BALLY SEEMS TO HAVE TAKEN ON A NEW LIFE EVER SINCE PABLO COPPOLA CAME ON BOARD. FIND OUT WHAT THE “NEW” DANDY KID ON THE FINE MENSWEAR BLOCK IS REALLY LIKE RIGHT FROM THE SOURCE
Find out what the “new” dandy kid on the fine menswear block is really like right from the designer himself
The way a person takes his time before responding to casual questions, how he formulates his ideas and how he weaves his train of thought can say a lot about his mannerisms and ability as a designer. There is a cautious approach—a censoring mind, if you will—that carefully scrutinizes each detail that is said or, in the case of fashion design, each little detail that is put into a potential masterpiece. And when Pablo Coppola, who sits as design director at Bally, professed that he’s still— or maybe will forever be—fascinated by fashion accessories, it all made sense.
The Argentinean director has been acknowledged by many as a strong agent of change, bringing the classic and, some might say, complacent Swiss brand back to a trend- conscious stance. The result is obvious, and the brand’s fall/winter ’16/’17 collection waxes lyrical of menswear that draws chic references from the ’60s but looks positively to the future. Relevance is now the brand’s modus operandi, and this is on top of a remarkable history spanning 165 years of a company whose hiking boots took part in the first successful human expedition to the highest point of Mount Everest.
Unsurprisingly, Coppola’s resume is more than impressive: He cut his fashion design teeth at the Institut Française de la Mode in Paris, followed by stints as accessories designer at Céline, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford and Christian Dior. As of September 2013 he joined Bally as accessories design director, before being promoted to design director in February 2014. Given such an illustrious background, attention to detail comes natural to Coppola. That’s why the “new” Bally is worth re- discovering up close and personal.
DA MAN: What is the inspiration behind Bally’s men’s fall/winter ’16/’17 collection? Pablo Coppola: David Hockney and the London set, a sort of contemporary dandy.
DA: What is the most challenging part of preparing this collection?
PC: We always work with many references, which are often very different from one to another. So, the hardest task is to edit ourselves in order to create a consistent collection.
DA: Seeing as to how there are mixes of prints and bright- colored shoes on some looks, how do you constitute men’s formalwear today? PC: I try to approach designing formalwear in a light and casual manner … so, not too serious and with a little touch of humor.
DA: From the looks shown, “dandy” seems to be a fitting description. But is the menswear industry, particularly Bally, ready to leave last year’s athletic trends behind?
PC: Not at all. Today, you have a totally different type of dandy. He likes his designer sneakers, a leather outerwear piece in a particular color and probably would also mix a printed pajama shirt with a fantastic tailoring piece.
DA: The brand seems to be taking on more contemporary styles than ever with you at the helm. Do you see this as a necessity or simply a natural evolution? PC: I don’t think it is a necessity. It is more about our will to update ourselves and create pieces that feel right for now.
DA: The shoes are beautiful, and the woven sneakers are anything but ordinary. Where do you start when designing shoes?
PC: Our design process is very organic. We can start with an image, an evolution of an existing Bally style or, very often, a reference to a shoe from our archives. There are no rules … we trust our instinct, and when you have something good in front of you, you could instinctively feel that it is right.
DA: The leather bags are equally exquisite. Do you employ different design principles when designing bags for men and women?
PC: With bags, we normally start with the leather, then the style of the bag: Is it a handbag or luggage; is it soft or structured; what embellishments do we want to add?
DA: You’ve been with Bally for three years so far. What was your opinion of the brand before you decided to join in?
PC: For me, Bally was sort of a sleepy brand … a little dusty maybe, which in some sort of way made it appealing to me. I soon discovered that Bally was so much more when I visited the archives in Schönenwerd where there were more than 34,000 shoes! It had an untapped potential that was not clear to me from the outside … and my task was to bring that to life.
DA: And, of course, you did that with your own design aesthetics.
PC: I like to play with contrasts, especially when styling the collections … and I like the idea that nothing is what it seems. I tend to reference the ’60s or ’70s, as it is my favorite era. I like the freedom and the mix of cultures … like if you could travel through time … and just pick things you love the most.
“I LIKE TO PLAY WITH CONTRASTS, ESPECIALLY WHEN STYLING THE COLLECTIONS … AND I LIKE THE IDEA THAT NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS”
DA: Given your background, is designing clothes easier than designing accessories?
PC: It’s quite different, but clothes or ready-to-wear pieces are new to me, so I particularly enjoy it. But, accessories are still my biggest passion. DA: Do you have any particular muses when designing menswear for Bally? PC: Not in particular … but it is true that I often look at eclectic characters. DA: We see more and more brands taking major steps such as unifying their shows and going season-less. Will Bally do the same? PC: There is clearly a need to rethink the way we show the product, but it is the amount of collections we have to produce that is the problem. You need time to develop and execute concepts … they don’t happen overnight. I feel more comfortable doing it the old way, but if this becomes the new normal, then maybe we need to rethink it. For the moment, I would rather watch from the sidelines.
DA: After the launch of Shoepedia, what’s the next big thing we can expect from Bally?
PC: Shoepedia is an ongoing project, which is focused on user-generated content. There are a few projects in the pipeline … but nothing I can disclose as of now. DA: What are the three most important things you’ve learned so far from working in fashion? PC: To work hard, trust my instinct and to collaborate with the people around you. DA: Lastly, do you have a favorite quote that you always carry with you? PC: Just do it!
clockwise One of the season’s white sneakers; Bally’s modern interpretation of a bucket bag; dandy prints on a shirt opposite page A glamorous and dandy evening look
from left The season’s most colorful jacket; tasteful leather colors on different accessories opposite page A snappy winter look from Bally