Despite the LFW designer’s strong commercial potential, he is committed to slow and steady expansion.
Where David Koma’s autumn 10 collection was dominated by black leather triangles, stitched together or appliquéd onto more black, his spring 11 collection, unveiled on Monday at London Fashion Week, mixed inky python skins with white silks and wools and striking flashes of gold.
“David Koma couldn’t be without black leather,” the Newgen womenswear designer declares, grandly referring to himself in the third person, in a manner which belies how down to earth he really is.
The resulting aesthetic is graphic and monochromatic, with more than a nod to the 1960s - so it comes as something of a surprise that Koma was inspired by classical ballet.
“It’s about how fragile and soft and white [the ballet dancer] is, but at the same time there is a lot of work and power involved in what she is doing,” he says. “There is this hard core in all these tiny girls.”
Koma, who was born in Georgia and grew up in St Petersburg, Russia, was particularly influenced by the quintessential Russian ballet, Swan Lake. Its black and white swan protagonists translated into the spring 11 collection’s palette, while ballet dancers’ tutus have manifested as full, pleated skirts and 1980s-style skirt pelmets.
He toyed with the idea of experimenting with embroidery and heavy embellishment, but decided against it so he could further establish his graphic design signature, and instead drew inspiration from the cubist paintings of artist Fernand Léger, whose influence is easy to track in the large-scale graphic motifs.
Sat in the small flat in Holborn, central London, where he lives and works, Koma is clear that he takes the process very seriously. “Fashion is not only about dresses. I love art in general so I always approach [my collections] as I would approach painting,” he says, leafing through files of source material.
As such, he is conscious of the need to give himself space to develop as a designer, and to grow sales quietly rather than going full steam ahead with marketing. He has just two UK stockists - Harrods and Browns - although he expects this to double for spring 11.
All the same, after three seasons at LFW Koma has gained traction as a directional designer with strong commercial potential. Wholesale prices for his 25-piece spring 11 collection range from £300 to £3,000, and it is the most flamboyant designs, which occupy the upper end of that bracket, that have been the biggest sellers.
His dresses are particularly beloved by the partygoing set - Kylie Minogue wore a one-off design for her Get Outta My Way video and Cheryl Cole was lambasted by the press for the one she wore on The X Factor last year - but Koma sees his customer in a slightly different light.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but I imagine the woman who wears my clothes as a beautiful mother,” he says. “She wears this dress and looks amazing but doesn’t spend 24 hours a day with that image. She goes home and is a beautiful mother and happy woman.”
David Koma 07768 195428