A taste of the Tbilisi fashion scene

Lika Chitaia

Travel to Georgia, on the south-eastern edge of Europe, and encounter raw nature, rich cultural heritage, complex cuisine and wines that reflect a long, complicated history including periods under Persian and Russian rule. But when it comes to fashion, it gets a bit confusing. Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, as well as its largest city. Modern Flâneurs Tbilisi insider, Daria, investigates what its designers are up to, and shares their opinions about the industry.

The colour black dominates personal fashion, a shocking contrast to this bright country, and it’s not always related to conservative or classical taste. Georgians consider it a tribute to their ancestors, a nod to the toll of dramatic conflict and invasions of their past.

But what else is modern Georgian fashion about? Where is the fashion sector moving? And who are Georgian designers leading the way?

Georgians are no strangers to high fashion. In October, designer Demna Gvasalia was named as new artistic director of collections for iconic fashion house Balenciaga. (He had previously worked for Louis Vuitton and Maison Martin Margiela.) contact me

Tbilisi inaugurated twice-annual Tbilisi Fashion Week in 2009, and the 2015 event just wrapped up October 11th. The creative forces who move Georgian fashion forward are already preparing for the upcoming season. Daria caught up with two leading designers from Materia, Georgia’s oldest fashion house and producer one of the nation’s biggest brands, Matériel, in their atelier at Kote Apkhazi Street in Tbilisi.

Matériel by A. Akhalkatsishvili

Matériel by A. Akhalkatsishvili

Matériel by Lika Chitaia

Matériel by Lika Chitaia

Lika Chitaia and Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili have been representing Materia at Georgian and international shows.

“That’s what I am doing right now”, Chitaia says, pointing at surrounding sketches and patterns, “I didn’t participate in the last TFW, but I’m preparing something new for spring. To me, the quality of each detail really matters: every pocket, every sleeve, and every stitch. That’s why I prefer to work thoroughly on every piece I am creating. My inspiration doesn’t come from Georgia: I find it abroad. Every time I travel, I find ideas that I want to translate in my collections.”

Lika Chitaia

Lika Chitaia

 

Chitaia joined Matériel in 2004; she has keen insight into the development and changes in the city, its people, and the fashion sector. “Today’s scene is very advanced in comparison to what we had five, ten years ago. Two Fashion Weeks a year, plus smaller events are not bad for a tiny country like Georgia. Tbilisi style can surprise foreign guests. It’s more than black colour everywhere; we have a sharp eye for detail. I find that people from Tbilisi have good taste, but unfortunately many young people become victims of trends and mass marketing. I am always glad to see someone who tries to find her individuality and express it!”

“It’s also a very positive that the Georgians are buying things designed by their compatriots,” says Akhalkatsishvili, one of the winners of the Be Next Fashion Designer contest. “It’s very important that the industry is developing and an appetite for good, classy clothes is being shaped.”

 

Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili

Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili

 

Materiel markets their designs beyond Georgian borders. You can snap them up in Per Lei Couture (Doha, Qatar), W2-IW (Adelaide, South Australia), Wopei365 (Beijing, China), Abdullah Alkhamees Group (Kuwait City, Kuwait) and shops in Baku, Astana, St. Petersburg and Moscow.

What makes their fashion interesting and why you should check them out?? Daria asked both designers the same question.

“My clients like simple, classy and high quality clothes. We offer interesting construction and shapes, and are fabrics are excellent,” said Chitaia.

Akhalkatsishvili agrees, “Georgian designers offer conceptual collections, new shapes and patterns. It’s all new to international clients, who have almost no idea about this country and its style. My main principle is to constantly develop. The final product is a result of a very precise creative process.”

Both agree that – with young designers coming on scene – competition in the industry increases, but they see this as positive since it encourages innovation.

Another leader in Tbilisi fashion is Lika Bulashvii, who founded her brand BULLI in 2014. She started creating clothes when she was just a schoolgirl; her designs range from accessories to dresses. Daria met Lika in her home, which she decorated herself, and which also serves as her studio.

 

Bulli Lika Bulashvili

Lika Bulashvii

 

“I’m not a fan of modern Tbilisi style: it is way too monochrome for me. I prefer bright colours and fresh shapes” says Bulashvii, “I always use several materials even for one piece, unusual details, and combine colours in an extravagant way. It makes my things unique, gives them character. I am inspired by cinematography, and I love watching movies. I try to pick up the interesting peculiarities. I love Beethoven music and classical impressionism. Colours give me ideas!” Bulashvili had been creating things for several Tbilisi shops, but in 2014 she decided to concentrate on her own collection. TFW 2015 was her first step to a bigger stage, opening to a wider audience.

Bulli Lika Bulashvili Summer 2016

Bulli, Summer 2016

Bulli Lika Bulashvili Summer 2016

Bulli, Summer 2016

“I was a bit scared,” she admits. “People here all like the same colours, so my collection looked avant-garde. Still my supporters pushed me forward. I believe that the things I create will earn positive feedback, because they are different. Now I am waiting for the experts’ reviews. I’ll keep working on my collection and prepare the online showroom. We have Facebook and Instagram accounts, but we would like to give potential customers more opportunities to see and choose things.”

 

Bulli Lika Bulashvili

 

It’s easy to find Georgian designers online and ordering their collections is becoming easier. More is Love offers an impressive constellation of Georgian brands.

“People in Tbilisi usually prefer to dress in classic colours and shapes” says Nina Botchorishvili of More is Love. “Our designs give them an opportunity to experiment, wear unique and exclusive pieces. More is Love wants to share our love of fashion with the rest of the world. We also want to give a platform to upcoming designers.”

Their website features many Georgian designers worth checking out. Online orders can be delivered worldwide within 10 working days.

Better yet, visit Tbilisi. Then you can stop in at 26 Tsintsadze Street and see firsthand the many collections they represent.

 

Pictures Daria, Matériel and Tbilisi Fashion Week

 


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