If you haven’t heard of Tbilisi before, you are about to, because the Georgian capital is well on its way to becoming the next global fashion capital. The city is nestled in the Caucasus region where Asia meets Europe, near Turkey, Russia, Armenia, and the Black Sea. And although the country of Georgia is small (with a population of only 3.9 million), its influence on the fashion community has been strong over the last few years.
Take, for example, its biggest breakout star, Demna Gvasalia, founder of Vetements, one of the hottest streetwear labels to surface since Supreme. Gvasalia also works as the creative director for storied French house Balenciaga, an appointment he received within six years of launching Vetements. Gvasalia’s quick ascension to success put a spotlight on a relatively unknown city — and it has since proven to be a melting pot for fresh design talent.
One of Georgia’s newest rising stars is George Keburia, who founded his eponymous label eight years ago. Since then, he’s been credited with jump-starting the now ubiquitous “tiny glasses” trend, which has shown up on major runways, such as those of Alexander Wang and Prada, and has been popularized by celebrities including Solange, Bella Hadid, and Kourtney Kardashian. Tamuna Ingorokva is another Georgian designer who sprouted from the Tbilisi fashion scene to become a favorite among top models Gigi Hadid, Doutzen Kroes, and Romee Strijd, who have worn her tailored, silky jumpsuits.
The fashion industry is undergoing a great sea change, from reevaluating the fashion week calendar to changing creative leaders, and it is eager to modernize. This includes challenging the old way of thinking that the big four fashion capitals will forever be Paris, Milan, New York, and London. That’s paving the way for Tbilisi to stay at the forefront of new and emerging fashion cities.
The immense success of young Georgian designers in a relatively short amount of time can largely be attributed to one woman, Sofia Tchkonia. She is the founder and creative director of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi and has elevated the Georgian capital to be a primary source of fresh talent. With her discerning eye, she handpicks the designers who show their creations during fashion week, in turn getting them seen by the top international fashion editors and buyers from Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Bergdorf Goodman, and more.
Not only is Tbilisi’s creative talent genuinely exciting, but the city itself is beautiful, so it’s no surprise that tourism to Tbilisi has risen tremendously over the past few years, with the New York Times naming it one of the top 52 places to visit in 2015. Aside from its boisterous fashion scene, the city boasts delicious cuisine and flavorful wines, all set against the stunning backdrop of a centuries-old place with a complicated past.
The FW18-19 season of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi showcased 42 designers, with the majority of shows set inside the historic, Soviet-era Tbilisi Circus rotunda. Below are its top six breakout designers, all with the potential to match Gvasalia’s success. Scroll on to learn all about them.
Anouki is led by founder and creative director Anouki Areshidze, who established the Tbilisi-based label in 2010. After studying fashion design at the Istituto Marangoni and Accademia del Lusso in Italy, Areshidze returned to Georgia to create her brand. This latest collection was all about glitz and glamour for the working woman. A series of models strutted Areshidze’s stuff inside the Georgian Writers’ House — glimmering gowns, tailored blazers, and velvet dresses — making it clear that the Anouki woman is fierce, confident, and moves through life with purpose.
Lado Bokuchava graduated from the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts and quickly began working at Kikala Studio as an art director. He debuted his first collection for Atelier Kikala in 2013 and then became the head designer for Matériel, a Georgian design collective and one of the oldest fashion retailers and manufacturers in Georgia. He showed his first collection for Matériel in 2015, and since then, Bokuchava has proven that he has an eye for modern, sensual dressing. This season’s collection was one of my personal favorites for its burst of pink and orange sherbet shades, along with exaggerated forms of tailored suiting and coats.
Keburia is entirely self-taught and founded his eponymous label in Tbilisi in 2010. His main claim to fame has been his immensely successful tiny sunglasses, which have become a fan favorite of both Bella and Gigi Hadid. Still, while sunglasses are where Keburia’s success originated, his ready-to-wear designs show tremendous promise, effortlessly blending masculine silhouettes with feminine cuts and colors.
Rusadze, another self-taught designer, started his career when he was just 15 years old, working at a few Georgian and Azerbaijan fashion houses. He established his own brand, Situationist, in 2008, when he was just 17. Now he’s considered one of Tbilisi’s biggest fashion darlings, He’s unafraid to experiment with a variety of textures and unexpected cuts, and this season’s collection included a rich mix of supple leather jackets, boxy blazers, and svelte cut-out dresses.
Akhalkatsishvili is another young Georgian designer who works within the Matériel fashion house. After graduating from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, he was one of the winners from the Be Next Fashion Design contest (also led by Sofia Tchkonia). His collection this season oscillated between fresh, bright plaid suits and rich forest-green corduroy coats or leather trousers cut and spliced around the ankles. It was cool, edgy, and undeniably refreshing.
The founder and creative director of Ingorokva is one of the most seasoned designers on the fashion calendar. She consistently produces high-quality, tailored pieces made of rich leather and luxury silk. And this season, Inogrokva designed feminine sheer tops and dresses overlaid with prints to pair with slouchy boots and trousers. Her designs were elegant and understated but entirely covetworthy.
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