Pitti Uomo 94: Georgian fashion keen to make its voice heard

Georgia is a country worth visiting. The guest of honour at the 94th edition of the Pitti Uomo menswear show, in the last few years Georgia has spawned a genuine fashion culture, inspired by the success of its best-known designer, the creative director of Balenciaga and Vetements, Demna Gvasalia. Having teamed up with Pitti Uomo in collaboration with the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, the former Soviet republic is showcasing its creativity in Florence through the work of six designers.


Georgia is the guest of honour at the latest edition of Pitti Uomo - FashionNetwork.com ph DM

“Ours is a little-known country, gripped by economic crisis and political instability. Eventually, fashion has become its most prominent ambassador. It’s the only industry that is experiencing real growth, and the one for which [Georgia] is most popular,” said Sofia Tchkonia, who set up the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Tbilisi in 2015, to put Georgia’s ebullient creativity centre stage. Nowadays, 43 designers show in Tbilisi, with buyers and the international media in attendance.

“We have an abundance of young talent. I used to organise a competition for young designers, to enable them to train abroad. But when they returned to Georgia, they were unable to present their work anywhere. For example, menswear is quite a novelty in Georgia, because there was no market for it until a short while ago,” added Tchkonia, a former documentary director.

According to her, Georgian fashion is going through a phase of sparkling inspiration. “When I launched the [Tbilisi] Fashion Week three years ago, the majority of Georgian designers lacked confidence, they wouldn't dare experiment. It seemed they were overwhelmed by Vetements, and they merely imitated Demna Gvasalia. Now, they are trying to express themselves more,” said Tchkonia.


SofiaTchkonia - FashionNetwork.com ph DM

“They have much to tell,” said Riccardo Vannetti, Director of the mentorship programme at Pitti Immagine. “It’s got nothing to do with ethnic fashion. Young Georgian designers create a very intense, highly contemporary fashion. The majority of them hasn’t been trained at a fashion academy. They learn at home from their tailor or seamstress parents, or they attend art schools and are self-taught, and this gives them a virtually unaffected, and very pristine, outlook,” said Vannetti.

Among the designers on show in Florence, the best-known is Irakli Rusadze, 26. With Situationist, the women’s ready-to-wear label he founded in 2015, he notably showed in Milan, before migrating to the Paris catwalks last March. At Pitti Uomo, Rusadze is also presenting Azanauri, the menswear label launched in 2016 of which he is Creative Director.
 
The other outstanding talent is Tatuna Nikolaishvili, 30. In love with fashion since she was a child, Nikolaishvili works with painstaking care on cuts and details. She founded her women’s ready-to-wear label in 2003, and at Pitti Uomo she will show her first unisex collection, featuring trousers and jackets made with quality Italian and Turkish fabrics, such as tweed or raw cotton.


Gola Damian, one of the emerging names on the Georgian fashion scene - FashionNetwork.com

Nikolaishvili’s atelier, where every garment is handmade, now employs 26 people. She works with about thirty clients worldwide, from Paris to Tokyo to China, as well as with fashion e-tailer Farfetch.

Vasili Tabatadze, at the head of men’s and women’s label Vaska, favours natural materials and craftsmanship, while Anuka Keburia is an accessories specialist and launched her own footwear label in 2006.

The most exuberant of the six designers is doubtlessly Gola Zumbulidze, 25, better known under the name of his men’s and women’s label Gola Damian. “As a kid, I used to spend my time dressing Barbie dolls. I am entirely self-taught,” he said. His colourful, flamboyant clothes are a hymn to love and happiness, though never without a touch of humour.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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