Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, has been on the fashion radar in recent years, thanks to Vetements and Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia's international success, and the launch of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. Now in its fifth season, the fashion festival has proved that the city is truly a hotbed for talent. Out of the 70 designers who held shows this season, here are the five designers you need to know.
Just two years ago, Irakli Rusadze of The Situationist made his first sample. Now, he was one of the highlights from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. The 26-year-old designer, who named the line after the 1960s European international avant-garde art movement, looked to Georgia’s own history to inform his Fall 2017 collection. “I looked at the clothing that was worn during the Soviet Occupation,” begins Rusadze. “The Soviet Union was a closed system, so we couldn’t see other fashion from other countries. We have all these great photos of the dresses and pants people would wear, so we drew from these historical moments.” With a collection of edgy leather pants, structured blouses abound, and laser-cut leather coats that come in shades of burgundy and green for fall, it's no surprise that Bella Hadid is a fan.
After graduating from Paris fashion school ESMOD in 2002, Tamuna Ingorokva returned to her home city of Tbilisi to start her eponymous line, and quickly gained a following for her leather work as well as her elegant and timeless pieces, such as jumpsuits, dresses, and trench coats. This season, she cited the Tony Scott-directed 1980s fantasy film The Hunger starring David Bowie, as inspiration for her collection of broad-shouldered jackets, lustrous silk blouses, and super high-waisted leather pants, which she paired with patent knee-high boots. But the designer is most inspired by the materials and finishes she sees on her friends. “I always look to see what my friends are wearing, they inform every collection.” While the line is sold in former Soviet Union and Arabian countries, it has caught the attention of models like Doutzen Kroes, Romee Strijd and local Georgian celebrities.
Gvantsa Macharashvili was studying to be a doctor, when her sister Nina, a fashion student, convinced her to leave medical school and start their namesake line MACH&MACH in 2012. The punk-inspired streetwear brand is easily identified by their sequined jackets and eccentric statement pieces. Their Fall 2017 collection, entitled "GIRLS DEMOCRACY, is an ode to the rebellion fueled counter-culture that currently permeates Tbilisi, which has a strict Catholic Orthodox Church and brutal Soviet past. “The MACH&MACH girl is a woman of today, with no boundaries and does whatever she wants,” proclaims Nina. It is an outlook they translate with their collection of daring silhouettes, inventive textures, colors, and embellishments. “The MACH&MACH girl is the center of attention, unique in today's society.”
In 2015, designers Anna Odishelidze and Ani Tsintkiladze won a local fashion contest for their separate namesake collections, which landed them in fashion school together in Milan where they became close friends. A few months later, the duo returned to Georgia and collaborated on a small collection which was so successful that they decided to dissolve their lines and form BLIKVANGER, a Dutch word meaning ‘eye-catcher.’ “Our brand brings together different grunge styles and aims to reflect the unique and eclectic nature of people,” explains Odishelidze, who counts their colorful, water resistant jackets as their favorite pieces and best-sellers. For fall, they designed an eye-catching collection of brightly hued thigh-high boots, patent leather puffers, and asymmetrical dresses, which are available to purchase on their Instagram and Facebook accounts. “We try to make our clothes comfortable and multi-functional,” Tsintkiladze explains. “The brand has a diverse temperament so to speak, we like to show its multiple personalities.”
White and red smoke bombs signaled the beginning of Alexander Arutyunov’s Fall 2017 show outside an abandoned warehouse in Tbilisi. “My inspirations have come throughout my entire life,” explains the Georgian ready-to-wear designer, who started his brand in 2009 and references Georgia’s rich but brutal history to inform his designs. This season, the Moscow-based designer looked no further than the Georgian flag to inspire his collection, which includes red and white leather overalls, belts, boots, and even buttons. And despite his natural tendency towards more androgynous silhouettes, the collection has an exaggerated femininity, such as oversized asymmetrical ruffles and extra -large hoodies in sensual fabrics such as silk and chiffon. His bold material and design have brought him a fan base, which includes the first lady of Georgia and Lady Gaga.