Croatian-born designer Damir Doma skyrocketed to fashion fame after his moody, minimalist menswear collection debuted in 2008 to rave reviews. A protoge of Raf Simons, Doma proved he was equally adept with womenswear last fall, when he presented a collection of similarly clean, uncluttered silhouettes for ladies. Now approaching four years in business, we caught up with Doma to hear how his approach to womenswear differs from the men's, and which lessons from Simons he brought to his own business.
Both your menswear and womenswear collections are frequently described as "sensitive." What does that mean to you?
When I talk about my collection being sensitive, I actually mean soft, refined and subtle. I believe it's something you need to feel with your hands and fingers more than seeing it with your eyes.
Layering has always been an important aspect of your designs. How do you approach it each season so that it feels fresh?
Layering really allows me to play with colors and structures in a complex way. At the same time, it's just the way that I dress myself, so it's what I know. I guess there are really endless ways to layer your clothes!
What's the most challenging thing about designing for women versus men?
I design the men's [collection] for myself, which makes things very clear and easy. When I work on my women's collection I need to envision the woman it's made for. The fact that I can't wear the clothes myself give me much more freedom and the possibility for change. Technically speaking, the woman's body is much more complicated than a man's, so I need to be more precise and I need to be very aware of what I want.
Do you consider yourself a "minimalist"?
In some ways I would say yes, but then in other things not at all! I prefer to cancel out everything that is not really needed. But at the same time I love being experimental with my materials and combinations. I guess it's my German education--fighting my slavic roots!
What's the most important thing you learned while working for Raf Simons?
I'd say the importance of a clear message and the focus on your work.
Who is the Damir Doma woman, and how has she evolved since you launched?
Since the beginning I created my woman out of my "man's rib," so to speak. By now, though, she has her own identity. Generally my vision for men and women is ambiguous; I'm definitely not offering a traditional idea of women versus men. I want my woman to show strength and personality, and she should never cover her fragility and sensuality. My man is very natural and sensitive, too; somebody who doesn't cover his feminine side. There is quite a lot of criss-crossing between them, so that's why it was not so hard to form the women's collection out of the men's.