David Koma’s Body of Work

By
Photography Brian Higbee

Published September 12, 2014

ABOVE: ALL CLOTHING DAVID KOMA F/W 2014. PHOTOGRAPHY: BRIAN HIGBEE. STYLING: LIZETTE PENA. HAIR: RICHARD COLLINS. MAKEUP: JEFFREY BAUM. MODEL: KATY O’KANE/FORD MODELS. CASTING: LEAH HEYMAN/MICHELLE LEE CASTING. SPECIAL THANKS: 34 BEVERLY PARK, LOS ANGELES AND LUXURY HOUSE

David Koma, the Georgian-born, London-based designer, cuts sharp. It’s a skill that has served him well in the creation of his slick, finely-tuned sculptural dresses, and separates—donned by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Miranda Kerr. Koma’s eponymous line has made a mark in the youthful London fashion scene and nabbed the Central Saint Martins alum his latest position as the artistic director of Mugler, previously occupied by Nicola Formichetti.

“Confident, mature, and mentally strong,” is how Koma describes the women he designs for. His ethos starts with the body, and his Fall 2014 collection, rooted in the elements of corsetry, put the waist on display. Koma was looking at the work of German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, and translated the curvilinear lines and trussed silhouette of period corsets into a collection featuring geometric leather harnesses, cut-outs, woven detailing, and full skater skirts in leather and wool, rendered in a sober palette of black, white, and gray, with smatterings of blue and violet, equal parts strength and sensuality.

With the start of London fashion week, and Koma’s soon to be unveiled spring collection, Interview recently caught up with Koma by phone.

COLLEEN KELSEY: When did you first connect with fashion?

DAVID KOMA: When I was eight years old, I already started drawing dresses, which was a surprise for my parents, because it came from nowhere. From such an early age I really knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. When I was 15, I did my first small collection and participated in a designer competition. Obviously I didn’t win anything, but it was super exciting.

KELSEY: What was your aesthetic when you were a kid? What were you interested in? What were the dresses like?

KOMA: Actually quite similar to the aesthetic that I have now. It’s kind of weird. It didn’t change. Obviously I’ve become more mature and my style has different angles, a different identity, but the initial idea, the idea of the body, the idea of the powerful woman, it was there when I was 13.

KELSEY: Were there any cultural inspirations that shaped you?

KOMA: One of the collections that I did when I was little was inspired by Pedro Almodóvar’s movie called All About My Mother [1999]. When I was 13, that’s what I was into. [laughs]

KELSEY: You studied fine art in St. Petersburg before you went to Central Saint Martins in London. Obviously were interested in fashion, so what spurred the decision to study art?

KOMA: I knew I wanted to do fashion since the very beginning. I was living in St. Petersburg and I knew a lot of friends who studied at the academy, and for me, it was really important to know more about painting, drawing, the history of art and culture and anatomy. Everyone advised me to go there. I knew I wanted to go to Central Saint Martins, and I thought it was the best for me to have the classic training before going to fashion college.

KELSEY: You talked a bit about the kind of femininity that comes across in your clothes and the structure and sculptural element of it. When you start working on a collection, does it initially come from the body? Is that the first thing that you explore?

KOMA: The body is extremely important to me when I work, but it depends on the season. I always think the female body is the most beautiful thing, and all I want to do is make it the most beautiful. I don’t destroy the beauty of the body. I try to enhance it and make it more flattering. But at the same time, it’s always interesting to me how I can combine the curviness of the body, curviness of the lines, with some kind of architecture or modern art. It’s two contrasting elements that come together and give something new to the dress.

KELSEY: In the fall collection, there were very pronounced juxtapositions of materials, whether it was leathers or the weaving elements. Are fabrications a place of experimentation for you? What materials do you find yourself going back to?

KOMA: I really love different textures. I love that in pictures, you can see the 3-D effect of the material. For that reason I always do big research on what kind of material we’re going to be using each season. There’s some classic materials that I love, and use always, like wool and leather, and for summer, light crêpe and silks. Every season we’re trying to come up with something new, or showing the classic materials to give them of new life, mixing them with newer, more technical materials. For fall, the combination we used was leather, pony skin, wool, and silk together, which was quite challenging to technically make, it but once we did it, it looked quite beautiful.

KELSEY: Where did the concept for fall originate?

KOMA: I was going through the books and I saw the paintings of Lucas Cranach, the German artist. I was really fascinated with how amazing those portraits were with women from that period. There was a lot of corsetry involved in that time. I wanted to use the bones and corsetry, but in a more graphic, more modern, more geometric way, not the standard classic way of corsetry. We did research on the corset and how it can turn, and we put it in a straight, vertical way, all the lines and all the bones, but still emphasizing the female body.

KELSEY: Now that you’re working at Mugler, which is a whole other collection, a whole other house with a storied history, has it given you more freedom in your personal line?

KOMA: I think that the fact that I became the creative director of Thierry Mugler gave me more focus on each collection. I think the picture is much bigger and made me more organized and more decisive about certain things. It’s incredible to experience this type of two jobs. It’s three days in London, three days in Paris. It’s like two lives.

DAVID KOMA WILL SHOW HIS SPRING/SUMMER 2015 COLLECTION THIS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.