Any conversation about Georgian fashion inevitably begins with Demna Gvasalia. The Georgian native burst onto the international scene with his antidote to high fashion as the head designer at the cult Parisian label Vetements. There he gave us evening hoodies, jeans with chopped hems and a host of subversive twists on ordinary clothes.
Then in 2015 Gvasalia, still a virtual unknown outside the fashion industry, rocked the establishment when he was named artistic director for the legendary House of Balenciaga. Suddenly all eyes turned to Georgia, a small mountainous country in Caucasus with access to the Black Sea.
“When Demna became a fashion superstar it helped other Georgian designers a lot,” explained Sofia Tchkonia, the Executive Producer of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. “He made them proud to be Georgian. He proved that if you study and work hard you can succeed anywhere.”
While acknowledging Gvasalia’s huge influence at home, Tchkonia is eager for the day when the country’s fashion industry no longer rests so heavily on the shoulders of one man. “At some point there has to be a split,” she said.
As MBFW Tbilisi entered its fifth season with its Fall/Winter 2017 runway shows it was clear that a new wave of designers are beginning to inch out from under the huge shadow cast by Gvasalia. They are gaining recognition in their own right and among the standouts is Irakli Rusadze of the label Situationist. The self taught designer who began working in fashion at 13, is known for his technical prowess and is one of the few designers who still does his own pattern making, cutting, sewing and tailoring.
The 26-year-old designer who launched his own label in 2015 is recognized for his playful riffs on Soviet aesthetics and exaggerated silhouettes that celebrate strong, independent women. Women like Bella Hadid who recently stepped out in Paris wearing several of his designs.
Situationist Fall/Winter 2017-18 collection runway show was one of the most highly anticipated of the week and did not disappoint. Harnessing a 90s vibe there was plenty of gorgeous leather, sweeping floor length trench coats, sophisticated oversized jackets and fitted leather jumpsuits.
“I was very impressed with Situationist,” said the legendary fashion critic, Hilary Alexander, OBE, who reigned at London’s Daily Telegraph for 26 years. Highly respected and considered ‘fashion royalty’ by many, Alexander was twice named Journalist of the Year in the British Fashion Awards.