There are countless designers in Paris just waiting for you to pass by their avant garde boutiques, adding a new name to your “fashion address book”. Just stand in the Marais and that discovery is within 500 meters!
It’s easy to get lost among these brands, even worse, be confused and risk wearing the same bag as the next girl on the street. It’s smarter to be a maverick shopper, and own a highly personalized piece of the fashion pie. Originality and personality have always been the pursuit of stylish women. So meet Chinese-French designer Yama Ko. I feel so pleasantly surprised to greet in her atelier.
There are more and more Chinese designers starting to shine in French fashion circles and Yama is at the top of the tree. She is committed to designing innovative fashion accessories, from chic clutch bags inspired by music to delicate earrings. She established her brand YAMA KO in Paris in 2014.
Yama’s creative spark hints at her colorful past life. At university in China she started an all-girl rock band, where she was the lead singer. They sang in bars and at festivals. From rock singer to designer in Paris, Yama continues to pursue her dreams. Music is her memory, and it is precisely because of her love of music, that Yama created her first bag and named it the "Mixtape".
Perfectionism has inspired Yama to continue to excel in her designs. Her focus on detail is clear – right down to her search for the finest materials, to her hand-made construction. Before she produced the bag, she spent years sourcing leathers that were chemical-free and environmentally friendly base materials.
When she made the "Mixtape", Yama achieved a breakthrough, with a composite material that forms the basis of this clutch. She covers it with the finest French calfskin. The music element - which is imprinted on the design – tells of her origins in music. It definitely scores a 100 for me, for the creativity and purity of design.
What inspires her designs? "I always carry a little notebook because inspirations pop into my head anytime, anywhere," she said. "Suddenly I just need to find a piece of paper and to draw it ..."
Every piece of the YAMA KO collection takes from one week to one month to complete. This is Yama’s concept – perfection, individualism and originality. Yama's designs show both creativity and practicality as she constantly strives for the best materials and smartest technology. For example, her new "Minimaliste" handbag looks spare but it has a personalized handle and the bag’s capacity is practical. Her wallets and card cases with cutouts of skeletons, stars and eyes are a must have for any cool girl.
In addition to designing handbags Yama is also works in visual display. She has designed installations for Paris’s top luxury brands, including Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Lancel, Dior and Saint Laurent. Yes, their window displays are often the work of Yama.
"I grew up loving painting, design and I have always been attracted to novelty," said Yama. Those principals still determine her work today as she focuses on developing new composites and refining the art of craftsmanship. “I always want to show ‘the new’ to people. It makes me happy.”
In a world swept up on a wave of fast fashion, the originality and handicraft heritage in Yama’s designs seem so much more desirable for their enduring beauty. This young designer has embraced the values of her own personality in her pursuit of perfection. YAMA KO is the embodiment of “real luxury” that lasts - and this is why I love this brand.
Photographs: Brandie Raasch; Story: Wenqi Zou