Halfway through this show, just like the rest of the audience, I found myself transfixed by the yoga posings of five Boston Dynamics robo-dogs—all named Spot—that were the same vibrant yellow as a 1980s Sony Walkman Sports. At first unsettling (I’d just seen a Guardian video with a similarly canine robo spraying rounds from an attached machine-gun: would they give us 20 seconds to comply?) and then distracting yet entrancing, their cameo at tonight’s Coperni show was the latest tech-lead coup de théâtre from Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant.
Backstage beforehand, the designers reflected on last season’s viral Bella Hadid spray-on dress, a gesture that was both totally in line with their deeper tech-friendly philosophy yet was also a stunt that spread Coperni brand awareness beyond their wildest dreams. “Last season was magical, a once in a lifetime experience, and now we are going to take it chill,” said Vaillant. Still, they leaned into their model of shaping shows around a futuristic mise en scene, this time by recruiting the Boston Dynamics cyber-canines to play their part in an updated retelling of French fabulist Jean de la Fontaine’s The Wolf and The Lamb. Said Vaillant: “It’s a beautiful story that talks about the balance of power between different groups. Instead of the wolf and the lamb we reinterpreted it as humans and robots.”
Glossing over the fact that De la Fontaine’s original is actually a pretty brutal demonstration of the relationship between force and self-justification—spoiler: the lamb gets it—this was a nice literary device for tonight’s performance. The collection featured a loose underlying riff on Red Riding Hood. The models walked out in inverted collar capelets in black and tweed before we saw looks featuring adapted versions of Gustave Doré’s illustration of the fable, featuring a robo-dog instead of the wolf, and leather trousers fringed in low-grade off-cut leather skirts. There was a pivot into emoji-based pieces: a real-life handbag shaped after the messaging equivalent, and gathered dresses pinched by appreciative hands.
Next came Rianne Van Rompaey, swathed in a blanket, to perform the key interaction with the one Spot who carried a robo-arm on top of its body. She and Spot engaged in a sort of snake-charm eye lock before the arm removed the blanket and returned it to her. After this interlude the show shifted emphasis to the more technologically driven, featuring a huge shaggy coat in light reactive recycled nylon (the designers said 70 percent of the collection was recycled) and pieces featuring human re-paintings of AI-generated images of The Wolf and The Lamb. We saw the meteorite Swipe Bag that had already been trailed on Instagram.
You could be a cynic and suggest that tonight the real Wolf was Coperni’s clear compulsion to serve the viral appetite created by last season’s coup. The Lamb, devoured as an afterthought, was the collection itself. But Meyer and Vaillant are mindful of the boundaries they are pushing in order to code new conceptions of luxury fashion in our tech-driven society: they are writing their own fable. Speaking of which, I suggested during the preview that we get ChatGPT to write this review. They were totally into the idea, but sadly the result—at least for now—was rubbish.