Atlanta has been rooting for our hometown designer Nicholas Komor all season on Lifetime’s “Project Runway: Under the Gunn” hosted by Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn. Clearly, fashion runs through Nicholas’ veins. But this talented Atlanta designer and Georgia Tech graduate has many different creative endeavors under his belt. FENUXE caught up with Nicholas to talk about his journey to becoming a full-fledged designer.
It’s a chilly afternoon in Atlanta’s Virginia Highlands neighborhood when I meet with Nicholas Komor in Cacao, a small but fine chocolate specialty shop. It’s the very shop where he put his own mark on pretty much everything as their former creative director. “Kristen [Hard, the founder, ed.] is a friend and she needed a ton of help with packaging. Everything looked very different just a year ago,” Nicholas tells me over a cup of delicious mocha, “I single-handedly was doing everything to change it all.” Part of the successful transformation of Cacao was also Nicholas’ ability to bring big business thinking to a small business – something he has learned as a Design Manager at Coca-Cola. While working at Atlanta’s soda favorite created visual identity systems for popular brands like Coca-Cola and Sprite. However, despite his talent for creating corporate visual identities, Nicholas’ heart beats for fashion. “I was just really interested in getting back into fashion,” Nicholas says with “getting back” being the key phrase.
Nicholas started out here in Atlanta at Georgia Tech where he graduated with a degree in industrial design. While studying his interest in fabrics grew and he explored how they function differently. For instance, conductive thread that would allow your clothing to interact with your computer in a more intuitive way. With Georgia Tech stoking his passion for fabrics and fashion Nicholas moved to London where he enrolled in the London College of Fashion. “I studied fashion and then worked on Savile Row for a while. Not sewing but interfacing with the customers, and through that I was getting the idea and taste for luxury,” Nicholas explains, “And that’s the world I love: Luxury clothing, design, chocolate, bags – luxury things!”
After his time in London and subsequent return to Atlanta, Nicholas found his way back to fashion when he landed a spot on “Project Runway: Under the Gunn.” The show is hosted by Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn and it’s quite different from the original. The challenges are shorter and the contestants are indeed under the gun from the very start. After receiving brief instructions the contestants have to create an actual piece that is fitted and ready for the runway. “After going through a whole casting process, I basically shut down my life and went to L.A. to be on the show,” Nicholas says about his participation on the Lifetime show. “It’s very interesting working under these challenges, where you have to come up with something really fast. You have six hours and that is really all you get. Imagine conceiving something, trying to make out if you have something right and then cutting, sewing and making a final piece, which needs to be fitted to be on the runway in only six hours. It is really, really challenging and you’ll hear me on the show saying after every challenge: “I wish I had more time!”
Nicholas’ unique background also makes the competition a little more challenging. He describes his own process as European, which he attributes to his schooling in London. It’s more cerebral and focuses on taking the brief to heart and really making something out of it – something that is practically the opposite of what the TV show calls for. But, so far, Nicholas Komor has cleared all of the challenges on “Under the Gunn” so he must be doing something right. Maybe it’s his ability to start at the beginning, to have a blank slate before each process, which is a creative release the show celebrates.
“I’m curious now, when America starts watching, [to see] if the viewers want more women’s wear from Nicholas Komor when the show is over. I have no idea”, the designer ponders aloud about his future plans. His goal is to create an all encompassing brand focused on fashion. But for starters he is directing his attention toward creating a Nicholas Komor bag – a black luxury unisex tote bag in mixed materials. Creating a quality bag is a good place to start for Nicholas. Focusing at first on this piece will allow him to control the process and ensure the final product meets his standards. This will remain important as there are several people helping him with the details of taking it to market. For instance, he is collaborating with a colleague who graduated from college with him that specializes in leather accessories. “The bag starts with a Kickstarter to raise necessary funds to produce it and it will either be a success or a failure. The Kickstarter project will be up in the coming months”, Nicholas explains about the bag that will proudly bear his name one day. Eager to know what he is planning to do after the bag goes into production? He’s also working on a golden bee pin that is inspired by the vintage pin he wears everywhere he goes.
Either way, Nicholas is starting out sensibly on his journey toward making it big some day. He’s testing the waters without getting burnt financially along the way. “I’ve learned that you can’t just invest all your money and put out an entire collection with no marketing strategy. I don’t know how some of the other designers coming off the show are doing it,” Nicholas explains. “What I’ve learned – mainly from Coca-Cola but also from ‘Under the Gunn’ – is how to take all the design and theory and then apply a business strategy to it in order to make it work. So you know what your work is worth. That will also help you to be able to explain to people why what you do will change their life in some way. And why they should buy it,” Nicholas says as we finish our drinks Cacao.
UPDATE: Nicholas Komor was voted off Project Runway: Under The Gunn on February 27, but we will look for his Kickstarter project to launch soon – and of course tune in to “Project Runway: Under The Gun” Thursdays at 9 p.m on Lifetime to see who wins the show.