Coperni’s SS23 show last week left the world gazing in awe as Bella Hadid was sprayed with white latex live on the runway. After a succession of deep cut-out tops, asymmetric camisoles, and geometrical shoulders, the Paris label staged a performance that will be on everyone’s lips for quite some time. An almost naked Bella Hadid stepped on a platform on the runway and with her chin up, a sharp stare, and her arms moving gracefully, let herself be clothed by the Fabrican spray-on fabric technology.
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The outcome was a white, fluid dress with straps hanging over Hadid’s shoulders. Headlines were made within seconds, seizing the whimsical moment, for everyone to re-watch the performance with their mouth agape. The frenzy then turned into a wave of reactions across the media invoking concepts from performance art and marketing stunts to artistic experimentation.
Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillan, the creative duo behind Coperni, transgressed the norm for modern-day fashion week shows through the on-stage performance. This led fashion fans to recall some archival moments such as the 1999 SS Alexander McQueen show, when Shalom Harlow had her white dress sprayed with paint by robots.
Coperni SS23: between stunt and performance art
The debate around this comparison stirred up the Internet for days after the show, leaving onlookers wondering about the depths of experimentation, and where to draw the line between performance for the sake of art, or a PR stunt. Mackenzie Fitzgerald, associate creative director and copywriter at Edelman, points out how such initiatives are meant to attract attention: “Fashion Week is oversaturated, and we need to stand out amongst all the other brands. What can we do, as a brand, to make our name known?”
Fitzgerald affirms the interlocking of performance art and PR stunt: “It was performance art, but the performance was merely the solution to a marketing problem. It was a brand awareness media advertisement, or a PR stunt, for Coperni, the brand.”
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She further explains that even the choice of having Bella Hadid as a model for the performance was intentional; if it wasn’t for her popularity, the stunt wouldn’t have been successful. “This act, in my opinion, would have only worked with Bella Hadid or someone of her current celebrity calibre – maybe Kendall Jenner. It would not have worked with a lesser-known model,” Fitzgerald concludes.
The harmonization of a performance art and a PR stunt is possible, especially in these times. And within an industry currently characterized by hysteria for newness, acts that are still talked about a week later are rare occurrences. Shows that exhibit strong spectacles are rare occurrences. And watching a runway with wide-eye fascination while being overwhelmed with passionate emotions is the ultimate rare occurrence.
But Coperni did that. And in a climate longing for excitement in showmanship, a PR stunt will do.