Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi Takes Charge
Arguably Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi in Georgia is the last stop on the fashion week road trip around the world, before it all starts again next month with a whole new season of shows to cover. Thankfully Tbilisi has enough strength in terms of its stable of local designer talents, great show locations and expert fashion week execution to anchor the fashion season race.
“Here most of the designers are self-taught, they didn’t go to any schools, they haven’t had any real exposure to international fashion weeks or showrooms, and yet there is so much natural talent here. And even if, economically speaking, it is difficult in general in Georgia, they are really determined to make it in fashion, “ said Sofia Tchkonia, the founder and creative director of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi.
Tchkonia could also include herself on the list of Georgia fashion lovers determined to bring the countries talents to the world. She took it upon herself to fund and launch the event in 2015, and quickly turned it into a hot ticket fashion week that is now attended by a large international contingent of buyers and press including representatives from Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi and Browns as well as WWD, BoF and multiple Vogue publications.
“It is interesting to see the broad selection of styles of shows we get to see here. I was expecting to see more of the local identity and culture in the designers,” said Ekaterina Glazunova, a buyer for Tom Greyhound. “But it is much more mainstream and on trend. Also they do amazing knitwear. And I think it is through those knitwear pieces that we can see more of the culture and personality. I see a real potential here,” she added.
Glazunova has a point. The brand Lalo lead the way in terms of impressive knitwear options showing not only its signature collection but also one it did in partnership with the brand Zarqua. And Amesh Wijesekera, Gola Damian and Blikvanger also presented colorful and textural knitwear ideas that transmitted an overall sense of positivity. Knitwear was also well represented in the designer showroom at the main venue, the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts. There the designers were on hand and ready to take personal orders, which a number of international guests took advantage of.
A good portion of the designers who showed in Tbilisi also smartly used local landmarks and striking locations as backdrops to their fashion shows. The most memorable of which were the Situationalist show on the open air hilltop memorial The Chronicle of Georgia, the Datuna show presented at the Georgian National Opera Theater. Also the famed Writer’s House of Georgia was home to both the Djaba Diassamidze and the Irma de Flore fashion shows. Not to mention Gola Damian’s runway show, which took place at the Dinamo Arena.
For the moment talks, masterclasses and roundtable discussions between local designers, international guest and fashion lovers in general still needs to be developed as a platform to run in tandem with the fashion shows. But guests like Alison J Lowe MBE, a London based fashion consultant who has been coming to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi for a number of season, has given talks and advised local designers on the fundamentals of running a fashion business.
“There is such an excitement here. The young brands are so passionate and eager to learn. But they are also not playing by the rules. They are not trying to be commercial, or safe in what they are doing. They are designing because they want to design, they need to design. It really reminds me of what London use to be like,” admitted Lowe.
There is no better support to Lowe’s statement then the fact that Hiroshi Fujiwara, who has been called the veritable street style godfather, attended the fashion week in Tbilisi. This was his second time and he came with an entourage, scouting talents and attending fashion shows like Situationalist and Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili. His collaborations via his brand Fragment, most recently with Moncler, have giving Fujiwara even more global recognition for his ability to elevate and evolve the menswear realm. It says a lot about this fashion week that Fujiwara decided to return for a second season to see the evolution of the designers he thinks have a bright future.
But it’s not just the designers that look to have a bright future ahead. Tchkonia has big plans for her fashion week. She wants to expand the fashion week by inviting more international designers to show in Georgia, include a more robust conference aspect to the fashion week to work in conjunction with the shows and eventually incorporate more art and design aspects into the event. “I love my country, I want it to be more connected to the Western world. I believe in it so strongly and in what we are doing here in Georgia,” said a determined Tchkonia.
With that sort of drive from this fashion week’s leadership it is hard not to imagine Tchkonia’s dream for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi becoming a reality.
Jessica Michault is the Senior Vice President of industry relations at GPS Radar by Launchmetrics. She is also the editor-at-large for ODDA magazine and contributes to publications like the New York Times, the Business of Fashion, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Mixte magazine.
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