Fashion

Tbilisi: The Hidden Future of Fashion

These three young designers are earning supermodel fans with aesthetics that think outside the box, proving Demna Gvasalia is only the beginning of the rise of Georgian fashion.
Reading time 8 minutes

Photography by Joe Harper

When thinking of Georgian fashion designers, Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga and Vetements is likely the first and possibly only one who comes to the American mind. But beyond the major fashion circuit, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi is proving Gvasalia’s home country to be full of promising talent.

Under the radar, these designers have been attracting a fashion-forward clientele by embracing trends like ‘80s nostalgia and tiny sunglasses as well as having some sartorial fun with bright colors and reimagined minimalism. Some of them are venturing into the spotlight of Paris and Milan, while others are embracing the scene in Georgia, but all of them prove Tbilisi to be a fashion city worth watching.  We honed in on three labels capturing supermodel fans and social media buzz with their unique takes on fashion.

George Keburia

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Even if you haven’t heard of George Keburia, you’ve probably seen his work. His debut collection won Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi’s Best Newcomer Award in 2010, he subsequently moved on to a creative director role at Gerogian giant Matériel and, more recently, found himself showing his namesake label in Milan and Paris. However, Keburia may be best known for his tiny sunglasses, which have taken over Instagram thanks to a cult celebrity following including Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, and Solange.

Beyond his critical acclaim and futuristic cat-eyes, Keburia has an artistic, inclusive vision with his contributions to fashion. For example, his Spring 2019 collection takes chef hats but makes them fashion alongside neon ombre fringe and buttons galore, and Lile Sulaberidze, who has Down syndrome, stars in the campaign. Keburia’s work caters well to the social media age, but his creative basics and artsy presentation prove his brand to be far from a gimmick.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

As a child, I was always sketching and looking through my mom’s fashion magazines. During that time, fashion was not taken seriously in Georgia. I started university studying business management, but I later quit to pursue my design interests.

Can you discuss the concept behind your latest collection? What were your biggest sources of inspiration?

This season, I experimented with a mix of inspirations. I love to merge masculine accents with a feminine aesthetic. This collection recalls my affection for tropical climates and the seaside, so I reinterpreted many Hawaiian style shirts. I also played with fabrics, mixing delicate and heavy textures. The rainbow fringe is a symbol of my support of the LGBTQ community.

What do you want people to know about the fashion scene in Georgia?

Georgian designers strive to introduce something different to fashion. Despite our country’s predominantly conservative history, we try to break borders and be as free and creative as possible. Many Georgian designers provide a breath of fresh air to the industry, pushing boundaries with their unique visions.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

I want the industry to be more diverse and inclusive. I also hope that fashion becomes more environment and animal friendly.

What’s your fashion guilty pleasure?

I gravitate towards colors that are hard to match.

Ingorokva

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Tamuna Ingorokva is crafting a new look for supermodels. Targeting an audience including Gigi Hadid, Doutzen Kroes, and Adwoa Aboah, her biggest motifs include brightly colored leather, pantsuits and jumpsuits, and mini dresses with tailored-yet-tough silhouettes. Her bold work feels right at home in the current fashion scene, amidst a trend of ‘80s nostalgia, but the patent leather shines its way to futuristic status, especially on the label's young-elite clientele.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

When I was younger, I constructed garments for my dolls, making dresses out of curtains. Eventually, I realized that this could become my profession. Developing a distinctive methodology in creative design and patternmaking has been important to me.

Can you discuss the concept behind your latest collection? What were your biggest sources of inspiration?

I was inspired by the mystery and aesthetics of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up. Overall, my concept has not changed a lot, as my collections consistently explore a woman as a free creature fighting for her rights and liberation, with her truth and power transcending the boundaries of culture, race, religion, and politics. Some of my aesthetic changes with time, but my core concept always focuses on the woman, who carries the story of her experience. She describes the world she lives in and wants to change.

What do you want people to know about the fashion scene in Georgia?

Georgia’s political instability has made succeeding in fashion a challenge. I grew up amidst ongoing economic and social crisis, but after the Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia started to develop steadily, including in the fashion industry. But in spite of this upheaval, physical and cultural borders made it almost impossible to convince the global audience that we deserve a place in the global market alongside other Europeans. No one wanted to take me and other Georgians seriously, and I had a difficult path to building my name and image.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

I would like newcomers to have greater opportunities, greater platforms, and greater resources.

The Situationist

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Irakli Rusadze fits perfectly into an industry obsessed with the avant-garde and sartorial social commentary. After presenting his first collections under his own name, he switched to The Situationist, inspired by a rebellious group of artists and political theorists who explored alternative lifestyles in the mid-20th century. Fitting to this, the brand has developed a cool reputation, collaborating with Tbilisi nightclub Bassiani as well as showing at Milan Fashion Week.

Bella Hadid has become a buzzworthy fan of The Situationist, and it’s easy to see why the supermodel would gravitate toward the brand’s unconventional beauty. The clothing, which features a lot of tailored suit pieces but also long dresses and men’s crop tops, has an almost minimalist appearance, but waterfall hems, eye-catching fabrics, and tailoring which balances power and comfort all point to a collection that's anything but basic. Rusadze showed in Paris for the first time this season, and the French city could definitely be a strong market for the brand’s nonchalant radiance.

 

What sparked your interest in fashion design?

I have wanted to become a designer for as long as I can remember. I used to stand outside Atelier Goliath, the atelier near my school, to watch tailors. When I was 14, I started working with Georgian designers to build my skills.

Can you discuss the concept behind your latest collection?

I wanted to trace Georgian fashion history from the early 12th century through today. Silhouettes and details of traditional Georgian clothing dominate the collection. Traditional costume reflects its region’s history and identity, transcending culture, time, and geography. However, fashion also evolves. In the last five years, Georgian youth have changed their beliefs, morals, and lifestyles. This season, I wanted to explore collective, historic identity and the individual, modern Georgian and how connections between the two can be reflected in fashion.

What are your biggest sources of inspiration?

The people who inspire me most are those whose faces I barely remember and names I do not know. I get inspiration just by looking at pedestrians on the street. When someone catches my eye, I observe them and try to get a sense of their mood and character. Faces usually vanish in time, but their vibe and emotions influence my collections.

What do you want people to know about the fashion scene in Georgia?

Georgian fashion has been in the spotlight for the last few years, but some people might not understand how much work is behind it. I want others to know that many Georgian designers are masters of making the most out of minimal conditions.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry go?

I think the fashion industry has become more accepting over the last few years, but I want it to be more diverse. Also, I am really looking forward to the day when people stop buying clothes for a single use.

Do you have any dream collaborations?

I want to do series of cut-making workshops in Georgian women’s prisons and collaborate with inmates.

What’s your fashion guilty pleasure?

A leather.

Produced by Yael Quint

Special Thanks: Mercedes Benz Fashion, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, and Sofia Tchkonia

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