Soleil Mak (left) and Joel Lim

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then you can call photographer Joel Lim and his fashion stylist partner Soleil Mak really nice folks. Their Instagram account @copthatcover, which debuted in the beginning of this year, sees the duo co-opting fashion covers and replicating them to a tee — down to the design, pose, wardrobe. The split screen images of these so-called “before” and “after” shots would have some commenting that this pet project is riding on the wave of the Diet Prada phenomenon on social media.

But rather than being an expose, there is some creative licence here. For one, Mak, plays cover girl to the images taken by her partner (FYI: the fashion lensman is popularly known as a resident photographer on the Asia’s Next Top Model TV series). Take a closer look and you’d notice that cover lines are witty quips. For example, their latest take on the Sunday Times Style magazine re-appropriates the original tagline “Future Beauty: Meet The Innovators Changing The Face Of Make-up And Fragrance” to “Future Bleak: Meet The Entitled Changing The Face Of Unemployment And Parent Leeching”.

And that’s not all. Read the captions and you’d realise that the clothes worn by Mak come from a range of fast-fashion retailers like H&M, Zara, and Bershka. “I like the conveyed message that regardless of what you look like or what threads you wear you can look just as good as any given celebrity. I tell myself that over and over so I can sleep at night,” she says. Our verdict? While scanning through Cop That Cover may be like playing a game of spot-the-difference, it’s on our follow list for the some on point fashion wisecrack and satire. Oh, and great tips for style on a budget too.

diet pradaFor the record, can we call you both copycats?
JL: No we are original fakers.
SM: Yeah, because I don’t think anyone has done something like this before. On this scale at least, replicating the lighting and clothing as closely as we do.

How did the idea for Cop That Cover start?
SM: It started while we were both working on Asia’s Next Top Model 5. A superfan of the show replicated almost every photoshoot broadcasted on the show!
JL: A shout out to @lynnholilin, my favourite amateur photographer on Instagram, who gave us many laughs and was a great inspiration to start this page.
SM: My personal aim is to be outed by @diet_prada, because that’s how you get famous right? (Laughs).
JL: My aim is to spoil the “Instagram boyfriend” market.

Art project, fashion photography, satire, spoof? Which category best describes Cop That Cover?
JL: Honestly we don’t know what this page is and not sure whether we would like to lump it into any category. We are having fun and just hope that is translated to the audience. But overall I think it covers all of the above as we are a photographer, stylist and both idiots as a profession.
SM: So far, we’ve shown a lot of our real personalities through the copy, the headlines and even our Insta-bio. Personally, I love memes, and my life’s goal is to be a meme. If this doesn’t get me meme stardom then, I’ll try something else by sheer determination. (Laughs).

Your tag line on Instagram states “We’re all just cheap ass people. He clicks, she clips.” Tell us a little more about how you two work.
SM: We both source for covers to replicate, and we try to do ones that are recent and relevant. We also take diversity into account: We don’t just do the English language magazines, but also those from other countries like Turkey, the Netherlands, and Russia, with models of all backgrounds, whether they’re plus sized, 13 years old (cue Millie Bobby Brown below) or even ethnically diverse. As I am a tiny 1.52-metre dainty Asian bird with a non-white skin tone and non-modelesque features, it’s nice to see some semblance of diversity even in a satire page and not just your typical tall skinny model.
JL: Well I have my assistants to help me but other than that its just the two of us. I have taken on the role of hair stylist and Soleil does her own makeup as we find more flexibility to schedule shoots in between our jobs without having to coordinate between a whole team of people.

How do your dynamics as a couple affect the creativity of this project?
 The dynamic is great because it’s a fun project to let off a little steam from our real careers and there isn’t any professional expectations or pressure. Generally we are goofing around all day on set until we get tired and she’s got this grumpy bitch face on which is exactly what I want in the shot. So it’s perfect. Check out the “Vague Italia” Nov 17 cover (top) to see this in action.
SM: And because it’s not a professional set, he thinks he has license to say mean
things like grumpy bitch face to me.

What makes a good fashion magazine cover?
 The magazine racks in stores have decided that over decades with sales so I find that it’s become somewhat formulaic. It really does take a lot of effort to work within the boundaries of the formula to create something original and beautiful month after month. But seriously something that says: “I want to make an exact replica of that cover but with affordable clothes”.
SM: That’s easy. One with me in it. Hey, Female, need a new cover model? I’m available.

diet prada

Soleil plays cover girl in all of our shots. Any particular reason?
 I’ve been patiently waiting for my chance in the spotlight but Soleil wants all the attention
SM: Because I’m the prettier one. Duh. Nah, I think I answered it in the previous question
where I mentioned diversity and body acceptance.

A fashion cover takes weeks, even months, of planning. How about yours? 
JL: A lot of the work is done for us in terms of art direction, but it still bears similarities to when I do work on actual covers. I still have to achieve the mood and feel, lighting and directing the model.

Who’s in charge of the copywriting?
JL: We both chip in. Real magazine covers are aspirational, while ours is firmly grounded in dire reality.
SM: Yes, it’s a collaborative effort, but I’m usually the funnier one. “Mille But Not Really” was my idea. We don’t take ourselves too seriously; we just like to juxtapose the seriousness of the photography with the silliness of the copy.

Did Diet Prada somehow inspired Cop That Cover?
SM: I am Diet Prada’s biggest fan. But I’m not at the stage where I DM them “pls notice me” everyday yet, but maybe soon. We’re not claiming to be a Diet Prada-esque page, exposing anybody for stealing designs from others. For us, it’s mainly finding affordable alternatives and not copies of the garments seen on magazine covers.
JL: Yup. I have to agree that we are not trying to out anybody, just providing affordable alternatives.

Plagiarism and wholesaling ideas are big problems in the fashion world today. Why do you think it’s so prevalent now?
SM: All I know is it’s not our fault, we ain’t that famous.
JL: I actually believe the lack of intellectual property rights in the fashion industry drives innovation and creativity. Imagine if collars, hems, or a certain kind of seam was trademarked or copyrighted; they’re of utilitarian use and should not be licensed. It is because people can copy designs that trends are so fast to take root. Without that we would have no fast fashion chains to make those trends affordable, and without trends that the fashionable have to break as soon as they become mainstream we wouldn’t have new innovative designs twice a year (during Fashion Week). The fashion industry is thriving because of this. And honestly, I think we can live with the Dolce & Bananas, Fradas and Baifuflacas of the world because of this fact. It’s an interesting topic of conversation, which deserves more than the few words I have stated here.

How many covers do you plan to release this year?  
JL: Bi-weekly as long as we have the energy and it remains fun to do.

Which magazine would be your ultimate fashion cover to replicate?  
SM: Female’s cover with Layla Ong and Bryan Yap. Maybe then Joel can finally share the spotlight with me.
JL: Annie Leibovitz’s portrait of Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub of milk — but Soleil’s lactose intolerant so I don’t think that’s going to happen.