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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: David Koma

After his stunning show in the BFC Tent on Monday 20th September 2010 I gave David Koma a bit of a grilling about his use of python... and discovered just how charming this new talent is.

Written by Amelia Gregory

LFW David Koma Maria del Carmen Smith
David Koma by Maria del Carmen Smith.

Last Monday’s shows opened with a double whammy from David Koma and Holly Fulton, which I shall review in separate blogs.

LFW David Koma by Maria del Carmen Smith
David Koma by Maria del Carmen Smith.

We wrote about David Koma as far back as his longer named incarnation when he graduated from his Central Saint Martins BA way back in 2007. His rise in popularity since then has been unstoppable, clothing many high profile celebrities including modern day sweetheart Cheryl Cole – in a heavily embellished dress for the X Factor. It was an instant talking point.

His modern take on glamour owes much to an eclectic life, equally split between three countries where David has spent appreciable amounts of time and of which this 24 year old regards himself as equal citizen. He was born and spent his early years in Georgia before moving to St Petersburg to study classical drawing (and which is where he presumably met his Russian wife). He then relocated again to the UK, where he studied at Saint Martins under the expert tutelage of Louise Wilson, who he idolises.

LFW David Koma by Maria del Carmen Smith
David Koma by Maria del Carmen Smith.

For S/S 2011 his collection was inspired by The Mariinsky Theatre of Saint Petersburg, and memories of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. A series of pleated skater dresses in sugary colours moved swiftly through abstract monochrome tailoring, shades of lemony yellow and onto gold party pieces, all accessorised by sky high platforms and big metal knuckledusters courtesy of a collaboration with Mawi.

David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
All photography by Amelia Gregory.

In official parlance this translates pretty much thus: Ballet silhouettes were combined with the more graphic shapes of cubist artist Fernand Leger to explore contradictions of fragility with physical and emotional strength.

David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
One cleverly cut dress even had me fooled that a model’s waist could be smaller than seems physically possible: I did an instant double take when I looked back at this photo.

David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory

I loved this collection, so was a bit discombobulated when I discovered that David had used copious python skin in his show. Where does python come from? Were they caught in the wild or farmed? It’s not an industry I know much about, so when I ran into David at his New Gen stand I decided to give him a bit of a grilling.

David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory

A quick question turned into a half an hour chat during which David was utterly charming the entire time. He’s determinedly upbeat about life and feels blessed to do what he loves the most; his precocious rise surely the result of much hard work as well as obvious talent.

David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory

So, back to that python skin. It comes from an accredited factory farm – for pythons and crocodiles are farmed much as mink is. I feel quite uncomfortable about this – I am okay with the use of leather for outer clothing and shoes, safe in the knowledge that it is very much the waste product of a meat industry that is unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.

Somerset House SS2011 David Koma
David Koma at Somerset House.

But I don’t buy into the idea that it’s ethically okay to farm animals purely to provide us with luxury goods – and no matter how accredited a farm might be on paper there are always going to be corners cut in reality on the factory floor. David’s take on it is that he is against fast consumerism, and therefore wants to create luxury garments that will be treasured for a long time. For this to be possible he wants to chose the best possible materials available – and if that means stripping a snake then so be it – that they will live on in a beautiful garment is enough for him. And he does not feel that fake fur or leather is a particularly ethical substitute, a fact with which I tend to agree. Another fair point he makes is that he would rather buy from a reputable farm than encourage any kind of black market. But this surely begs the question, how is a black market encouraged – except by the use of python leather in luxury must-have items? If you are able to remove questions of provenance from your mind all that gold python is very very beautiful.

David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Knuckledusters from Mawi.

David also admitted that he is considering the use of fur in his next collection, but as we parted he said I had made him think a bit more about this. Whether my words have had any effect remains to be seen but I really appreciate that he didn’t balk under my questioning and seems genuinely to be interested in engaging in the origin of his materials: he’s a very talented and increasingly influential designer and I hope he’ll make educated decisions in the future. In the meantime enjoy our pictures… and forget about any real live snakes in cages if you can.

David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
David Koma Gold Python on White By Fiona M Chapelle
David Koma “Gold Python on White” by Fiona M Chapelle.

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