Fashion Diary: Peter Copping on his Nina Ricci collection

Los Angeles Times fashion critic

Although several designers have tried to forge a modern identity for Nina Ricci over the last decade, the French fashion house is still better known for the iconic fragrance L’Air Du Temps (launched in 1948 in the Lalique bottle with glass doves) than for clothes.

But the brand’s new creative director, Peter Copping, is trying to change that. Copping follows on the heels of Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens, who wowed critics and fashion eccentrics alike with his collections (remember those heel-less fetish shoes?) but didn’t sell much of anything.

Copping, who is British, is aiming for more of a balance between fantasy and reality on the runway. “It’s called the fashion industry after all,” he said over toast and hot chocolate in Los Angeles recently.

His first two collections have been sexy and sweet, with lots of lingerie-like details, lace and bows, and an emphasis on party dresses and feminine knits. Now he’s on the road selling it and stopped at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills recently for a trunk show and charity event.

Here are some things you need to know about the designer.

1) He designed for Louis Vuitton for 12 years under Marc Jacobs, whom he describes as “incredibly precise.” “If there is one criticism I would make of that time, it’s that we jumped around a little too much,” he said. “At Nina Ricci, I want to be more consistent and true to the image of the house.”

2) He attended the Royal School of Art in London, where one of his school projects was to design a Nina Ricci wardrobe.

3) He lives in Paris’ 17th arrondissement, in a neo-Gothic building with an interior taken from a 17th century Spanish palace. “It’s very Harry Potter-ish,” he said.

4) He collects 18th century porcelain, which he finds at flea markets.

5) The Nina Ricci archives have not influenced him. “Unlike at a house like Dior, Nina Ricci doesn’t really have many iconic pieces. It’s more about a romantic, feminine spirit.”

6) However, the spring 2011 collection does reference artists who were contemporaries of Nina Ricci, including glass designer René Jules Lalique, painter/illustrator Christian Bérard and novelist Jean Genet.

7) Carey Mulligan, Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley, Diane Kruger and Natalie Portman are all fans of the brand.

8) Copping hopes to expand into bridal wear and lingerie soon.

9) And he wouldn’t mind getting a call from H&M; to do a collaboration one day.

10) Nina Ricci is available at Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. The collection ranges in price from $590 for a jersey top to $17,000 for a custom gown.