Currently reading : SB6 Archive (2012): Damir Doma
"Creating this universe makes you re-think your work and makes you tell a story about your work."
Why did you decide to open your shop in Paris?
I believe that the future of fashion is in retail and that it is really difficult for young labels to get good visibility in the big multi-brand stores. There is more and more good content appearing in Dover Street Market but I also really like how in the Japanese boutiques each label gets their own corner in the shop which makes it easier to develop more of an idea around each designer. If you have that small space you can create your own universe around your clothing, you can use your own materials and try and give off your own ambience within the shop. When I started working in fashion my ideas were never about designing specifically for men or women but more that I wanted to create my own aesthetic world. In a way the shop in Paris is like a universe because it is the place where everything comes together, after six years it is the first time I’ve seen all the clothes hanging together in one place in the right context, with the right people and the right sounds and the right materials housing this environment. I also love Paris and felt like it was the right place to open up the shop.
Do you think that younger designers tend to work within their own aesthetic universe rather than focusing strictly on making clothing?
I think people are going into that direction because of how modern media works. As designers you are now forced to think outside of how the jacket will look: we all have social media and whether we like it or not it forces you to think about how you are perceived outside of just the designs. If you think about the products you are making as a designer, there are probably many other pieces of clothing out there that are similar to what you are making, maybe not currently but somewhere in some timeframe there is. Creating this universe makes you re-think your work and makes you tell a story about your work. Where maybe before the internet age this wasn’t so relevant as it is now.
Do you think your customers are aware of references and inspiration imbedded in contemporary fashion? Do you think that people are becoming more interested in art history or the history of architecture, for example?
I think some designers really think that they are interested in a wide variety of culture but they are leaking so much of it into fashion culture in such a one-dimensional way—which I really think is a pity.
You have opened your flagship store in Paris on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré which is neighbours with some more traditional clothes makers. Was this location an important part of your decision to move there?
Paris is considered the fashion capital of the world and it is very difficult to be able to find a space. This shop and location was a really big opportunity for us. We were actually planning on opening a shop a year later but when we found this space we just had to take it. For me it wasn’t at all crucial to be amongst the big houses; sometimes you need to be opportunistic—although we sell very expensive products so we needed to be in an area where it was realistic that people would spend money.
How did the scouting for the shop happen?
There were only two locations that I really liked in Paris. One was the Palias Royal where you have Rick Owens, Margeila and Marc Jacobs and so on. Then you have the Marché Saint-Honoré where you have the Marc by Marc Jacobs store and the Comme de Garcon perfume store. I liked the feeling there. When you open a shop it is a very big investment, it is a big risk. Because of this I realised that we couldn’t open up in the Marais because it is too young, there isn’t the kind of customer there who would buy a jacket for 2,000 euro.
What were you looking for in the space for the shop?
The set up of the actual shop was never a problem for me, I always thought we could conquer any space and evolve it into our own. So for me it didn’t matter if it was two floors, or a strange space and so on. It was more important to me for the customer to have some kind of feeling about the shop when they were in there. We spoke to the architect about this. I wanted people visiting to feel good and positive when they visited. I didn’t want to create an ambience which was cold.
What did the place look like when you moved in? Was it already run down?
When I first saw how raw the walls were when we first moved I saw a beauty in them that I wanted to keep. I thought that these imperfections were really stunning.
How did the actual conception of the shop design happen?
It is a very big decision to decide who you want to work with. I had always been interested in architecture but not known that much about it. There were some people I knew about but they were usually too big and expensive or too old. So I started some research into contemporary architecture, I met some architects in Antwerp and some in Paris. With a lot of the architects that I met I felt that we had a lot in common. A lot of these architects had a very sleek, clean and minimal way of working with materials and shapes. I always thought that with these architects if I worked with them I would know exactly what I would get. But I decided I wanted to go one step further and find someone who would challenge me and I could challenge in return. I wanted to create something new so I decided to work with an Australian architect called Rodney Egglestone. He has a really creative mind, I wanted to do something very different to anything I had seen before that, in return, would compliment and push the shop and the label.
What have the main steps been in the construction of the shop?
Seven years ago when I started my own brand I immediately started to think about what the colours and materials would be that would define the brand. It was the same with creating the shop: I was looking at specific materials, like stones, for example. I worked on this in the same way in which I create a collection. I always make books filled with photos and fabrics that inspire me. I did the same here for the shop so I could show the architect what I wanted to create through a visual language.
So from there on did you show the architect your book and he went on to do his own thing?
In fashion you can translate a lot of ideas into products; in fashion there are no limits into how far you can push things. In architecture there are limits. You need to be so exact about what you can and can’t do. It is also not easy to really understand the space in its sheer size. My ideas of its size changed so much in the time it took to create the ideas. The biggest amount of research though was focused on deciding a common ground on how we could start. After that, we went into material research. That period was so interesting because we were visiting all the different marble companies and wood factories. We wanted to see how the factories treated the materials. It was a very dynamic process.
"…in fashion there are no limits into how far you can push things. Where in architecture there are limits, you need to be so exact about what you can and can’t do."
Where did you find marble factories?
We’ve actually been working with limestone because I feel more drawn to stone than marble. People associate marble with being expensive and slick. The key words to me in this project were words like ‘raw,’ ‘hard,’ ‘brutal’ and so on. Even though marble is beautiful we did consider it but I wanted to keep the shop closer to this ‘hard’ aesthetic. There are actually a lot of factories around Paris that offer large amounts of stone because so much building work happens.
Can you tell me about the mirrors on the ceiling of the ground floor in the shop?
The whole shop has quite a compressed feeling and I wanted to make the ground floor feel more open. We talked about the possibility of having mirrors, and Rodney the architect knew of an artist in Australia who uses the same technique that we have now used. It took some time to finalise an agreement between us as we didn’t want to feel like we were copying her technique too much but we did come to an agreement.
In what ways was this project different to designing clothing?
Architecture is very close to reality. There is a very big technical component to the whole process of creation—which for me as a fashion designer could be very frustrating. Things like deciding where to put the alarm system, lights or air conditioning was so irritating. There are some many things within the skeleton of the building which are essential to it being a working space which decide for you how the building will look. I did really enjoy it though and I look forward to doing it again. It was a challenge.
Can you describe the atmosphere of the shop? Can you explain what you wanted to get out of the ambiance of the shop?
It was all about the feeling of raw energy, a sophistication of rawness. Although at the same time we wanted to create a natural feeling warm space too.
How do you research materials? What would your favourite type of materials be?
I am a very sensual person in the sense that I really love to touch things. A lot of people must only see photographs of the clothing but to me the actual touch and feel of the pieces is essential to my design work. It is actually quite rare that that designers spend time caring and nurturing the time spent on deciding which fabrics to use. I really enjoy going into archives of fabrics and researching as much as possible.
Do you feel that you have a fetishistic relationship to materials? Are you interested in fetish?
Materials can make me both very happy and sad. They definitely affect my moods. I go very deep into my research and relationship to materials but I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a fetish although fetishes do interest me in their direct and absolute attention to one thing.
What are your feelings about tattoos?
I personally don’t have any tattoos but I love how poetic and beautiful they can be. They are obviously such a strong statement, but for me as a designer I feel that the choice of materials and clothes you put against your skin is also a statement. Obviously you can change your clothes though, but I still think that it is important. I don’t like to see tattoos as decoration and I couldn’t say that I had any respect for people who wore tattoos as pure decoration. I love this idea though about being able to draw your life on to your skin.
What fashion media are you interested in?
The media platforms give young designers new opportunities, which is fantastic. Having a new way to communicate your ideas is always a good thing and having a space to do that is great.
You are quite present online.
As a young person it is virtually impossible not to be present in the virtual world. We actually do a lot of our research online nowadays, especially through blogs.
Are you planning on opening a new shop?
Without saying too much, hopefully we are. We are looking into it being in the US. It has been a challenge but a very rewarding one and I do look forward to creating another space to house our environment soon.
The Damir Doma shop
can be found at:
DAMIR DOMA STORE
54 RUE FAUBOURG