A tale of self-imposed fashion exile

Sara Murray talks with WSJ fashion reporter Christina Binkley about Christophe Coppens, a Belgium designer who quit the industry, leaving behind his business to pursue a new life as an artist.

Binkley said that Coppens was one of the more famous designers in Belgium, and when he quit, he had just opened a boutique in Paris. Coppens was known for surreal but appealing designs that were worn by Rihanna and Lady Gaga.

He's now living in the hills of Los Angeles, where he's converted his garage into a studio that's much smaller than what he worked in while in Brussels. He works solo, and creates everything by hand, a huge difference from running a team.

According to Binkely, Coppens and many other designers are looking to break free. Binkley noted the tensions between art and design that's never fully resolved. Most creative people have a tendency to want to do art, she said, and in design, there are a lot of restrictions. Some move in between the worlds of art and design and

What are the consequences on the business end of closing a fashion studio? Binkley said for Coppens, it was quite violent. He declared bankruptcy, and there was also a social toll. His phone stopped ringing, and people didn't invite him to places, so there is a sense of isolation after such an event.

Binkley said that choosing your passion or fashion is a personal choice, and to make such an abrupt change after 20 years in fashion is a courageous move. For Coppens, the move has been a good one, with his third art show, opening in May in New York.
Read Full Story