Located in the heart of Barcelona – in carrer Ausiàs March, 37, to be precise –, Darial is the new shopping hotspot that every high-fashion consumer should know about. The store is within Casa Tomàs Roger, a majestic 19th-century building, and it expands over 1.600 square metres turned into a clothing and books shop, a library, an art gallery and even a restaurant – all of this, created by Djaba Diassamidze, who has also established his own atelier there. As the founder and fashion designer says: “The building was a rough diamond. We only had to polish it.” And he sure has.
Imagine a high-fashion shopping day in which you visit some of the most distinguished firms, go to a beautiful art gallery and then have lunch at a gourmet restaurant. Well, stop picturing yourself running around because you can do everything in Darial. Dries Van Notten, Raf Simons, Yohji Yamamoto, JW Anderson or Jil Sander are some of the renown brands selected by Dissamidze and Ignacio Carvajal – the Store Director. And as soon as the store strengthens its base and roots, there will be a selection of beauty products and homeware too.

But Darial doesn’t only offer garments and pieces of furniture; it also has a wide selection of books and magazines the readers can get inspired by and travel from the golden ages of glamour to contemporary days – among them, you will find METAL Magazine on its library’s mirrored shelves. Art is also in every corner, but more especially in the basement, where we find an art gallery space – “The idea is to be an open space for curators to create their own exhibitions”, explains Djaba.

Hungry for more? Le Léopard is the gourmet experience offered at Darial. A restaurant inspired by the classics of Luchino Visconti, decorated with red velvet sofas and details of golden leaves on the ceiling. Following Romain Fornell’s advise, the menu has everything from juicy meats to vegan options as well as classic and natural wines from Vila Viniteca.

It isn’t a surprise, then, that we were looking forward to visiting the store. Djaba and Darial’s team invited us to live the experience and get to know the space first-hand. So, after savouring every bite of a high-class breakfast and dreaming of some coats and pants hanging on my closet instead of on the store, Djaba received me to have an honest talk about facing challenges, designing a fashion collection at the age of 16, Barcelona’s light and the present and future of Darial.
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Djaba, how did your relationship with fashion begin? Why did you decide to work in this industry?
I never really decided to work in fashion because I don’t even consider it a profession, it’s a passion. I was kind of born with it. I mean, I never had to think, ‘What can I study?’ It was obvious. From a very young age, I was touching fabrics, observing how people were dressed, admiring fashion in itself. So, it’s a part of me. Later, I understood that it’s a profession and I went to school to get into the industry in a professional way.
So, in addition to being an almost innate passion, you did study fashion.
I started studying fashion; I didn’t finish though (laughs). I was constantly in a hurry to start my own firm. In fact, I started before school. I did my first collection at the age of 16. So, when I began fashion school, I had to study things I had already done. I saw it as a form of drawing out what I really wanted to do, and that is why it was a bit hard for me to stay in school.
That’s impressive. So after launching your first collection at the age of 16, life took a road full of twists and turns. How has your journey been like? How did you get to Barcelona?
I was doing my thing in Paris when I first came to Barcelona to visit a friend who was here spending some time. I just fell in love with the city. It is such a beautiful place, full of art and creative energy from people who want to create and design in any form of art. So, I thought that there was no better place to assemble all these people together and create a project.
“I considered it was a good option to start on a blank page in a city that is so inspiring and that, at the same time, gives you the chance to have more time to think, create and admire everything.”
What does the city have to offer that other places don’t?
Barcelona is a European city with a long history and it’s one of the jewels of the Mediterranean sea, which is very important in Western culture. And the light! The light is incredibly beautiful, it inspires me. It makes me want to create. Also, spaces are very important to me. My father is an architect and I have always wanted to relate my work to architecture somehow. So when we saw this beautiful neighbourhood and discovered this monumental place, I had no doubt. The building was abandoned in the 19th century and we found it exactly like it was left, but I saw so much potential in it.
So the light and the spaces are beautiful. However, Barcelona is not particularly known for being a business city like London, or at least, when it comes to fashion – especially for people coming from Paris like you…
I know, and we’ll go to Paris for sure! But I considered it was a good option to start on a blank page in a city that is so inspiring and that, at the same time, gives you the chance to have more time to think, create and admire everything. I want Darial to have a strong base before it grows internationally.
Darial has opened its doors recently at carrer Ausiàs March, 37. However, it’s not a recent project as you’ve been working on it for a few years already. For example, there was a first Darial pop-up store some time ago. So when did all begin? When was Darial born and what was its main purpose?
It all began when I first came to Barcelona and had this conversation with my friend as I told you. I wanted a space where other creative minds and I could express ourselves, so we decided to create the pop-up store as a dialogue with artist and designer Guillermo Santomà – he’s an amazing contemporary artist and the one who created the pop-up store. The idea of the pop-up was, ‘Let’s do an artwork which can also be a shop’. The main goal was creating, all together, a free space for art where there could be a store around the artwork. Also, the pop-up store was visually different from what Darial is now, and that was on purpose. I wanted to say, ‘This is temporary and then you will see what the real Darial looks like’.
When we started the physical store project, it was all very natural and organic. We began with where the profession comes from. We decided to have a library because books are always the origin of everything – they are the inspiration, the references. Then, the gallery is a place where all creative minds can express themselves. Also, the restaurant is a place where I love to spend time either having dinner or lunch, or even a coffee – in Paris, we take a coffee every hour, so I always stop in a café when I need to think (laughs). It’s my natural way of doing.
On the first Darial pop-up store – and that’s a very personal appreciation –, we might remember a more risky and bold clothes selection. We now see an aesthetic much more settled and sober. Is it because you are trying to make Darial approachable to Barcelona’s public or will you include more fashion-forward pieces as the store grows?
No, not at all! I think it comes with the collections because, actually, we have almost the same exact brands. So, from what I have seen, fashion has come to a new avant-garde during the past five years. Now, it is going on a more classic way of appreciating the fabric itself, the cut – which for me is the most important part because it is what makes me crazy about this profession. So, I think it is a wave on the mind of the fashion houses, it is about what they create. I am open to any kind of creativity as long as it is quality-wise and goes well with the aesthetic that I have in my mind. I’d say it is the evolution of brands with myself and our dialogue.
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You personally make the brands and clothes selection alongside with Ignacio Carvajal – the Store Director. What are the criteria of that choice? I mean, we can find a lot of pieces of Dries Van Noten and Yohji Yamamoto, who seem two of your favourite designers. Do you select according to your preferences or do you try to have a wide range? Can you talk about the buying process a little bit?
There are two steps in our buying process. I first select the brands I’d like to work with. Then, when it comes to the selection of specific pieces, Ignacio’s in charge. I also take part in the selection of menswear because it’s more personal and it’s an easier approach to me. In the case of womenswear, I’m less active on the selection for ethic reasons. I mean, as a womenswear designer, I can’t choose among my colleagues.
However, the main principle of the selection – which is the brief I give to the buyers – relies on the strengths of every brand. I want them to pick the pieces that make that brand special, strong or different. It can be knitwear for one brand and tailoring for the other, but I want their pieces to be presented as the designer showed them in the first place. I’m talking about the big pieces – what they call ‘show garments’ – which, for me, are the ones that make a house relevant. So, the selection is always a sort of tribute to the fashion houses.
Taking a look at the menswear, to me it looks a bit riskier and connected to urban fashion than the womenswear selection. Do you think there is more space for risk and experimentation in menswear right now?
When I started designing menswear, I found out that my designs were becoming very evening wear because that is basically my artistic expression. Thus, the designs were somehow extravagant and a bit eccentric. Also, I understood that I was creating a men’s collection but thinking on women who could borrow these pieces. So, yeah! I think that menswear is now more open to creativity and unexpected approaches.
There’s nothing like Darial in Barcelona, so congratulations! It’s a high-fashion store offering a breaking retail experience. In addition to fashion, art and lifestyle products, there are also a library, a restaurant and an impressive art gallery where you will be hosting exhibitions. Nevertheless, you stated that Darial is still growing and that you may extend the product range. What do you have in mind for the short-time future? And, how do you visualize the store in five years?
The first thing we are working on right now is the online website store – which will be a whole new experience in terms of online shopping – because we don’t want to be seen only as a local store. I think Darial is an open door to new customer experiences. I mean, every time I have a conversation with new creatives with whom we plan to do a collaboration, we want them to bring a new concept to the store, constantly providing new content but, at the same time, always respecting Darial’s style and essence. The main goal behind it is to create a new era – I know this sounds like a big sentence but we need to force an artistic change. And I believe this is a good start.
“We began with where the profession comes from. We decided to have a library because books are always the origin of everything – they are the inspiration, the references.”
There is definitely a piece of your soul all over the store. Every detail has been personally thought and handpicked by you, which gives the store an added value. Even though it is such a personal project, have you ever considered having business partners for the restaurant or the gallery, for instance?
Yes, it is a very personal project and I like to kind of control everything. At the same time, I can’t do it all on my own. For the restaurant, we already work as a collaboration because I need someone in charge of it as I’m not a restaurateur. Same happens with the gallery – I can’t do the job of a gallery owner, it is such a huge process…
…but with the gallery, for example, you will be the curator, won’t you?
I will be the curator of curators. The idea is to be an open space for curators to create their own exhibitions. I will be doing exhibitions myself as well. So, of course, I will be involved but I won’t create or gather together all the art pieces of the gallery.
You are not only Darial’s creative director but also the fashion designer of your own firm –Djaba Diassamidze. How do you combine both roles?
Very naturally! In Darial, there is the atelier where I do my own designs for my firm but also the collection in collaboration with Darial, which will be divided into two parts: Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer. It will be a prêt-à-porter line. Actually, I think that it is even easier for me to develop both roles. I created Darial like it was my own fashion house. So, in terms of inspiration, I have the fashion library; in terms of expression, there’s the gallery, and as a conversation with other professionals, we have the store itself. Thus, I combine it very naturally. I live it like a whole experience, they aren’t two different stories for me.
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In fact, you guided us through your most personal space within Darial, your atelier and office. How is your creative process like when designing? What are your references? How would you describe Djaba Diassamidze, the firm?
(Chuckles) What I’m trying to find – and I hope one day I’ll get it – is an entirely personal style that speaks for itself and describes Djaba Diassamidze with no need for explanations. My creative process comes always from inspiration, which to me comes from the streets, museums, my childhood memories and everything that my eyes see and my brain retains. Also, I walk a lot. In Paris, I walk from morning to night, I go to factories or stores to see and touch fabrics. Then, I go to a café or to my studio to draw and design.
I do the same in Darial. It’s a space that motivates me to create. You know, when you are surrounded by inspiration and creative people, you want to create. Plus, all the books that are here are a tribute to designers and creators who have inspired the entire industry, so they also push me to create.
Do you see Darial as a potential opportunity to make your firm grow?
Yes, of course. Totally! Mainly because it makes me grow in the first place and it makes my brand grow. The firm is presented here and I do collaborations all the time. And when I say collaborations, I also mean the ones with myself – between Darial and my firm.
You said the characteristic golden palm trees of the store came up to you in a dream. But let’s go a bit further. What is a bigger dream of yours? You have achieved a lot, of course. But great people like you set new goals for themselves constantly. What are yours? What is it there yet to accomplish?
I couldn’t say what my biggest dream is. I mean, the big dream is never finished. But the dream is to have my fashion house in Paris and, of course, directing an old French fashion house at the same time. I think that it is important to leave our legacy of our own creations but it might be even more important to keep alive and pay tribute to the heritage of the great geniuses of history. So, I would love to have this challenge in my hands. About specific goals… I have too many to tell you now in a couple of minutes. Actually, next time I see you, they will be different (laughs). As I said, it is a dream that never ends and we’ll see where it leads me.
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