If I could pick one item which represents Georgia’s stellar rise in global fashion, it would be the white T-shirt with a Georgian flag from the Spring/Summer 2017 collection by emerging brand Situationist. At first, it may look no different to the cheap souvenir T-shirts sold to tourists in Tbilisi. At the same time, there in clear crimson red, emblazoned on a floating overlaid fabric, is a newfound dignity, pride and style. Since Georgian-born Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia secured his position as the industry’s ultimate royalty, fashion in Georgia has become a serious matter, a vehicle for telling the story of a new, reborn country.
Fashion in Georgia is a serious matter, a vehicle for telling the story of a new, reborn country
Situationist, the emerging label started by Irakli Rusadze and David Giorgadze in 2015, made a few fashion headlines this year — mainly thanks to the hyper-stardom of model Bella Hadid. Hadid appeared a few times wearing the brand’s long leather coat, and once in their thigh-high beige suede boots. Following the instant limelight of media attention, Situationist showed their new collection at Camera Moda in Milan, making a very confident statement. What started as a stylistic nod to Demna Gvasalia’s early Vetements seasons became a range of highly desirable garments in leather and suede, edgy tailored suits and smartly constructed coats. There was an homage to Georgian heritage too: thick, rough-looking leather coats and a T-shirt bearing a print of the Mother Georgia statue in their native Tbilisi.
Today fashion in Georgia is part of a larger movement creating a new visual identity for the country. Sofia Tchkonia, the person in charge of Mercedes-Benz fashion week Tbilisi, and its creative director Grigor Devejiev play an important role in the reinvention. Devejiev almost single-handedly created a new collective image for Georgian designers — more edgy and rough than before, cleverly making use of relics of Soviet architecture, kitschy Georgian interiors and Tbilisi streets. Photographer Giorgi Wazowski and artist David Giorgadze (at the forefront of the visual identity which partly determined Situationist) are other two globally-minded image-makers paving the way.
Fashion, of course, is determined not only by vision but by the products bought and sold — and the spaces where this happens. Tbilisi in that sense has a lot to offer. The city’s key fashion destination, not just for shopping but also for checking out exhibitions of emerging artists and the hip young crowd who attend them, is Chaos Concept Store. Located in the same building as Tbilisi’s trendy Rooms Hotel, the store’s loft-like space is complete with its own skate ramp and king-size mattress to lounge on. The selection of brands channels exquisite urban cool: from edgy young brands from abroad to New East neighbours ZDDZ and Anton Belinskiy to the shop’s own very successful range.
The sense of community here is unlike anywhere else
In the heart of Tbilisi’s old town is a must-visit store run by company MATÉRIEL. It was created in 2012 on the foundations of House of Fashion, one of the biggest textile producers in the USSR, that dates back to 1949. The company provides designers with everything they need to create a collection: production facilities, raw materials, labour, PR support — alongside the experience and business skills not taught in any university in Georgia. Tiko Paksa, Lado Bokuchava and Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili are currently the designers running their brands under the MATÉRIEL umbrella, and their recent collections are available at the store alongside MATÉRIEL’s more practical and affordable range Dots.
Soon, you won’t even need to go to Tbilisi to buy the best of Georgian fashion: recently launched project Buyers is keen to start the country’s e-commercial revolution. Buyers is the platform Georgian creatives needed: it sells not only the most innovative young talents in fashion but also works by emerging artists.
When it comes to the style that reigns in the city streets, there is a lot to see in Tbilisi. The young generation loves to stand out: they effortlessly mix vintage with sportswear and local designers’ pieces, and could easily outdo their peers in London and New York with the range of colours and styles on show. Anyone in Tbilisi will tell you that Georgians of all ages love dressing up, and the appreciation of clothing is deep in their culture — but having a bourgeoning rave scene and a great deal of parties to dress for also helps. The sense of community here is unlike anywhere else: you’ll see young Georgian designers wearing each other’s pieces and helping to craft each other’s latest collections. All together, they’re heading for a promising future.