By Fashion Editor Alison Lowe MBE
Times have changed and now instead of looking forward to fashion week in the big four fashion capitals, one of the most exciting dates on the international fashion calendar is Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. Each season the world’s top fashion editors, street style photographers, store buyers and fashion industry icons all descend on this hilly enclave to discover exciting new talent.
For those that don’t know – and there are a lot of you as I constantly have to say not Georgia USA but the country Georgia, near Russia – Tbilisi is the Georgian capital, a point where Europe meets Asia and Russia. A magical place, Tbilisi won my heart a few years ago for not just the excellent fashion but also the stunning scenery, cultural clashes, outstanding architecture and amazing wines.
These things all bring the fashion world’s great and good to the fashion week but more than this, it is the hotbed of amazing design talent that is emerging from this previously unrecognised fashion capital. The stampede of new Georgian talent was led firstly by David Koma and then latterly by Demna Gvasalia who found his place on the world stage with his brand Vetements in 2014. Receiving outstanding reviews for his first few collections, the Georgian-born designer successfully worked with leading boutiques across the globe to stock his brand. His recognisable silhouette of outsize proportions is lauded for bringing a streetwise, decontructivist edge to fashion. After a few seasons, his disruptive and directional aesthetic caught the attention of the luxury conglomerate Kering, who in 2015 chose Gvasalia to act as the artistic director of Balenciaga.
Following this, Georgian fashion was suddenly put centre stage and interest in other designers from this country began to escalate. Steering this interest in Georgian Fashion is the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi – a week-long celebration of diverse, established and rising talents presenting their collections in unusual and outstanding, historically significant locations across the city. Leading the Georgian fashion uprising is a woman I greatly admire – Sofia Tchkonia, the creative director of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. Sofia is single handedly raising the profile of her home country designers and introducing them to world-wide opportunities. Not only does she draw the worlds fashion press and buyers to Georgia, she also negotiates opportunities for the designers to show in other fashion capitals and take part in global showrooms.
This season amongst the many talents my favourites included Situationist, Mach and Mach, Irma de Flore and Diana Kvariani as they each bring something new and different to the market place.
The latest Georgian brand starting to generate significant international interest is Situationist, created by young, self-taught designer Irakli Rusadze. The contemporary womenswear label has garnered worldwide attention following the Hadid sisters wearing the brand on several occasions and the label is becoming known for its sharp detailed tailoring. Situationist was also probably the most hyped show of the season as the brand invited guests to view the catwalk show in a woman’s prison, however just hours before the event, the venue was changed to a less insalubrious industrial film studio.
Irma de Flore is the brand from a celebrated Georgian visual artist, photographer and designer Irma Sharikadze, who expresses her creativeness through a fusion of classic concepts with modern eccentric styles. Quirky and eclectic, Irma de Flore appeals to a very different demographic to many of the other brands but is just as exciting and appealing to her customer base.
Diana Kvariani has returned to her homeland from her studies in Milan to establish her eponymous brand. The signature of her collections is based on the sincere dedication to the idea of experimenting and exploring new tendancies in fashion while maintaining exquisite sense of style. I first met this designer when I was a judge at the BeNext competition which she had entered and was thrilled to see how much Diana has developed both her signature and created a strong commercial collection.
A favorite for me each season is Mach and Mach, a Georgian ready to wear brand that is starting to make its presence known internationally, particularly since Katy Perry endorsed the brand by wearing numerous pieces in concert. The brand was founded by two sisters and has been a regular on the MBFW Tbilisi schedule for the past few seasons, delivering a consistently fun, feminine show with pieces for every woman in each collection. This seasons blue tulle finally piece was to die for.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi will return again in November with the highly anticipated SS19 collections and the event will be on the top of my list of fashion weeks to support.
To find out more about AlisonLowe MBE, visit www.alisonjlowe.com