Paris (after long trips and working experience between Germany and Belgium).
He grew in Germany where he studied fashion at ESMOD in Munich for 3 years. After his graduation Damir Doma moved to Belgian Fashion Capital Antwerp and he started to work within the group of designers Ann Demeulemeester and later Raf Simons and Dirk Schoenberger.
Method of working?
In his career his mum Ė who also is a fashion designer Ė has had a fundamental role for his training and the method of approaching fashion.
His career breakthrough?
"The beginning of my carrier started at the end of my work as assistant designer. It was the moment you understood who you are and who you want to become. My working exoerience in Antwerp became the turning point with the chance to reflect upon my future".
His creations are?
Pure, Elegance, Natural.
"Art and daily life influence what I'm doing and I try to absorb it to create my own vocabulary".
Silk and organza for womenwear; leather and cachemire for menswear.
Issey Miyake and Giorgio Armani, during his early years when he was close to japanese designers.
Silent, a more casual line for everyday occasions. "I want to get rid of all decorations and to create something very subtle."
Projects for the future?
I worked with an Australian architect Rodney Eggleston, who has designed my first store. "It's interesting for me to find out my architecture identity. And to understand how the shop interacts with my clothes. Finally after the opening of the new store I can take a breath, and to start concentrating on new projects".
"Stay true, stay honest". For me clothes and fashion have to be of help to express your inner personality and not become a masque".
Advice for young designers ?
"Try to find out who you are and what your skils are. And what makes you happy in life".
^It really is I am generally a big fan of the SILENT line, especially the shoes and accessories. And I love how his shows and lookbooks are getting more and more sophisticated and well-styled, I think he's evolving so much as a designer and his aesthetic is getting stronger and more distinctive with everything he does.
Here's the menswear part of the SILENT S/S 2013 lookbook:
indeed! it really feels like silent is becoming its own entity rather than just a bridge line. seems to have its own perspective. i admit,silent usually takes me more than the mainline for some reason. i suppose because it has a nice balance of versatility.....mainline is a bit more niche compared.
i want to wear everything in this silent collection. the knitwear is sublime....i love those sort of outdoorsy cocoon coats and jackets....and the snake-skin print,it's so familiar yet he did something unexpected with it in the volume and the texture of that degrede dying technique....and it doesn't look kitschy the way its styled.
Traunstein, Bavaria, August 2010: Meeting Damir Doma
Damir Doma: We are here because thatís where I grew up. Itís my motherís company; they make all the patterns of my collections, all the woven goods. Jersey, leather and shoes we produce in the factory, of course.
Vinz HŲlzl: And where do you produce? DD: Italy. We started producing shoes and bags in Portugal, itís not exactly easy though. Good communication is even harder to accomplish than in Italy, they are quite unreliable. But oh well, itís standard.
VH: I suggest we start at the beginningÖ You grew up in Traunstein. How was your childhood and youth there? DD: As you can probably tell, it was very idyllic. My mom had her own atelier. I spent a lot of time there, and besides that I did a lot of sports: snowboarding, skateboarding, tennis, hiking, riding my bikeÖ pretty much everything. My childhood was pretty sheltered.
VH: Iíve heard that you had already wanted to design your own collections at the age of 14. In your opinion, is it useful to focus on something like that so early in life? DD: Oh yes, itís ideal if you get to know yourself early, if you find out what you want to do. Some people havenít figured it out when theyíre 40. Iím aware of the fact that I was and am very lucky to know what I want.
VH: You were born in Croatia. Your parents are Croatians. What is your relationship towards your home country? Do you visit it every once in a while? DD: Yeah, but itís getting more infrequent. Iím travelling a lot job-related: here, Paris, Asia, the States, that doesnít leave a lot of spare time. I only have 10 days of vacation per year, last year I spent those 10 days in Croatia, this year Iím going to Ibiza. Itís not like I have the time to travel there and visit people, but I do feel a connection to the country. I spent a long period of my childhood there, I still visit my grandparents. And my parents are Croatians, as was my upbringing. Therefore I do identify with the country, just as I do with Germany, or Bavaria.
VH: We are in a very religious part of Germany and Bavaria right nowÖ Are you religious at all? Does religion influence you in any way? DD: I am a spiritual person, but I donít connect to the traditional concept of religion. I think if youíre open-minded, you develop your own ideas as time passes, and I guess I am open in that respect.
VH: Things were happening pretty fast for you in the last couple of years. Did you feel diffident or doubtful at any point? DD: Not yet, because everything is going really well and itís only getting better. In the creative aspect, as well as economically - which means financially Ė the collection is growing. I started a womenís collection and a second line. But Iím sure I will get to that point eventually. Life canít go only uphill. Iím the type of person that isnít easily affected. I have my values, some things that are of importance to me. I love my job, but for example I donít care too much about money. So Iím steeled.
VH: You were talking about your womenís collection just now, and you introduced the Silent collection in Berlin recently. Are you a workaholic? DD: No, I only found the one thing I live for, the one thing I love. I never woke up and thought ďOh, now I have to workĒ. Iím fortunate enough to get up and do what I feel like doing. Of course there are time constraints and many people depend on you, so you canít be bullshitting. But in total I really am living my dream. I am working a lot and to the eyes of an onlooker I might seem to be a workaholic, but that expression is too negative. My hobby is my work.
VH: What is it like to engage in fashion in the Bavarian province? DD: Firstly, Iíd say I didnít really engage in fashion, but I occupied myself with textiles, and I liked being creative. Itís not just about fashion, my sister and I have always been creative ó whether it be painting or textiles ó for the sole reason that we were always surrounded by fabrics, colours and patterns in my momís atelier. My feeling for aesthetics evolved with the art and the textiles around me, fashion came later. The first time I actually dealt with fashion was when I studied it, whereas I quickly realized that I didnít like a lot of things. Right from the start I tried to develop my own personal style, something that only few young designers do nowadays. Thatís the main problem. Thatís why not many get big. They are only copying. But in the long run that doesnít get you anywhere.
VH: You studied at Esmod in Munich and Berlin. What were your studies like? DD: I donít want to say anything negative about the school. However, I was influenced most by my mother. My definition of style came neither from my mum nor my school; though, style is something you have to figure out by yourself. Nobody can tell what looks good and what doesnít. Itís a feeling you have to develop. You can only manage that with sensitivity, with curiosity. All the technical things my mum taught me. I studied because my parents are conservative, too, and I had to do something. And that was exactly the feeling I had in school all the time.
Iíve been a member of different juries, at UDK or in Basel. As far as I can see teachers and school canít teach you how to create aesthetically appealing items, or how to be successful. They can guide you, provide technical help, but apart from that, youíre on your own. I always considered schools to be of little importance, relevant only to the degree of hard work youíre prepared to invest. Plus, not only creativity counts, but also brains. Thatís where many people fail.
VH: You grew up in the 90ís and in the first years of the new millennium. To what extent did that timeís music and culture influence you? DD: Like most adolescents, I tried a bunch of things. Hip Hop, later grunge. Somehow you tend to peek in all the pigeonholes. Which is very important, especially as far as fashion is concerned! At 14 I was a bit of a dandy, at 16 it was Hip Hop, at 18 something different. You can only judge, evaluate, and position yourself if you know everything. Not only in terms of fashion but also in arts. You shouldnít voice an opinion before youíve experienced everything. So yes, music does have an impact. Hip Hop certainly influenced me; I still like the silhouette. Loose pants. Not exactly baggy but I like voluminous silhouettes, playing with volume. Yeah, Hip Hop is probably the background. If I was punk I would probably like skinny leather pants.
VH: You studied in both Munich and Berlin, how would you judge the respective relevance in terms of fashion? DD: I think they are the two opposing poles in Germany, as you can tell from the local labels. In Munich they are less successful but still very chic and conservative. In Berlin, not that successful either and really trashy and young. Both are lacking modernity. Berlin wants to but will never be. Munich is just too remote. There are some Munich labels that were prolific in the 80ís and 90ís, like MCM or Escada. Escada used to be huge, bigger than Louis Vuitton. They missed changes though, and that is what fashion is about. Fashion always reflects the zeitgeist and Munich definitely missed that. Also, the people in Munich are so deadlocked and arrogant and narcissistic, they donít even notice. Berlin lacksÖ Well, it is too unprofessional, the vision is missing. Itís not enough to make nice pants, a nice jacket. There has to be something more. The point is that city and structure make founding a label simple. Berlin Fashion Week provides visibility, lifts you in some magazines. No one has to struggle. That doesnít happen in Paris. You have to do business before going there. You have to have funds. There has to be some meat to your projects. You canít just rent a shop. Itís a natural filter. In Berlin everything falls through. Back to your question, I think both cities are completely irrelevant regarding fashion. I know Berlin and its fashion week Ė where I have shown too, by the way Ė like to celebrate themselves, but like so many things in Germany, itís only entertainment, a little amusement for the people. When textiles really matter though, Berlin is simply irrelevant. Especially when dealing with high fashion and different markets. Contemporary fashion, street fashion, granted, thatís a different thing. Bread&Butter brings one of the biggest street wear trade shows back to Germany. But in my domain, high fashion and visionary work, Germany is immaterial.
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VH: How often do you go to Japan? DD: Usually once a year. Japan was our single most important market in the first year and somehow lifted us up relatively fast. Now it’s spread all over the world and due to the crisis, Japan got drowned out a bit. Japan is doing really badly, so they stopped buying a lot of foreign designers. In addition to that there’s the luxury tax. If you pay 250 Euro for one of my t-shirts in Paris, in Japan you will pay 400. That’s absurd for a t-shirt. Also, more and more Japanese designers are copying what we are doing. In the past the Europeans were copying the Japanese work, now things have turned around, now people there buy more regional and national designers. As a result the Japanese market is less important to us now. In the last years Italy, Scandinavia and the USA have become very important.
VH: How do you like Asia? DD: I like it a lot. I’m a pretty quiet, relaxed guy. The continent matches my character. And I love the food! The people are very pleasant. Not all, of course, but most of them. Yes, I love Asia!
VH: After having graduated you went to Antwerp to work for Raf Simons… DD: …firstly, I got to work for Dirk SchŲneberger, who for a long time had his own label before he started to work for Joop. That’s where I started. After his label went bankrupt, I went on to Raf. When Ann Demeulemeester bought Dirk’s label, I went back there. All in all I spent two and a half years working for them in Antwerp.
VH: In what ways did both of them shape your signature style, your evolution? DD: In regards to my aesthetics, in no way did they shape my style. The time was very important for me, though. It was the first time in my life that I was completely isolated. What I’m trying to say is that I didn’t have family around, no friends. I didn’t know anybody. I had to get by on my own. It was the first time where I had time to ponder about myself and what I wanted: where I wanted to go, where I was coming from. So that time was vital to me — probably the most important time of my life. I learned a lot at home, at my parents’ company, about the ways of textiles and so on. But it is of course interesting to see how other people design and work. I don’t necessarily mean aesthetics but the process, how to get to the product, how to get the silhouette. There’s a plethora of toeholds, until then I focused on the fabric, I was a visual person and I was drawing a lot. I had to be able to visualize the item. What I learnt from Raf was that you have different points of origins of ideas. His background is not in textiles, but in industrial design, he can’t really draw, so he helps himself with words and explanations. I think after two and a half years I found a way to work with all the accessible means. So that influenced me, too, but if you compare my collection to Raff’s it is obvious we don’t have a lot in common.
VH: You moved to Paris then, what is Paris’ impact on your work? DD: I think after Antwerp, Paris will become the biggest influence. This city is so inspiring, it edges you on. If you live in Munich it’s so relaxed and easy, it becomes tedious. Paris can be annoying, too, because everything is so hard, but you learn to fight, to push yourself. You have to invest more. The city pushes and inspires me, alongside all the stress it also has a lot of beauty to offer. Paris is beautiful and inhabited by tremendously elegant people. If you look at my collection and you know when I moved, you can really see the change.
VH: How important is it to still have the atelier here, where you grew up? DD: It’s not my atelier, it’s my mothers. I think it is very important to have the possibility to work with my family. I need harmony. And I love my family. I also know that I am very lucky to be able to work with my family. It doesn’t matter very much in what place, Traunstein or Cannes or wherever, that’s secondary. What really is cool is that I can be here five days a month. I need those five days away from Paris. If I didn’t come here I would probably go to the French countryside, the change between city and countryside is very important to me. Otherwise the city eats you up. Paris wears you out quickly.
VH: Right from the start press has been very enthusiastic about your collection. How do you value that and how did you experience this super fast rise? DD: First and foremost, I work for myself, for the process. I love being creative. That’s what is fun to me, what fuels me, what gives me pleasure. There are maybe two or three people whose opinion means something to me. Everybody else’s is of relatively little importance. I do know that for the businessman in me, good press is essential though. To be able to sell your collection to some store, you need to have press and visibility, an attractive image. I’m thankful for the positive reactions, but that doesn’t just come to you either.
VH: You once said in an interview: “I want to work in a way that respects humanism.” What do you mean by that? DD: It’s about human psyche and body. It’s about the material and the way I work. Also, I don’t make clothes that are solely decorative, only good for tarting yourself up. It is crucial to me that everything I create is comfortable. You have to like the feel of it on your body, the material has to be pleasant. I still don’t understand why there are so many people that wear synthetic fabrics on their skin. Skin and the moment in which you decide to put on a certain shirt is very intimate. You lay it on your skin, you wear it all day. Most people don’t even realize that. They only wear clothes to play an act, not to please themselves. That’s what I was trying to say.
VH: What is your criteria to choose a fabric? DD: I didn’t have the possibilities I have now from the beginning. For the next collection I’m creating all the fabrics exclusively with a Italian producer. That means I don’t choose a fabric, I create it. With the awareness of what I want to do with it later. Many designers go to a trade show, buy fabrics and then think about what they want to use it for. I have an overall concept for my work. I start at zero. I consider traits the fabric has to have so that I can use it for a jacket maybe. It’s important because I work with a lot of volume.
VH: Would you call your collections poetic? DD: I don’t know what a poetic collection should look like. It’s more spiritual to me. There is a simplicity, sobriety to it. Despite the complicated look and styling it’s pure.
VH: Once you said, “A man has to look cool”. How can he achieve that? DD: What I meant to say is that I don’t use a lot of classical men’s fashion references. And also, if you use volume and tailor fluid, soft silhouettes it’s often close to being girly and poofy. A man has to keep his pride, his manliness.
VH: And what should the woman look like? DD: In my opinion aesthesic is a lot more important for woman’s clothing. I try to give a woman a special structure. I love a soft, mellow, big dress combined with a structured jacket. It’s often about playing with contrasts. My prototypical woman has to be upright and proud, have a certain severity but stay feminine.
VH: Bernhard Wilhelm said in a interview that everything exists by now and there is nothing to be created. In your collection there are things that just evolve. It doesn’t always have to be new, maybe that’s a reply to Wilhelm’s hypothesis. DD: It’s all about sensitivity and differentiating. If you look at it in total, he is probably right. But if you use more flair you will find some small changes. Look at my men’s collection, there is a reason for all the appreciation I got because there was something different. Of course, a jacket is a jacket, but maybe it’s the combination of pants and jacket, maybe the volume. It’s in the details. Granted, we are at a point where nobody will reinvent pants. But there are always odds and ends you can work on. Especially if you think of men’s fashion. That is why it became so popular in the last years. There is still a lot of room to move. From my personal experience I can tell it’s a lot harder in terms of woman’s fashion. It’s the business model, with woman there’s a lot of money and pressure. There’s a huge demand for novelties, but if you do something innovative, it’s not accepted because the buyer is too scared to buy something that hasn’t been there. Female fashion is a lot further developed. Of course there will be a change at some point, but it won’t be the designers’ doing, but rather, technology’s. Maybe a new fabric. It will happen, I’m certain of that.
VH: Are you a perfectionist? DD: Yes, I have to be. I have a distinct vision, but I’m also product-driven. I love bringing a product towards perfection. It’s frustrating to work on a piece for two months and it’s not perfect after that. If you know that you invested that much, you want it to be perfect eventually. So yes, I am a perfectionist. I keep the details in sight.
VH: You rarely use buttons, zippers and the like. Why is that? What is the idea behind it? DD: The idea behind my patterns, even if they are very bulky, is a certain simplicity and crudeness. Buttons and zippers tend to be decorative, something I don’t want.
VH: There are some North African, Arabic and Far-East influences in your collection… DD: It’s fascinating to mix a variety cultures and identities. Every one of us has different starting points. To combine that, to mix it together and stay true to yourself at the same time is highly challenging and very interesting. I don’t just take one look and interpret it, it has to fit in my structure.
VH: What is your opinion of fashion’s state today? DD: There have been times when it was more diverse. Though I have to say, I still think it’s too diverse, in a negative sense. There are too many labels because sometimes it’s too easy. The pie doesn’t get any bigger though, it’s just that more people want their share. That’s hard. I don’t see many really groundbreaking designers, which is sad. There are many hanger-ons, nobody needs them. Sometimes I’d prefer stores to be more directional, more daring to choose a certain path. Today you find so many small stores of a hundred square meters that harbor fifty different labels. I find that concept slightly revolting. I don’t see how you can like fifty labels. It would be a lot more interesting if people had the courage to run in different directions instead of trying to be on the safe side and buy all sorts of things in order to reach everybody. That’s incomprehensible to me.
VH: Do you have idols? Personae you admire? DD: There are some designers I have been admiring since my childhood. The first few pieces of fashion I bought were by Helmut Lang. I find his work truly incredible. It’s sad what happened to him and the label. I also still like Giorgio Armani. Both of them have had such tragic misfortunes. Not personally but in regards of the label. They handed over control, not Armani though, it simply got too big. He’s still making some beautiful pieces, but they are drowned by the multitude of things. With the other two – love’s labour is lost.
VH: What is a typical day in the life of Damir Doma? DD: That day will be filled with label-work, but I never see it as work. Thinking about the label, press, looking for a location in Paris, look for music. It’s a lot of work. I just finished the gentlemen, now I’m busy with the ladies, but at the same time I develop fabrics for next season’s men. Apart from that, when I’m in Paris I like spending my time with good food, drinks and friends. When I’m at home I focus on work mostly. Or I go climbing in the mountains or do sports.
VH: What are your plans for the future? DD: For me it’s all about stabilizing what we started. I want to have a base that enables me to do everything I’m creatively interested in. I collaborate a lot. There will be some sunglasses with Mykita. We are also working on underwear and fragrances. Although when it will come depends on the product. If it’s ready it will come. There’s a bunch of new things we aspire to.