Pablo Coppola talks Bally, accessories, his obsession with Wes Anderson, and Swiss style … is there any?
Pablo Coppola is Bally’s new star. Since taking over as design director of Bally, the Swiss heritage brand has been reborn. In his 3 collections this far the charming Argentinian designer has more than made his mark, confirming just why their was no other man for the job.
Coppola’s first move was to strip Bally back to clean and minimalistic lines. Reintroducing the 1960’s bold, blocked Bally logo and creating what he refers to as a ‘palette cleanser’ to the lengthy history of the brand. Now a few season’s in, Coppola’s modern edge and infectious personality is really starting to shine through. With added luxury, bright colour injections, college jackets, trainers, and most of all a promising future for Bally on a global scale . To stand up to it’s competitors and perhaps finally put Swiss style on the fashion map…
You’ve designed for Tom Ford, Celine, and Christian Dior. What attracted you to come to Bally?
PABLO COPPOLA: What attracted me is that I couldn’t stand the other ones anymore! Haha No, It appealed to me, honestly because towards the end of my period working for other brands, it always felt or appeared to me that what I was doing with the accessories (even though it was super important to the business of the brand) it was always treated a bit as a second thought. You know like “Ugh now we have to do shoes, ugh now we have to do the accessories” and it felt a bit pushed aside to the end.
I’ve always wanted to work in a brand like Gucci or Bally where the anchor was accessories. Like shoe making, bag making, leather goods.
So I thought why not, I thought it was a nice challenge. I was ready for it and I was ready to try something else.
TK: It really feels, ( and I know you have said this before with your collections) that at Bally the Ready to Wear becomes the accessory and the accessories become the main attraction…
Totally! And I start with that. For example the feeling or the design for a certain type of shoe, let’s say a clog for instance… then I think of the 70’s woman. That gave us the inspiration to do something bohemian. You know what would you put with it, how would they wear it. We wanted to do thigh high boots, so then we had to do a mini skirt, and we wouldn’t have planned on that without thinking how would this woman wear them. So then because we start like that, the ready to wear is almost a solution to explain what were trying to do with the accessories.
Since taking over the reigns you can really see your influence within Bally. The brand is still very slick and high lux but there’s this new real modern edge that wasn’t there before. Not to mention so much colour!!!
I don’t know maybe it’s my South American coming out of me. I cannot stand these brands that are doing black, black, black …so fucking boring! It’s hard because it’s like a given. I know for sure that the best seller is going to be black, dark brown and navy. But I don’t think its any fun if you keep on doing the same thing. I don’t want to do that.
You are greatly inspired by the past, and it’s no secret what a vast vast archive Bally has at your disposal….
Yes! Lot’s of archives! The only thing is we are a little bit careful. Not to use everything too much. Because I don’t want to go, or become one of these brands that are just repeating what they’ve done ages ago. So if we do something or we find something in the archives we always try to twist it completely you know….. Reinterpret it!
What do you think of Swiss style? Do you think with Bally’s design team now being in London that Bally can still be a Swiss brand?
In terms of fashion, reference wise, Swiss style I think it’s almost non existent. I mean the style per se, I wouldn’t say that I could pin point a look as “Swiss”. You know, and that’s why in the ad campaigns we put “Swiss Design”, because saying style for me is not that necessary, and I don’t think people will make a connection with it like they would “Italian style’ or ‘French style’.
Also it’s not a conscious decision, and I know that it’s a Swiss brand but I feel there is no reason to reference Switzerland because it’s just a fact that Bally the brand is Swiss. In terms of creation there’s other things. I think theres a point when you say being made in Switzerland for the quality, and the shoes which are handmade, but in terms of style I think defining it, it’s a little bit of an old notion. It’s like saying Chanel only has to do Parisian chic and nothing else. For me it’s also a period of the brand with Bally I hope that has to go more global and international, not only by having stores everywhere but by appealing to all audiences.
I mean my biggest nightmare would be to reference …I don’t know mountains, and snow, and cheese and chocolate. It would be too folkloric you know and if we’re going to really reference Switzerland and do that, we’re gonna do it really on purpose and tongue and cheek. Then it makes sense!
Bally has this long standing history with the outdoors, would you consider yourself very outdoorsy?
Absolutely not! No! I don’t like that at all! I don’t ski, I don’t like pollen. I like the beach.
This year marked 60 years since the hiker’s climbed Mount Everest wearing Bally hiking boots!
Yes, it was and I mean again that was a reference to Switzerland but really now a days that’s a complete lie. I mean no one goes to Bally, to Switzerland to buy hiking boots to go up a mountain. Now what we’ve done is we presented a hiking boot for the city. It’s lighter, more modern, stylish and that; I get it. I want to wear that and I understand that guy, who likes that look.
When your designing the menswear are you thinking of yourself as the Bally man?
It depends, not so much to be honest with you. But I think sometimes yes, it’s a mix between me which is on the more casual end the CEO because he’s always with the suit and the nice shoes. So somewhere there in the middle. But I do, know the Bally male customer is a little bit more sporty. The woman is completely the opposite, she’s more dressy and classic.
When you’re working on a collection, or in the studio what music are you listening to?
Oh me? The trashy thing of the moment. Im now listening to the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack, The Weekend, even Madonna. First I said, Madonna it’s shit, I won’t listen! But now… the more I hear it, it’s a bit catchy?! Ha! I play other things too like Fleetwood Mac and other music so they don’t think I’m too trashy! haha
The collection AW15 which you just showed in Milan was inspired by Wes Anderson’s Royal Tennebaums. Are you a big fan of his work?
I don’t know others, but as far as I know I’m one of the biggest. I love Wes Anderson for the longest time. I’ve always wanted to do something around that, and even now Im going to try to do it for next season a little bit more. I think films sometimes is a good inspiration, it puts you in the mood.
You know in the first season with Bally, when I came here, it was so hard to articulate what we wanted to do and to put it into words. Then this season something just crystallised. As soon as I said Wes Anderson everything understood what we were trying to do. A little bit 70’s a little bit gangster but not too much, a little bit nerdy but not ugly. Just the keyword ‘Royal Tenenbaums’ all of a sudden everyone got it and it simplified my life.
And also it doesn’t hurt to pay homage to someone you admire.
Do you have a favourite Wes Anderson film?
Royal Tenenbaums was one of my favourite, Budapest Hotel was great. The early one’s as well Bottle Rocket. Was one of the first, even though it was really low budget and with his mates, you could see what he was trying to do. He’s super specific in the details and I like that he repeats the same actors almost like a little gang. I would love to do that with some models, some little gang.
The Coppola gang! I like that!
In your last three collections you’ve taken a lot of the hardware, and buckles out and made things a lot more clean and minimal. Is this something that will continue?
Ha! I did and now for next season I’m putting some back in! Ha! 10 passes and I’ve changed my mind and contradicting myself! ha
No, but seriously when I first came, I thought Bally for example in the past sometimes they had many feminine things like bags with pleats, and chains, and plastics, and wood pieces. I mean first I don’t think it’s the taste of the moment and second I don’t think it’s very Swiss to do that over decoration. I felt it should be more paired down. And also I made the changes to make a bigger divide you know from Bally prior Pablo.
Now with us, what we’re trying to do is make a little point, from now on it’s a bit different and for winter we’re presenting a line that’s more edgy and full of chains Hah!
Words by Tracy Kawalik
Photos by Tracy Kawalik and Kieran Doherty