How the fashion scene is revolutionizing Georgia

How the fashion scene is revolutionizing Georgia?

Demna Gvasalia and his brand Vetements may have put Georgia on the map, but Tbilisi’s fashion community still

has a lot to show us. On the sidelines of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, Vogue met with these dissident

designers to talk about the progressive values that drive them. Soren Jepsen

Only 30 years ago, Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, was equipped with minimal infrastructure, deprived of electricity,

and plagued by war. Today, it is a fast-growing metropolis, brimming with creativity and business activity. Since

the launch of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi in 2022 and the city’s rise as a fashion destination, all the

attention to Georgian fashion has been focused on one thing: Demna Gvasalia’s post-Soviet aesthetic. There’s

no doubt that the Vetements designer has given Georgian fashion a place: “It’s thanks to Demna that people know

today that Georgia is not just an American state!” says Irakli Rusadze, Situationist’s creative director. But

two years after Gvasalia’s meteoric rise, Tbilisi is changing its sartorial mood. It’s no longer just about the

Soviet past or post-Soviet streetwear: a new wave of designers are imagining a progressive, liberal future for

Georgia, with a distinctly feminine touch. WOMEN’S PLATINUM TINT/TRACK RED/SILVER LILAC inDigital

A rebellious community of designers and creatives has risen up in the Georgian capital, using fashion to support

a liberal agenda in a country torn between Eastern and Western ideologies. Rusadze’s brand, Situationist (one

of the city’s leading emerging brands) decided to hold its spring/summer 2022 show at the Bassiani nightclub

– a highly symbolic choice after the club’s forced closure earlier this year, which led to massive protests

in support of the marginalized LGBTQ+ community that Bassiani regularly hosts. “It’s important because it’s

a safe place for everyone,” Rusadze says of his choice. The casting of Situationist also sends a strong message.

“We made a [conscious] choice to include minority groups in Georgia – transgender people and people of Nigerian

descent,” adds Louis Chasserot, assistant artistic director. “In Georgia, finding people from minorities is

not easy,” he continues. “These people don’t want to show themselves [for fear of public oppression], but we

managed to find some. Some through agencies, but for the most part, they’re people we’ve met at clubs – one

of our models is a meet-and-greet from last weekend, during Halloween.” Chaos Concept Store, Tbilisi’s trendy

boutique/art gallery, is also pushing the envelope for a liberal shift in the country. Established in 2022

by a group including Georgian It-girls Nini Nebieridze and Nina Botchorishvili, Chaos goes beyond fashion.

“To limit it to fashion is boring,” says Nebieridze. “It’s about art, bringing people together, music,” Botchorishvili

adds. Everything about this unclassifiable place is daring, from the items (including a Carne Bollente scarf

flocked with the word “ORGASM” in bold print) to the d├ęcor (including a mural of Jesus in the store’s shoe

area). Their bold choices have sparked much controversy. “It’s like censorship,” explains Nebieridze. “When

we opened, we had the Jesus painting and some of our friends told us it was too much, that it wasn’t funny.

[In Georgia], we try to be Europe – but we are not. Through these provocative acts, we are trying [to open

up mindsets, and] get people to react to it normally.” NILSAGYRAKESNT09 Soren Jepsen

“Gender equality is a huge issue here,” Botchorishvili adds. A sentiment shared by many designers in Tbilisi,

who try through their collections to assert women’s rights and sexuality. Tbilisi-born Lako Bukia has been

a fashion designer since 2022 and has been showing her work at London Fashion Week for four seasons. Her designs

are a departure from the post-Soviet streetwear usually associated with Georgia. Her aesthetic is decidedly

more feminine, with girly prints, silk, and fitted silhouettes. “The woman [I’m designing for] is very strong,”

she explains about this confident femininity. In a time when young people are fighting for equal rights, often

facing criticism and oppression from an older generation that still adheres to more traditional values, fashion

is being used as an influential and galvanizing medium. “I think the movement is taking shape now,” Bukia

continues, referring to the Bassiani Club protests. “Everyone is involved, and fighting for democracy. People

understand that they can live their lives the way they want to, and nothing can stop them, not their parents,

not religion, nothing.”


Long subjected to invasions, occupations, and wars, the Georgian people are used to fighting for their

rights. “This is a country that screams, ‘Look at us! We exist!'” says Tamuna Ingorokva, who has witnessed

real upheaval in her 15 years as a designer specializing in leather and androgynous silhouettes for women.

“Because we’re a small country, we’re always at people’s feet, and mistreated – but we’re a nation that

doesn’t let it happen. This struggle is always an inspiration for me, but the feminine side is also important

in my collections, because in Georgia women are very strong. My collections support women’s rights, and

their power.” In addition to using fashion to support women’s causes, Dalood designer Maka Kvitsiani,

whose latest collection was inspired by the Me Too movement, also supports her all-women team. “If they

need a day off, if they can’t get childcare, they can stay home or bring their kids to the office,” says

Kvitsiani, herself a mother of three. This off-podium approach is essential in a country where one of

the main development goals is to improve opportunities for women and reduce gender inequality. Despite

this new wave of activism, some of the causes that are ubiquitous in the West remain fairly absent from

the debate in Georgia. Most designers have little to say in terms of sustainability or diversity. Ingorokva

shows some promising signs on the sustainability front: “I think the environmental issue is important.

I use a lot of leather, but we will use organic leather for the next season. It’s not easy for young

designers because we have to import everything. An opinion shared by the Situationist team. “We keep

all the production in Georgia, but for many fabrics we have to import,” confirms Chasserot. As far as

diversity is concerned, its absence at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi was noticeable, despite the

efforts made by Situationist. While the big four Fashion Weeks are constantly criticized when it comes

to fast fashion and lack of minority representation, perhaps the next step for this new fashion city

is to promote better environmental policies in fashion, and better integrate marginalized communities

for fairer racial and gender representation. Soren Jepsen

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