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Damir Doma Interview in Paper Planes 4 - by Monica Zafra Mata

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Damir Doma Interview in Paper Planes 4 - by Monica Zafra Mata

Post by xyz on Wed May 15, 2013 2:48 am

Damir Doma Interview in Paper Planes 4 - by Monica Zafra Mata

Hi, Damir. How are you doing?
Fine, thanks.

So how come after 3 years of doing menswear collections, you’ve decided to launch a womenswear collection?
I always wanted to do it, but it was much easier to start with men because I’m a man, and basically I design clothes for myself. Also it’s because I was assisting Dirk Schoenberger and Raf Simons before starting on my own stuff, and for me it was easier to start with something I already knew. Anyway, it was the right time to start the womenswear collection, because I don’t want to be just a menswear designer. If you want to build a fashion house, you need to cover menswear and womenswear.

Which designers are an inspiration for you?
I have always been inspired by Armani – his shapes and lines – and also by Miyake and Helmut Lang.

What was the inspiration for the collection?
It wasn’t easy at the beginning. I took some pieces from my menswear collection and reshaped them because I needed something to start from, but I’ve changed them for the next collection because I don’t want to do unisex. The shapes are more feminine now, and I’m also thinking about bringing more structure into the men’s side. At the moment my inspiration comes from my girlfriend – I’m doing the clothes for her. I normally start off by gathering images and things that trigger something in me, feelings and colors…and I stick them up on a big board, which just grows and grows. I’m a feeling designer. It is obvious that both my collections are going to have the same spirit. I am not someone who creates a concept then builds something around it, like Raf, for example. Raf has a concept and if you see him and his collection it’s like they’re two different worlds. I develop my own fabrics in Italy with Lyria for the different volumes and shapes…

You need to build up your own identity. All of the major women’s fashion houses already have one; you must have one, surely…
Yes – but it takes you years. Women’s fashion is so crowded; there are so many labels; too much shopping…

Yes, but everyone wants do design for women.
I know, because women’s fashion is where the money is. That’s where you can cover your costs, and that’s what it’s all about in this crazy business. It’s very emotional – there’s no other business where you would invest your money for such a small return. You’d just say, “Fuck it” (Laughs). In fact it is so emotional that people in the big houses will just throw all their money into a small collection, but at the end of the day they still have to cover their own costs, so that’s why you make the money with womenswear collections. That’s the long-term plan for all of us, otherwise you just can’t do fashion shows. I’d say that [sic] is almost no one, except maybe Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, who actually make money out of their clothing, and these days even they are selling a lot of shoes and bags. Do you really think Balenciaga makes money from the clothing?

I don’t think so. And in men’s fashion, that potential just isn’t there.

I think it’s also because there was a long period of time when men’s fashion was completely like… dead… and now it’s flowing again, and it’s really good because there used to be nothing…
Yes, it is interesting. I also think that the atmosphere during men’s fashion week is better than during women’s. It is lighter, easier, but in a positive way. Everyone is cool, everyone’s open to things; there’s a lot of communication… Things are much more open during men’s week. During women’s week it’s like everybody’s in a hurry.

And you can spend the money on a perfume line, on a shoe line…
That’s what holds the whole business together. Also, the magazines need advertisers, and all of that kind of thing comes from the bags and perfumes, which is absolutely ridiculous while we’re all making this huge effort. That’s what I’m saying: it’s all about emotions. We really go to a lot of trouble…

You had your own perfume, didn’t you?
Yes, but it was only a project. I don’t even have it myself anymore, because it sold out in a month.

They only did a limited edition – two or three thousand bottles – and didn’t bring it out it [sic] again. It’s very sad because we spent all that money, and developing a perfume is extremely expensive, and then they don’t use it again. Because they do a new group of designers each year.

Are you thinking about doing a new one?
I would love to. I think creating a perfume is such a great experience, not just for designers but for all human beings. I was working with a perfumer from New York, and I kind of wrote a story for him, and he made the scent from my story. So it’s really a lot fo fun; it’s just great that you can create your own perfume. But it’s complicated for a label; you have to be very big to do perfume. There are also other examples, like Victor & Rolf; I don’t think they make any money from their collection, they just have to do the collection to sell the perfume.

Comme des Garçons is the best example of that.
But Comme des Garçons is my business role model. If I’m thinking about the business and how we should do things, I always look at Comme des Garçons, because to me they are the only ones who manage to maintain a really, really strong image – actually the strongest in the whole market – and do so much cheesy stuff and it doesn’t hurt their image. I have friends in Germany who have nothing to do with fashion, and they’ve got a Comme des Garçons wallet, and if you ask them what Comme des Garçons is, they don’ t know! (Laughs) They’ve never heard of it, and they do not know who Rei Kawakubo is, which is fantastic. What they did in the perfume business is just amazing, because the scents are the best; they do the best perfumes in really cool packaging and the price is OK, too. I think they now have about 50 different scents, and five years ago they only had a couple. And they do it in such a clever way, because they do not invest all the money in special flacons.

Yes, it is really cool.
Yes, it is cool.

What do you think about Zara, H&M etc.?
I think that what they are doing is good. Of course they copy, but I wouldn’t be angry if I saw a copied piece hanging there, because that means that someone who can’t afford my clothing or stuff from other high-end designers can buy something similar there, and that also teaches the general public how to dress. I also launched a second line called Silent, which is reasonably priced because I don’t have to develop fabrics especially for that collection.

As I told you before, every edition of the magazine is inspired by a song; this time it’s Back to Black by Amy Winehouse. Do you know the song?
I’m sorry, I’ve never heard it.

But I’m sure you know Amy Winehouse. What do you think of her?
I think she’s got a great voice, but she takes too many drugs and drinks too much.

What kind of music are you listening to these days?
I’m listening to a lot of classical music like Wagner, but I also really like Nick Cave, and I listened to a lot of Hip Hop when I was younger.

I also wanted to ask you about your project with DJ Hell and Malcom Pate…
Yes, it was something I did for the Milan fashion week, and it had huge projections in a gallery – something like these walls; three by four meters in 200 square meters of space. It was all about projecting the scent of the collection, about fluidity, humanity very much about instincts…

I saw it and I really liked it. Do you want to go on doing videos?
I’ve been doing videos since the beginning. I also collaborated with another guy called Alessandro Tinelli, and I think it’s great way [sic] of putting your image across; you can do much more than you can in a photo. These days it’s so easy to post it on the Internet and on blogs, so it is really good and it costs much less than a fashion show. But I don’t believe that it’ll replace fashion shows because I know that Gareth Pugh has been doing it for tow [sic] or three seasons now, and everybody think’s it’s something new, but it isn’t, becauses you have videos like this by Armani from the 80s and 90s. There have always been image videos; they’re different now because we’re dealing with different things, but they’ve always been there. But to me, fashion shows are the only way to get really close to an audience; you have this ten minute block, and you only have that special feeling for those ten minutes. You can’t get it back and it’s all about creating the right energy in the right space; the right music and everything else has to mesh together. And that’s where I can try to make you part of my dream – because to me the fashion show is the dream I had about the collection.

Yes. At a fashion show you’re really there and you can feel the atmosphere…
That’s right, and in a video you can’t. You can’t feel, you can’t see the fabrics… but I do think it’s a very cool thing to use additionally. It helps a lot, because fashion shows for women’s collections are so expensive, especially in Paris. You have so many costs in terms of models and stuff like that. I don’t think you even have to pay for the models in New York; they get some clothes, or 300 bucks here and there, but in Paris you pay at least €1000 for even the worst fashion week model, because in France everything is regulated. Even that. So imagine you need 25 girls; that’s €25000 even without the casting director, and you can’t get a girl without a casting director, so it gets ridiculous. And it’s much the same for the menswear collections.

What do you think about Facebook, Twitter and all those social networks?
I think it’s a good thing for communicating as a company, and it’s free. You can reach a lot of people with it, and you can reach the right people…

Do you think so?
Yes, because they are interested in your work. They connect with you; you can reach them very easily by posting. And you can educate them; tell them about all the things you’re doing, where you are. There didn’t use to be any way of doing these things, so it’s something else we can use, on top of what we’ve got. Before you could only communicate by doing your shows, or books, which it [sic] was too expensive…

And the press?
It’s sort of the same, but the press is something you can’t control. You have to be very passive with the press; you can’t really tell them what to write.

That’s true.
You can guide them a little, but you can’t choose what you do or don’t want to hear. With Facebook it’s much easier. You can reach people every day. I think it’s a good thing, and we are just at the beginning of it all. I am curious about what’s going to happen in the future, I am sure it is going to be a platform for sales, too, you know. People will buy and sell stuff over the community…

And what do you think about a lot of people selling online?
I understand a lot of things about this business, but online business is still something I don’t really understand – not even online distributors. And what’s it going to be like in the future? It’s difficult for a label, because there are a lot of good online retailers at the moment, but you also have to watch out that you don’t have too many, because they could take all your customers from the shops, and it’s very difficult to get that same feeling. We have Luisa Via Roma, The Corner… but now every shop has an online store, so it’s getting ridiculous. To be honest, I think that in the long term, if you’re a label and you want to run a business, you have to open your own shops like everyone has always done. The best example is Rick Owens, because at the moment they’ve reached a certain level, and they can’t get any higher because every shop is buying so much of the collection, and the point comes where they’re over-distributed; so they become aware that at this moment in time they have to open as many shops as possible, because they are hot right now and they can find partners very easily. At a certain point the big labels will sell their stuff direct to customers, because they make so much more money than selling it through a shop. That’s what I think.

You have a small but very beautiful shop here in Paris. Do you plan to open a new one?
Yes, the store is below our offices, and it’s really small. We make the best of it, but I think it’s very important to move up to the next level and open a proper shop, because communicating your image is the main thing and it’s very difficult for a label to really communicate in a multibrand store, like Atelier NY, for example, which is one of the most beautiful stores in the world…

I agree, I know the store…
Yes, but looking at it from a label’s point of view, it’s all about Atelier. When you enter the store, everything is black.

So you aren’t communicating with clients, and they’re seeing something very similar from all the labels, so it’s more about the shop than the label. That’s why it’s very important to have your own shop.

Do you think that everything is black because of a trend? I mean black was and always has been a strong color, and everybody wears a lot of black. Even you; you’re almost always dressed in black…
I dress mostly in black because if I dressed in colors I would feel as if I was giving away too much information, which I don’t want to do. As you see in the showroomd, we do have color but we hang it separately because if we hung it all together the people who don’t like color would be so annoyed that they wouldn’t even pick out the thing they like. So I think that there will always be two groups of people: the more fashion-conscious ones, who want color, and the buyer who buys the same style every season.

The song is from 2006. Do you have any memories from that time?
2006 was the year that I started. It was a very happy year; there is a point when you finish your studies and you’re working as an assistant, and you never imagin that you’ll ever do anything like this. It’s like a dream, and it was just a fantastic year for me; a year of no thought or doubts – you know, you’re so busy with yourself (laughs) working all the time and going crazy and… it was a happy year!

How do you feel living in Paris? I can imagine it wasn’t easy if you think back to the place where you grew up, and then Antwerp which is also a small city, and then… PARIS!
It’s really intense! I mean, I’ve been to a lot of big cities, but to me Paris feels especially intense. Moving to Le Marais changed that a little bit, because my office is about 200 meters from my apartment, so it feels more like a village; you go to the café, you always do the same things. But at the beginning, when I lived in Saint Germain, it took me about forty minutes to get to the office, and then forty minutes back again. So it can be very intense, especially for foreigners, who aren’t really welcome here. But I also have to say I made the choice and I don’t speak the language – which I actually quite like, because although it can be very annoying not speaking the language it also means you don’t have to listen to all the rubbish that people talk, and people do talk a lot of rubbish!

Why Paris and not New York or any other fashion center?
The decision to come to Paris was a business decision, because I think Paris is the only city that can take my image, my creation. I mean, for me London is only experimental fashion; the people who have the potential to come to Paris come. And Milan … can you imagine my collection in Milan?

No, not really…
So obviously I had to come to Paris; there wasn’t such a wide choice. I mean you have Milan and Paris, and Milan wasn’t right for me.

Milan is very business-centered isn’t it?
Yes, it is. It’s very clean, very…

Not so much the creative side…
Right. And I think that people expect different things from Milan than they do [sic].

Yes – to me they are completely different…
And London fashion, to me is… I really hate London fashion. (laughs) I just looked at the calendar the other day, and they have about fifteen shows every day, and out of those fifteen shows you’ve heard of maybe one label. Even if you’re interested, you only know one label. So it’s a newcomer’s fashion week. But it’s not even newcomers, these are mostly students, and they all get the chance to show their stuff. I think they need to be much more selective. Not everyone needs to do a fashion show, because most people build up these high expectations, and if they do a fashion show in London they suddenly think they are great fashion designers, but they still have a very long way to go to really build up their business. I’ve been doing it for almost four years now, and I know I haven’t really achieved anything yet. If I stop tomorrow, I’m right back to square one. And people have to realize that; you can’t stop thinking, you can’t stop working…

And do you think that London is really more outrageous?
No. That’s London’s image. That’s what London is trying to be. But to me it’s all very calculating, because creativity does not just mean being ‘crazy’. Creativity is a bit more than that. You need direction; you need structure; you need a voice and you need to have something to say… London sometimes gets these things mixed up; they confuse creation for creation’s sake with being really creative. I don’t think they’re the same thing. For example, I think Lanvin has one of the most creative collections anywhere, and I don’t think it’s ‘crazy’ at all; it’s all very structured – the detail, the color and all those kinds of things…

Don’t you think that London is more experimental?
They can be experimental because they aren’t under any pressure to make money. At the end of the day, in Paris even if there is a lot of creativity, everything is wearable, you know?

I think there it’s more risky to show a collection there [sic] which has fifteen different looks. Paris is cool; if you succeed in Paris, you’ll be successful everywhere.
Yes, but it’s not quite like that. You have to work to make it to Paris, whereas you don’t have to work to make it to London; you finish school and you do a fashion show…

That’s true…
Not everybody is ready for their own fashion show. You have to reach a certain level and invest a lot of money to do a show here. And that’s the difference for me: London is the ‘pre-Paris’ level and most of the time… well in the last few years some of them have been staying over there until they reach the level they need, and then they come over here, so it’s difficult to compare.

It’s like a completely different thing: it’s like, New York is all about networking, Milan is business, and Paris is creativity. London is craziness, of course…
But I can’t understand how buyers go to London for five days, and they buy one label, and then the next year they drop it, and buy a different one. They don’t do any real business over there, and that’s the problem. As a label, having ten shops means nothing, having twenty shops means nothing. I mean you can’t even finance yourself with twenty shops! That’s the problem they have: that you have to distinguish between craziness and just having fun, which you should do at school, not later on. And they need to think more professionally. I think that is what English designers lack in most cases. But I don’t believe it’s their fault; it’s the fault of the system. It’s a system that gives them the chance to be a fashion designer far too early. I can understand shops looking for new designers, but there needs to be a balance, because there are a lot of designers who are suffering and fighting for that.

What about your future plans?
It means a lot to me that we started something new last year, and we need to establish it, and get the process right. I want to expand the womenswear collection and the Silent (basic line) collection because it’s good for the market: and those are the plans.

Well… This has been quite a long interview!
Now you have to choose the good bits (Laughs)…

Thank you very much – and good luck with your womenswear collection!
Thank you!

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