Georgia on their minds: Tbilisi catwalks a big draw after Balenciaga coup

With the Caucasian nation’s fashion star rising following the naming of Demna Gvasalia to lead French house, we review the highlights of Tbilisi Fashion Week

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 November, 2015, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 2015, 12:55pm

Georgia, the post-Soviet republic in the Caucasus region, is full of surprises: the country’s capital, Tbilisi, has an avenue named after George W. Bush, for one; it also hosts two competing fashion weeks, which is more than Paris, Milan, or New York can boast of. What’s not surprising at all, however, is the rich sartorial tradition found in a place that has seen, over centuries, the influences of a multitude of cultures and conquerors, and was a vital link between East and West on the historical Silk Road.

The recent appointment of Georgian-born Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia as creative director at Balenciaga has brought with it a surge in interest in Georgia’s fashion industry, and journalists for the American, Italian and Russian editions of Vogue.com, as well as blogger beast Bryanboy, descended on the Georgian capital for the five-day Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi.

The label Avtandil, headed by designer Avtandil Tskvitinidze, opened the shows with a collection that ran the gamut on all that’s trending in womenswear, from silky slip dresses, ultra-sexy with sheer V-cuts and thigh-high slits, to bulky, puffy denim with cool appliqués (apparently not an oxymoron), not skipping the intentionally awkward layering of PVC and plastic jackets and deconstructed skirts over midi-dresses. There was something here for everyone.

On day two, it was Atelier Kikala designer Lado Bokuchava who stole the show. The brand is one of the most visible locally, and celebrated a small feat last month when Iggy Azalea wore a gold Atelier Kikala jacket to a public event. Atelier Kikala shines brightest when marrying dressy attire with avant-gardist, contrasting details. Dresses in silk and organza bearing torn or fringed layers make for elegant additions to the (surprisingly unsaturated) evening wear selection for the edgy high-flying professional with plenty of cocktail parties to attend.

Another local darling, Tamuna Ingorokva, stayed true to her line’s sophisticated, understated look with a mature collection bathed in black, with some silky nude, ivory and powder blue occasionally breaking the austere palette. The playfulness was in the cuts: sleeves were excessively long, waistlines were obliterated, and her shiny ivory lady tux had the silhouette of a zoot suit.

Eloshi, by Lela Eloshvili, another mover and shaker in the city’s burgeoning fashion scene, paired smart cuts with superb embellishing. Oversized front pockets doubled as ruffles on shirt dresses and stunning robe dresses in teal, dark green and tomato red, while kaleidoscopic floral prints adorned the more casual pieces.

The Tbilisi spring 2016 catwalks also showcased designers from further afield, with Ukrainian export Litkovskaya, whose creations are sold internationally at Opening Ceremony, closing the third day. Designer Lilia Litkovskaya drew unlikely inspirations from both Americana and recycling, and presented a detail-heavy collection that managed to make a white lace dress reminiscent of your grandma’s kitchen curtains seem like the must-have romantic look for next spring. Elsewhere, irregular coloured sequin-slathered batches appeared on everything from jackets to a two-piece dress.

Datuna Sulikashvili, whose creations are a favourite of  actresses and singers and who presents Tbilisi’s best-staged fashion shows, displayed his label Datuna’s collection in an abandoned theatre. You don’t have to bask in stage lights to love his cropped square blazer, complete with raven feathers poking out of the breast pocket, or its more dramatic counterpart, with the blazer’s entire lower half made of plumes. Datuna’s Velvet numbers were more lush than anyone else’s, his bows bigger, his slouchy pants droopier, his soft femininity more femme fatal.

Sulikashvili was given a run for his money by Georgia-born, Moscow-based designer Bessarion Razmadze, whose show closed the week amid much fanfare. His label Bessarion’s circus-themed collection riffed on the harlequin print on a bomber jacket, while more literal references saw clown head prints on tops. A white suit with large black buttons, ruffled sleeves and flared pants turned Pierrot the sad clown’s uniform into a wearable, modern look. Floor-length pony hair fringes adorned skirts and accessories, and tracksuit trousers, a season staple, were cross-pollinated with bell bottoms. But coolest of all were doubtless his thigh-hitting biker jackets.