Story and photos by Jacynth Rodriguez
I’ve always liked to think that what a person reads says a lot about them. One of the first things my eyes gravitate towards when I enter someone’s home is their personal library. Whether their shelves are packed with the classics, or more niche-bound beauties, I always feel just that much closer to a person after running my fingers over their favorite books. Then I had a thought: what happens when the tastes being showcased don’t fit “properly” into one category or another? How do we process the rejection of expectation and the unapologetic embrace of what is only beautifully eclectic?
How do we define resident Richmond fashion icon Jonathan Copeland, whose collection of good reads contains issues of Vogue that go back for nearly a decade and… a Gentleman’s Guide? Where does a soul this colorful, this blissfully defiant, belong? Perhaps, anywhere he likes.
I first met Jonathan last season at the RVA Fashion Week Trunk Show at The Depot. That day, clad in the most ultra-blue overcoat and floral dress, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t define or place him, and I didn’t want to. All I wanted was to step back and admire the beautiful and confident person standing before me.
That first interaction sparked the concept that later became Project ANDRO, I wasn’t an expert in androgynous fashion but I was intrigued by both its bravery and its beauty. I felt that androgynous fashion had to be more complicated than a woman in a pantsuit, or a man in a dress. After talking with Jonathan, I learned it’s not so much what you wear as it is how you wear it.
Jonathan’s philosophy for style is as intricate as it is intentional, “I enjoy playing with this concept for men to show how masculinity can be amplified through womenswear, and on a higher level, I aim to display that femininity is not necessarily the opposition of masculine qualities, but rather complementary qualities that help a person to access all levels of what it means to be a complete person. Men should not be afraid to express “female ways of being” in the fear that it will diminish their masculine qualities.”
The juxtaposition can be seen in the six looks styled by Copeland, which were inspired by some of Alexander McQueen’s last work. The strategic and brilliant use of the color red that regally and tastefully ornates the silhouettes all echo the late designer’s genius as well as Copeland’s attention to detail. The looks themselves showcase aspects that are as playful as they are powerful.
Of these looks, good friend, model and designer Klyde Wright, seen sporting the over the top fur and the sharp red trench, mused that this style of fashion is less about choosing men’s or woman’s pieces specifically, it’s more about floating between the two. The duality and freedom found within androgynous fashion allows individuals the ability to express themselves with absolutely no restraints.
Jonathan’s own style process is calculated and obviously executed in excellence, “I tend to choose women’s pieces that lend a more masculine appeal or are interestingly cut. When I go about searching for women’s pieces I tend to say to myself, “I need a cardigan. What options does the women’s section offer, which can be translated in a masculine way.” I find that European women’s style of clothing are interestingly cut and offer funky gender-neutral silhouettes, patterns, and prints to play with. It’s easy to build the rest of your menswear around that womenswear item.”
When asked about how he is received by others he said, “I think when people look at me overall, they sense my positive energy more so than being hung up on my women’s pieces. Because I feel comfortable to wear womenswear and freely express my personality, my look is more of a conduit for my positive vibes to affect others so we all can enjoy the interaction we are sharing.”
Jonathan’s ability to brighten a mood or a room with a smile or a killer look is undeniable. He and his team are opening up a world of fashion and lifestyle possibilities for men to explore and find their place on the gender/style spectrum, and ultimately to own it.