The Kooples hands creative direction over to Tom Van Dorpe
The Kooples has brought in a new creative director, signalling the start of a new chapter for the French ready-to-wear brand focused on accessible luxury with an urban rock 'n' roll aesthetic.
Acquired by Lacoste parent company MF brands last year, the label has announced the appointment of Tom Van Dorpe as creative director. The 36-year-old Ghent-born Belgian designer began his career as fashion editor at V Magazine in New York.
Based in the Big Apple for the last 12 years, he has also worked as a consultant for a number of brands operating in the accessible luxury segment. "I've worked with a lot of contemporary brands and have done consulting for men's and womenswear shows, with Calvin Klein in the U.S., or with Rihanna for certain Puma Fenty shows, with Hugo by Hugo Boss – that was my first and last client as a consultant. I think my vision as a New Yorker and my Belgian artistic understanding have allowed me to really grasp understandable fashion. I really loved that hyperactive life between the U.S. and Europe. But over the last few years I began to feel frustrated because, as a consultant, you're not involved with the start or conclusion of projects. So I started to think about returning to Europe."
All it took was a coffee and a long conversation with Romain Guinier, the recently appointed CEO of The Kooples, about the brand's prospects and projects to seal the deal. Van Dorpe came to Paris at the beginning of this year in order to lead the label's creative team.
"I'm very happy to have been able to spend quarantine in Paris, rather than New York," he explains. "I love the fact that the brand is balanced between men's and womenswear. That's always been part of my work. We work as a team: I work on the mood boards, with the trends, and I share them with the designers. During the week, I spend time with the men's and womenswear designers, and with accessories. I also work on the images. That's still really important to me, and I've already contacted several photographers with whom I've worked in the past."
Van Dorpe will be in charge of next season's campaign and choosing the couples who will be the brand's new faces, but his creative input in the label's collections will not be seen until the season after. As for his plans for the brand's style, he explains, "I like the DNA the brand has constructed for itself. I want to keep that elegant side, and the rock rebel look provides a good base, with statement pieces, like leathers, girls wearing boots and dresses, that 90s aesthetic. But I've also lived in the U.S., and in New York, where they like to smash stereotypes. We're going to work on the heritage look, but we're also reflecting on how we think about couples today. There are multiple representations. We're going to modernise some pieces, explore colour, think about what sportswear means for The Kooples. Style can be very global, appealing to Paris, but also NYC and Japan."
And in order to achieve this broad appeal, the brand is looking to build on its uncommon coed positioning. CEO Guinier insists that this is one of the keys to the success of the brand, founded by the Elicha brothers in 2007.The Kooples has therefore doubled down on its couple-focused image over the last few months. It seems that this will be a long-term strategy, strengthened by physical and digital campaigns seeking to boost the brand's visibility. Van Dorpe's experience and expertise should be notable advantages for these efforts.
Despite the effects of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, it looks like the brand, which was achieving annual revenues of 227 million euros and had a network of 334 stores at the time it was acquired, has every intention to keep growing.
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