Originally published in
Pages
,
November 2010
David Koma is a man with a plan. In fact, he’s lived his life by one since he was 13 years old. That was when he decided to be a famous fashion designer when he grew up. Now aged 24, and with three seasons at London Fashion Week establishing his reputation for feminine, sexual silhouettes, his plan is coming together quite nicely.
I grew up watching Pedro Almodóvar movies and looking at Caravaggio paintings so my muses were powerful, dramatic women like Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci

“I’ve always loved women. I was drawing girls and going into my mum’s wardrobe from an early age,” says a happily married Koma. “I grew up watching Pedro Almodóvar movies and looking at Caravaggio paintings so my muses were powerful, dramatic women like Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci.”

Koma hails from Tbilisi, Georgia, but spent his formative years in St Petersburg, where he went to an art academy. At 13 he saw an advert for a young designer competition. He entered, lost, but was hooked. “I made three coats, which looking back now were very Pierre Cardin - sculptural and body conscious - and my style hasn’t changed much since. It’s true!”

His mother then gave him a book on fashion, which listed all the prestigious alumni from London’s Central Saint Martins. At that moment his master plan was hatched. He learnt English, bided his time, and by 18 he was walking through the school’s hallowed halls. His final collection won CSM’s Best Womenswear Award and, again as he had ordained, Koma was accepted onto the MA course. His graduate collection of – yes, you’ve guessed it - body con dresses, in black and flesh tones, was inspired by – yes, that’s right - the early work of Cardin, and embellished with metal chains and tubes. Showing alongside classmate Michael Van Der Ham at last year’s MA show, Koma won the Harrods Design Award and the Vauxhall Fashion Scout Merit Award.

His first solo show for spring/summer 2010 saw him dabble with bright colours and glass and reference Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden in Barcelona and the arts and crafts of Sol LeWitt and Kazimir Malevich. On the strength of this collection, he received New Generation sponsorship, which supported his autumn/winter 2010/11 offering – think zig zags, futuristic zips, and oodles of black leather – and his latest spring/summer 2011 collection, for which he shared an on-schedule show with Holly Fulton.

The assembled were serenaded by Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake as models appeared in ballerina-influenced looks in powdery and monochrome shades. Sheer organza, embossed leather and wool formed paneled dresses with metallic python snaking around waists to form peplums. “I went to The Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg to meet the ballerinas and discovered that even though they look fragile and beautiful, they’re also strong girls. I found that contrast interesting, very David Koma. I wanted to create bold yet soft looks,” he says. “With all my collections, the body stays elegant. I experiment but I always keep the female form desirable. This is my signature.”

No wonder then that Lady Gaga, Megan Fox and Alicia Keys have all flocked to his frocks like moths to a flame. He’s also collaborated closely with Beyoncé and Kylie Minogue, but it was when Cheryl Cole wore one of his outfits on cheesy TV show The X Factor that made the headlines. “Maybe it wasn’t the super right place to wear it but I don’t believe in bad press – and anyway, I love The X Factor!”

Although Koma’s inspirations seem to come from elsewhere around Europe, it’s London he chooses to call home. “You can feel this vibrant energy here, and each season you have to prove you’re good enough to be part of it. London never stops, there’s always something new and exciting going on. But if you’re good enough, you’ll survive.”

Just like his fashion heroes before him - Cardin, Thierry Mugler, Geoffrey Beene, Azzedine Alaïa – Koma clearly thinks big. Question is, where will his plan take him next? “I want my brand to be known world wide. And after that, to work for a big fashion house. Let’s see what happens.” So far, so fabulous.

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