Georgia may be a small country, but it definitely packs some big talent. The fashion industry here is developing so quickly that it’s hard to keep track of all the new names. What defines Georgian designers is that they strive for international success, as they’re not satisfied with fame just in the local markets. They learn quickly and are very experimental with production, though they always honor their roots and pay respect to the vast cultural background of their native land. ariad
There are two Georgian designers who have already gained international recognition. David Koma is a Central Saint Martins alum and former student of Louise Wilson’s. He was appointed artistic director of Mugler in 2013 after the success of his namesake label, which is based in London. Now Koma divides his time between Paris and London and belongs to that group of elite fashion designers who somehow manage to create up to 10 collections per year. Tata Naka was created by twin sisters Tamara and Natasha Surguladze, and their colorful creations are sold in the best stores worldwide—from Moda Operandi to Browns in London. Koma and the Surguladzes have set the bar high for Georgian designers. The new generation is eager to be just as successful.
Lako Bukia graduated from the M.F.A. course at Parsons the New School for Design and is already on LVMH’s radar. Lado Bokuchava of Atelier Kikala is a talent to watch—his handmade leather-carved garments are unique and don’t resemble anything out there. And Tatuna Nikolaishvili’s take on color is truly unique and very much appreciated by her loyal clientele.
I traveled to Georgia for Tbilisi fashion week. There are not many big brands in the city (Burberry and Max Mara are the most famous labels available), so online shopping has become increasingly popular among local fashionistas. There are a few online stores that sell cutting-edge brands and work with international designers: One is N-Duo-Concept, owned by street-style star Natuka Karkashadze and her business partner, Nina Tsilosani. After the success of an in-house line, the pair decided to launch their own label, N-Duo, and presented their debut collection in Paris recently. Another is More Is Love, created by Nino Eliava and her business partner, Ani Mokia. The company works with Georgian designers like Ria Keburia, Teyo, and Tamuna Ingorokva to produce special products. Their in-house brand, 7II, is quite a phenomenon, too. It’s sold in 30 stores worldwide and all the pieces are hand-produced by an army of Georgian grannies who work from home. Russia is also a big market for many Georgian designers. Hand-knit pieces by Lalo Cardigans sell like hotcakes at Moscow store Indexflat, which is owned by Georgia native Anka Tsitsishvili.
While in Georgia, Adam Katz Sinding and I arranged a photo shoot on the streets of Tbilisi, showcasing outfits by local designers. I see great potential in the Georgian fashion industry, and though the market might be small, the wider fashion community is definitely taking notice.