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DAMIR DOMA

Interview by Filep Motwary

Damir Doma is not famous. He refuses to follow trends and avoids seeking attention for its own sake. Unlike most young, tailoring-obsessed menswear designers working today, Doma sculpts a soft, simple, yet imposing silhouette. More than simply making clothes, he is quietly sketching out the shape of a new kind of man. Croatian-born and German-raised, Doma studied fashion in Munich and then Berlin, and graduated in 2004 with honours for best collection. He then moved to Antwerp, where it did not take long for him to attract the attention of Raf Simons, whose work had exerted a profound influence over Doma’s own. Under Simons’ mentorship, Doma was encouraged to develop an intensely personal vision of masculinity; for him, fashion design is a means of exploring the fragile, ephemeral nature of the body. Despite its conceptual origins, Doma’s clothing is beautifully wearable, balancing the solemnity of heavy textiles with a feeling of freedom and fluidity. He showed his first menswear collection in 2007 and is about to launch a womenswear line next month, at Paris Fashion Week. But, he says, his eponymous label has never really aimed for commercial success – it’s actually “a huge art project”.

Motwary:

There is something medieval about all your collections so far. Your hero is somewhere between the lonely Bedouin figure and a Crusader warrior.

Doma:

I have no set reference. I refer not to a certain period in time, nor to a certain character. My inspiration comes more from a contemplative background. I’m doing all I can to protect the body by creating all this layering. The clothes are soft, they are following the shape of the body. I want to be sensitive! At the same time I must keep a certain rawness.

Motwary:

Is it consciously done?

Doma:

Everything I do is entirely self-conscious. I work on one image at a time, in total focus, because there are certain classics I want to create. I am always working within the same overarching concept. I try to exercise a certain relevance in my work. I believe that without relevance there is no sense in it at all.

Motwary:

Your work has a poetic feel. Are you a romantic at heart?

Doma:

I’m in love with my clothes and the images that they create. I’m very emotional about my work. I guess you can feel the emotions in my clothes.

Motwary:

So what are your true origins?

Doma:

Somewhere in the visual arts. This label is a huge art project! I am chasing after my identity, or sense of it. I am inevitably running on my deepest emotions and I am trying to convert them into images, images of people out there in my clothes. I am a dreamer and I want the people to dream.

Motwary:

Do you identify personally with the silhouette you create for each season?

Doma:

Everything I create is 100% me – I could never create something I would not wear myself.

Motwary:

Is Damir Doma, the label, a fixed team on payroll, or a cluster of freelancers?

Doma:

When it comes to creation it’s just me. And around me there are quite a lot of people involved. Most of whom are here to stay.

Motwary:

You are very young. It impresses me that your work is already so well respected. The fashion world moves quickly, though, and it can be vicious. Are you ever concerned you may be thrown out of orbit before you have the chance to explore every inspiration?

Doma:

I believe fashion is about zeitgeist, fashion is zeitgeist – which means that I have to be super-sensitive. To feel what’s going on around me. Every now and then you’ve got to capsize your conceptual bearing and try to see things from the outside in. Yes, I believe in relevance and yes, I am always acutely aware of the factor of time in fashion.

Motwary:

What are your morals?

Doma:

The number one thing is that you stay honest and are always true to yourself – which is easier said than done. I guess it helps to know who you are and what you want from life. It’s crucial to stay real. Be real!

Motwary:

How do you go about establishing a niche in the huge and intimidating world of fashion?

Doma:

The most important thing is to have a vision. Vision equals long-term point of view. This is crucial. It’s important to have the bigger picture in view and not just be working from one season to another.

Motwary:

What would you say are the key elements for successful menswear design?

Doma:

I don’t know! Pockets? My teacher was always telling me, “Men love pockets.” I guess I proved her wrong. I cannot talk about “successful” and “elements” and “menswear” except to say there’s no such thing. It’s the vision that counts.

Motwary:

You are one of the first designers to show your work as both a catwalk and video presentation. What can a film do for a collection?

Doma:

A film can show you different perspectives of a collection – its facets. A film takes place in three dimensions. What a film cannot do is replace the catwalk! A good show is full of emotions – special moments. It’s a precious moment for the audience. You can’t catch that on film.

Motwary:

How do you see technology in fashion?

Doma:

I reject it! Clothes are super-personal. The materials are so close to your skin. I don’t want synthetic stuff on me. I strive to keep it as natural as possible.

Motwary:

What do you see in your future?

Doma:

I like to manifest my ideas into a physical reality. I hope to do this for a long time. I just hope there will always be people around to share in my ideas and work with me on new things.

Motwary:

Madeleine Vionnet said that “the creative process is arduous and almost always thankless. A true creation is necessarily and naturally laborious. Whoever creates must labour and suffer.” Do you ever feel like that?

Doma:

I agree! Creation is suffering. You’ve got to dig very deep in your soul. Sometimes this can be a painful thing. Sometimes you have doubts and you have to fight with yourself. Sometimes you have bad days and you just get on with it and go on. You always have to push and push and push!

Interview originally published in Dapper Dan, Issue 01, March 2010.

Portrait photo by Filep Motwary © for Joyce.com

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SHORT BIO

DAMIR DOMA is a Parisian fashion brand founded in 2006 by the designer Damir Doma and Paper Rain. The Croatian-born designer grew up surrounded by toiles in his mother’s atelier in Germany and later studied fashion in Munich and Berlin, where he graduated in 2004. After gaining experience in the ateliers of Antwerp designers Raf Simons and Dirk Schönberger, he relocated to Paris to join Paper Rain in 2007.

DAMIR DOMA launched the first menswear collection on the official schedule for the Spring Summer 2008 season, and three years later showed the first women’s prét-à-porter collection for Autumn Winter 2010. The DAMIR DOMA collections can be found in leading luxury and avant-garde boutiques across the globe. In late 2012 the DAMIR DOMA Paris boutique opened in the courtyard of 54 Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré.