Joyce Darkoh Interviewed by Nord Magazine

A great brand feature and interview with the designer in Nord Magazine.

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N: Nord
JD: Joyce Darkoh

N: Where does your career begin as a designer?

JD: I believe it is in my genes and inherited. Almost all of my cousins from my father’s side are in the tailoring business. Aside from it being in my genes my career also began for selfish reasons, I think there is nothing more appealing than seeing a young man sporting his suit and I want to add my knowledge and passion to this new and emerging trend in menswear.

N: What have been some of your biggest accomplishments thus far?

JD: One of my major accomplishments has been bridging the gap between traditional suit making and presenting a runway collection at New York Fashion Week. It was a big stretch because I tend to design classics, and a classic jacket only allows to many variations. I have embraced adding patterns and colors, and still, it often seems as if we have seen it all. I think I managed to leave traditional elements in my suits and still add new dimensions without leaning too far out of the box.

N: With many fashion weeks happening all over the world why did you decide to showcase your collection at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week?

JD: To be honest, it was the last thing on my mind. It first occurred to me when Susan Liebesman from B2B Management invited me to one of the offsite MB NYFW shows she was producing for Marlon Gobel. It coincidently happened during Nemo (the blizzard), and fortunately I had gotten stuck in New York due to flight cancellations and I chose to attend because there was nothing else to do. This tells you how much I associated my work with what was going on in the Fashion world. Now, marlon is a genius when it comes to reconstructing and redefining suits. It was during the time when a little revolution in menswear occurred led by street bloggers like Street Etiquette, and Hip Hop artists like Chris Brown or Nas all started wearing suits. Jay Z was rapping about Tom Ford and Justin Timberlake did a whole song about suits. It was fascinating and I felt that this was the best time to put DARKOH in the mix. A few weeks after the show I called Susan, and it went on from there…

N: What were some of the hardest struggles you had to face as a designer reaching up to this point in your career?

JD: The hardest struggle is to overcome the moments when you feel doubt in your creativity and your work. There are so many menswear designers out there, how do you stand out from the rest so that your product sells? For a whole year, we invested every dollar into establishing a brand with a recognition value. We approached celebrities, editors, and were happy over any coverage or placement that raised attention. now, we are on a level where we can focus on sales because people understand the DARKOh Man. It’s a long and winding road, but we are to be determined to be more than an e-commerce run of the mill company.

N: Why did you choose to design men’s wear over women’s wear?

JD: I just love men in suits. I see a guy and I mentally dress him in different suits within minutes. It doesn’t work with me and women. She’d be in jeans, t-shirt, and Chucks all the time.

N: How has studying in Germany influenced the way you create?

JD: There is a certain work ethic and aesthetic that is typical German and it is hard to find in other countries. I am very critical with what I do. I point out small things where others ask, what is her problem? For example, press releases after my shows would take weeks before being released if it was in my hand because I would get all images photo-shopped first. I always want things to be done 200 percent so that I can still have the 100 percent if only half goes right. I know I get on people’s nerves but I think in the end they appreciate my nerdish way.

N: Tell us about some of the unique techniques you incorporate into your designs.

JD: I often try to mix at least two colors or fabric types in a suit. But I don’t like to dye fabrics; I like to add them as seamed-in partitions. We did this for our Blocked collection. It is easy to add colors and lines on a suit but the true art is embedding them in the pattern. I am currently working on a Birdseye patchwork project with a few influential bloggers using different shades of the finest Birdseye fabric from a mill in Norwich, UK. I basically reconstruct a suit out of the pieces.

N: What do you feel will be the next major risk in menswear?

JD: There’s an interesting trend going on right now, where the line between masculinity and femininity is getting very blurred. Look at the FW15/16 collection by Fucci…I found it very challenging and yet taken a bit too far, even though I’m a big fan of their menswear. And then look at models like Elliott Sailors, whose look I truly adore and who gets booked by both menswear and womenswear designers because of her androgynous look. I would love to shoot with her one day. But I am a bit too scared to speculate about the next possible level…

N: When someone buys a piece of your collection, what do you want them to leave with feeling?

JD: I don’t want them to feel as if they have changed or “stepped up their game” as they say. I’d rather want them to feel complete and comfortable. I would never talk a person into wearing a suit if they have felt uncomfortable wearing one before. You can see and sense it in their behavior and walk, and my suits cannot do any magic to change that. But if you pick up your morning newspaper in your suits the same way you would pick it up wearing your pajama then you are definitely a DARKOH Man.

N: What defines you as a designer of the next generation?

JD: I sometimes feel like an educator or rather an ambassador coming from an ancient world who is trying to remind people of lost values and skills. If you have ever watched the documentary “Men of the Cloth” than you understand and appreciate the art of suit tailoring. It doesn’t have to take days to make a good quality suit; the elements that account for quality can be transferred into the industrial manufacturing, but the key is to figure out these important aspects of suit making. My pattern maker who has worked with many Savile Row tailors and designers, taught me all these little secrets that give a retail suit a similar fit of a bespoke suit. needless to say, it can never reach that level, but it can come pretty close. I think it is so important that our youth understands and values quality, in my case, learning the difference between real wool and polyester and its advantage, to begin with. It’s part of the whole suit game.

N: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

JD: Actually yes. It is true that I am a rare species of women that focuses on men suits only, but there are so many men designers who do womenswear only and it is ok; so why is it funny that some people wonder why I only do menswear. It shouldn’t matter what gender the designer is, even though it is probably still unusual to see women entering a men’s domain. Then again, it is not about me as the creator but about the product that defines the brand. It’s really the suits that belong in the bright light and that is why we try to keep the people behind DARKOH quite neutral or should I say genderless. Therefore, I can say that this interview is one of a chosen few. But definitely a pleasure.