Issue 6, 2015. December-January


Georgian Fashion in Vogue

With two Georgian designers heading two European fashion houses and the annual Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi inspiring pages of coverage for local designers in major international fashion magazines, could Georgian fashion finally be hitting the mainstream?

In Case You Missed It, Vogue Magazine Is A Little In Love With Georgia

The fashionista's go-to journal published daily missives on Georgia's fashion scene in November, doting on everything from the country's designers and handcrafted shoe culture to its bazaars and beauty treatments.

Vogue is not alone in its new adoration for the je ne sais quoi of Georgian fashion. From Paris to New York, Georgian designers are picking up accolades and international press.

The New York Times gave Georgian-born designer David Koma - a go-to name for Hollywood It Girls - a tentative thumbs up, saying "the tulle ruffles of a tutu, scattered Swarovski crystals and zips in place of boning gave a fluid femininity" to his Spring 2016 line.French power house Balenciaga named Tbilisi-native Demna Gvasalia as its new creative director in October.

Something "creative and unknown"

While both men have been building their careers outside of Georgia for years, international interest in their success could help throw a spotlight on the country's unique fashion world, noted Georgian designer Diana Kvariani.

"I think everyone wants to know about the country of Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga's new creative director. Also, the fashion world is changing. People are searching for something new, something creative and unknown. I think Georgia is full of these kinds of brands," she said.

Kvariani, who studied in Italy and worked in Russia before returning to Tbilisi to create her Diana Kvariani label, said Georgia has had a strong reputation as a fashion center in the former Soviet Union for "many years". Now, it is "new for the rest of the world," she added.

One force pushing Georgian designers out to a wider audience is Sofia Tchkonia, the organizer of the Organizer of the BENEXT International Art and ARTGeorgia fashion festivals.

It was through Tchkonia that fashion writer HiliPerlson was introduced to Georgian fashion in 2014.

Perlson said she didn't know what to expect when Tchkonia invited her to Tbilisi, but she has been impressed by "the experimental spirit and talent of Georgian designers" during her visits to the capital.

"What struck me the most was the fact that each label managed to create an absolute clear, individual signature," she said.

"I wouldn't say there's a common silhouette, combination of materials, or techniques used that is identifiable among Georgian designers. Rather, there's a certain aesthetic sensibility that appears to me to be informed by a variety of influences and the ability to make those influences and inspirations entirely your own."

Layering of ideas and fabrics

In particular, Perlson pointed to Georgian designers' approach to layering.

"There's obviously great awareness to what's going on in the fashion capitals of the world, and many designers I've spoken to also studied abroad, but the approach to layering - of ideas as well as fabrics - is specific, clever and like nothing I've seen with young designers elsewhere," she said.

Perlson compared Tbilisi's fashion scene to that of Antwerp, a city famous for its fashion academy and its experimental fashion.

"It takes guts to follow something as risky as "your own vision" rather than quotes of what's already selling well," she said.

"My first impression was that this is a new generation of designers who are establishing a scene that didn't exist as such in Tbilisi before; a generation that grew up in a time of political turmoil, economic strife, and blackouts, and who are now creating something new, without playing it safe."

Kvariani agreed that Georgian designers are "not afraid to experiment."

"Georgian fashion is unique because it has its world in fashion. Georgians are not afraid to experiment. Every designer in Georgia has his or her own style, no one is alike. That is incredible for such a small country," she said.