inconceivable to remember a time before maximalist style wasn’t in vogue. In our visual-first age, the era of Instagram, capturing elaborate fashion is justifiably the preferred subject of choice for street style photographers and magazine editors alike – even if, as is often the case, this excess isn’t always equated with elegance.
But what happens when the culture and landscape within the fashion microcosm starts to change, even if ever so slightly or slowly? Well, based on the recent spring/summer shows, we might arguably be leaning in the opposite direction of maximalist style, towards the other extreme, with collections emphasising a return to suiting and tailoring. Will minimalism make its ultimate comeback? That’s yet to be seen.
However, while some fashion houses might scramble to meet consumer needs if and when this trend makes a full-blown return, there’s one brand that can comfortably continue its mission of providing leaner and cleaner clothes – because that’s been its vision from the get-go.
The London-based, Swedish-owned fashion retailer COS has become synonymous with Scandi style: simple, clean, and restrained. “We do not set out to create minimalist clothing but since the beginning, the team has considered every aspect of the garment to ensure that each design element has a purpose,” says head of menswear design at COS, Christophe Copin. “The look has naturally become a strong part of our aesthetic.”
Launched in 2007, COS has become a cult fashion favourite for men and women who prefer a look that’s more pared-down, full of contemporary reinventions of classic wardrobe staples – and with exceptional quality at a mid-level price. For those people the brand is a partner-in-crime: a collaborator in maintaining a very personal style.
COS is designed and made to last beyond the season. What’s the challenge in that?
To be timeless is not only to be wearable now and in two or three years; timeless also means working on the quality. That is part of us and something we pay a lot of attention to, because if you want to wear it for a long time, it must be of good quality fabric, and every detail needs attention. We put a lot of work and energy into achieving this, and it is a very important part of our work.
Do you look to seasonal trends even in the slightest when you’re designing?
We create two in-house directions per season, these are our own trends by means of inspiration, taking elements from architecture, design and art, rather than focusing on industry directions. Fashion is constantly moving, and it is important that we think of our customer and are aware of changes, but we naturally stay true to our brand identity in our own evolution.
Why do architecture, design and art serve as such great inspirations to COS?
My role as head of menswear design requires me to work closely with both the womenswear and menswear design teams in our London head office. Each season, I work with the design team – we start from the drawing board and rebuild a new and interesting proposal. We begin by collecting our own research information, looking to the worlds of architecture, design and art, then work together to build, little by little, what may be the key inspiration for the next season. We have an incredible team of pattern cutters offering ideas – when, for instance, we show them the work of an architect we love. It’s interesting to try and build a garment in a new and innovative way and this is how we look to build each collection.
The recent spring/summer shows are leaning towards a return to suiting and tailoring and away from maximalist style. Where does COS menswear fit into all of this?
Menswear is very important at COS, it is a growing category – a field which is constantly changing, and we are continually trying to find innovative ways to work. As a brand, we aim to design a menswear collection that caters to the needs of our customer, so we must understand how our clothes are being worn. Currently, I’m spending a lot of time looking closely at the silhouette, volume and sizing. I encourage people to have their own take on the designs, often the items we create in the COS atelier are one thing and then the garment is worn by a customer and, all of a sudden, it becomes whatever they want to make it.
How can you, practically, reinvent a classic through design to ensure it’s not perceived as outdated?
We have created a clear aesthetic as a brand and certain wardrobe staples lend themselves well to reinvention each season – there are endless opportunities to reinvent classic features on everyday pieces. The white shirt is an essential COS garment and for our recent capsule collection, The White Shirt Project, we played with subtle changes to proportions, silhouettes and details that define character.
A non-linear creative process enables the design team to focus on the details that create the perfect updates to classic styles. We work by taking a piece, deconstructing it and finally reinventing it in an innovative way, combining fine tailoring and effortless style.
Your design process is said to look in detail at how people move in clothing. Why?
At COS, we explore volume, silhouette, proportion and the movement of the wearer. It’s interesting to work on something nobody looks at, the everyday movements not thought about.
What does the COS man communicate through his clothes?
Our essence has always been about creating timeless, modern, tactile and functional designs. We want the brand to feel accessible and hope to appeal to a diverse range of individuals. We want to encourage customers to tailor pieces to their own style. I would say that the COS customer favours timeless design above trend-led fashion, and this is what we aim to create.
What is it that you appreciate about timeless designs and clean silhouettes?
There is something about our creative process that is connected to modernity, functionality and tactility that speaks to both men and women. We try, when working on a suit, a shirt, or on length and proportion, to be as simple as possible, and erase what is unnecessary.