Thierry Mugler’s creative director, David Koma, has wowed the fashion world with his structured yet womanly creations for the iconic label: super-sharp and feminine at the same time. Conrad magazine asks, where does he find the balance?
Before David Koma, I had only met one person from the Caucasian nation of Georgia and he made a definite impression on me. This quietly burly chap professed to know a traditional Georgian martial art called Khridoli and like a fool I expressed an interest to learn more. The country that is Georgia, as I discovered to my detriment, has a fearsome reputation for the classic Greco-Roman wrestling tradition, but in 29-year-old David Koma it can now also be very proud of an acclaimed fashion designer pinning down a two-pronged career with a refreshing attitude and an enviable clarity of vision. In 2013, Koma’s dedication to his craft was rewarded when he was made artistic director of Thierry Mugler, joining the celebrated ranks of the likes of Alexander Wang, Raf Simons and Tomas Maier in juggling hugely successful eponymous labels while being at the helm of a big fashion house.

“The Mugler role was a perfect opportunity because I had always genuinely loved the house. It was one of the brands I had been admiring since childhood actually. My dream from day one was to have my own successful label and to work for one of the big houses—so I was like ‘Ok, this is really happening!’ I accepted the role and have been working hard ever since.”

‘The main inspiration for me is women … I always want to do something that enhances their beauty and their confidence to make them more empowered.’

In truth, Koma has been hard at it since he first started drawing dresses at the age of eight. It would not be hyperbole to describe the young Koma’s talent as prodigious, attending fashion history lectures at the tender age of ten before graduating to Central Saint Martins to study under the late great Louise Wilson, whose tutelage launched the careers of Christopher Kane, Phoebe Philo, Alexander McQueen, Roksanda Ilincic, and Koma’s great friend Mary Katrantzou.

“I have been building my own label for a couple of years already, to the point that now it’s something I couldn’t live without,” says Koma, who speaks with a soft, measured, and almost coy voice, punctuated every so often with a revealing giggle. “It’s how I communicate my creativity and ideas to the world.”

Fashion, especially womenswear, moves at such a frenetic pace that it is easy for a designer’s vision or personality to get lost in the maelstrom of non-stop collections, yet Koma’s creations are inimitably his. “Fashion right now is going at a completely different speed to what it was in the 90s or even 2000s. I would say that it is probably affecting the clarity of collections on the whole, as there is simply less time to give ideas such rigorous contemplation now, but I guess that is just the way the world works right now; you have to manage and once you understand the pace then it’s fine.”

i03-karma-koma-fw2Models file out after the Spring 2015 RTW show.
It’s a rhythm that he has happily adopted: “My schedule is very different now. I jump on the Eurostar [from London to Paris] and I’m a different person in a different city. Really it’s like having two kids; you love them both but they have their own identities.” There’s that giggle again. “Obviously there has to be a separation and perhaps the geographical partition helps with that, but really, when I design for Mugler there is such a huge heritage with an incredibly audacious history and an amazing archive that I just try to go with the flow, work with my instincts and be positive and do what I feel is right. It’s working so far and I’m extremely happy with that.”

As I begin to ask him another question, he stops me apologetically. “But, you know, it’s all based on the team around me. I have a beautiful group of people at David Koma who I have been working with for some time now so they really know me well. They understand me and help me develop the collections according to or despite my whims! At the same time we have built quite an amazing team at Mugler in a very short period. Building a collection is a very complex process and that’s why a great team is crucial. Success and fulfilment is above all about communicating.”

Koma has become synonymous with an undeniably sexy body-con silhouette, creating designs that skim contours and accentuate and reveal the figure. As a result, they are a huge hit on the celebrity/red-carpet circuit (it’s no surprise that Koma’s biggest market is the US). “The main inspiration for me is the female form itself and women in general. I always want to do something that enhances their beauty and their confidence to make them more empowered.”

‘I have been building my own label for a couple of years already … It’s how I communicate my creativity and ideas to the world.’

His Spring 2015 collection for his own label was an architectural masterclass with asymmetrical lines and geometric cut-outs shot with flashes of citron yellow or panels of icy blues. “That collection was inspired by a book I had on Mondrian,” he says. “I had this book for years and I loved the whole idea of this artist and the color blocking but it never felt right; something wasn’t quite resonating with me. And then one day I opened the book and thought wouldn’t it be amazing to translate what he is doing into my work, so we started with putting angular lines on the curvy body framing and color blocking from different perspectives. It goes to show that inspiration is as much about time as it is about input.”

And yet time is not in great supply for Koma, given that he is responsible for two seasonal collections per year for his own line and four collections for that of Mugler. Nevertheless, you get the impression that this charming Georgian designer looks upon the challenge with a rose-tinted romanticism, as if it were a higher calling rather than mere obligation. Looking at his oeuvre so far, it would be hard to deny him that.


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