David Koma is Conquering Female Curves
Having staged his first catwalk show at age 15, David Koma has a long-standing relationship with fashion.The Georgian-born designer first studied Fine Art in St. Petersburg before taking a place on the prestigious Central Saint Martins Fashion MA, under the late Louise Wilson OBE. Koma is fascinated by the female form which has lead his renowned reputation for ultra feminine silhouettes and clean lines.
A version of this exclusive interview first apperead in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine
You’re originally from Georgia but now you live in London. How were you first introduced to fashion growing up?
It has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I always knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer. So, from a very young age, I was doing everything that I could to become one. I studied in Art school, then the Academy of Applied Arts in Saint Petersburg before moving to London to study at Central St. Martins. I did both my BA and MA there.
How did your foundation in Fine Art influence your approach to design?
I am still very keen on art. When I have spare time, I usually go to exhibitions or art fairs, trying to take in as much as I can, and it doesn’t necessarily influence my designs directly. But, sometimes, it might be helpful to look back and recall a certain artist. I also do some oil painting myself, but not that often anymore unfortunately.
You showed your first collection at 15. What prompted you to show your work at such a young age?
I was full of ideas and excited to share them.
Other Georgian designers, such as Demna Gvasalia, have used their identity to form part of their design process. Do you feel that Georgia has had an impact on your aesthetic?
I was born in Georgia and, of course, as a designer I often reference my heritage and use beautiful Georgian art and history as a source of inspiration.
Why is it so important for you to now be based in London?
London is an amazing and vibrant city that always inspires me. It has a very unique, fresh and pioneering spirit. It has all that I need; great food, lots of amazing museums, libraries and great people.
London has a great support system for designers and is one of the fashion capital, so it felt quite natural to start my brand here after graduating from Central St. Martins.
You studied under the inimitable Professor Louise Wilson OBE. What was the most important thing she instilled in you as a designer?
I learned a lot from her. Most importantly, to believe in myself. She was always supporting me, and we stayed friends even after I graduated, and I really cherished this friendship.
Where do you seek out inspiration for your label?
I am very much inspired by art, especially contemporary art in all its forms. I am also constantly inspired by these movements and changes that happened historically in fashion. And, of course, new technologies, materials, treatments of fabrics serve as a huge and constant source of excitement for me. I also love to rummage in vintage stores or go through historical fashion books, looking for forgotten shapes and details. Because of my work schedule, I travel a lot and see different places, cultures, backgrounds and architecture styles which always helps to widen my vision too.
You are often compared to the late, Azzedine Alaïa. Would you cite his work as influential on your own?
Azzedine Alaïa is a pure genius and for me he always was and always will be an enormous source of inspiration and a designer to admire.
You were at the helm of Mugler for 4 years. Did that at all alter your approach to your own brand?
During my period at Mugler, I had a completely different approach with both brands. This experience was amazing and really helped me think on a bigger scale in terms of business for my namesake brand.
How do you build your collections? Do you work with a moodboard, a theme or do you prefer to work straight on the body?
I use all the sources and techniques to achieve the best result.
Have you seen the fashion industry change in the years since you started your brand?
I think the fashion industry moves on really fast. Nowadays, it changes constantly and its speed and rhythm are very intense… So, one should be wide awake all the time to be able to develop. I started my label 9 years ago and it has definitely developed since then due to the new social media era, the economic climate, etc.
Do you find yourself returning to the same silhouettes in your work? Is there a defining David Koma look?
I do treasure female forms and “working around the body” is usually a starting point for me. I love the classical “hourglass” shape. It is so elegant and beautiful. I always think of a female body as a key element. And the garments I make have to frame this body, to highlight its beauty?
Do you feel like London is still an exciting place to live and work?
What is in store for David Koma in the future?
I want to keep doing what I do to the highest standard and see the David Koma business grow and, for the brand, to expand globally. We are planning on launching e-commerce this year too.
Your clothes sell in boutiques all over the world and women love to wear your clothes. Do you see yourself designing for men at some point?
I am thinking about that!
Could you talk us through the creation of a David Koma collection from concept to catwalk?
The collection concept changes for me every season. Depending on the places I have travelled to, the art I have seen or the exhibitions I have visited. It can really vary! In the past, I have taken inspiration from boxing to the photography of Edward S. Curtis, even to Fabergé Eggs.
What part of the process to do you enjoy the most and why?
I enjoy most of the process; from the fittings and tweaking a garment before it goes down the runway, to seeing the final product in stores. I love to see the way my collections empower women, it is important to me that women feel their best when they wear my clothes.
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