Out of the many smaller fashion weeks out there, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi seems to be carving quite a name for itself on both a local and global scale. Now in its fifth season, the Georgian capital's primary fashion industry affair has been attracting a sizable international crowd in recent years, with many lauding the city for its unique culture that bridges Eastern and Western aesthetics.
Located in the Caucus region, Georgia is unlike any other country that was part of the former Soviet Union. Though every Georgian is taught Russian at an early age, the country's native language bears no Slavic origin whatsoever. Its warmer, almost Mediterranean, climate results in a more revealing and loose-fitting traditional way of dress and, perhaps most notably, its abundance of wineries means that vodka is consumed only second to wine.
A burgeoning middle class, affordable living conditions and bustling nightlife have made Tbilisi a hotspot for creative ingenuity, and the fashion world is certainly taking notice. After all, the country did spawn one of the most influential and talked-about names in the business right now, Demna Gvasalia, who championed a look rooted firmly in Soviet upbringings, making Eastern European style a moodboard regular for trendsetters everywhere.
I was invited to attend Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi this year, which presented over 52 designers' FW17 collections over the course of five days. From the show-stopping street style to the city's taste for futuristic eyewear, the event didn't fall short on sartorial antics – especially from the designers.
Though there were many to choose from, below are some of the strongest collections I spotted throughout the week. Get these eight Georgian designers on your radar before they become huge.
Summary: Unlike most Western fashion capitals, Tbilisi's menswear landscape is quite fledgling, which is why the debut presentation of local men's label Aznauri proved to be a refreshing addition to the roster of predominately women's collections shown throughout the week. Founded in 2016, the house is fronted by self-taught, 26-year-old designer Irakli Rusadze and specializes in sporty tailoring and minimal-tinged leatherwear.
Key Pieces: Burgundy wool suit, black leather trench coat, black leather biker jacket with triple-buckle sleeve.
Vibe: The presentation was hosted inside the courtyard of a Marriott hotel, where models proceeded to play a soccer match dressed in head-to-toe looks from the brand's FW17 collection. Soundtracked by a blaring audio recording of a 1981 Euro Cup match, the scenario looked like characters from The Matrix humoring an amateur game of scrimmage – but at least the clothes held up, which I think was the point of it all?
Summary: A local darling and reputed enfant terrible, Gola Damian's twisted take on contemporary ready-to-wear merges the vibrant sportiness of Georgia's club-going youth with the classical elegance affiliated with traditional formalwear. Renowned for challenging gender sartorial norms and employing a cast of street-sourced models in his shows (which is all the rage lately), Damian's progressive designs and radical mindset have made him a leading influence behind Tbilisi's latest wave of game-changing creatives.
Key Pieces: "Virgin Prostitute" slogan T-shirt, leopard pussy bow blouse, mid-slit black jumpsuit.
Vibe: Gender-fluid jester with a splash of street-friendly dandy.
Summary: The brainchild of Aznauri's Irakli Rusadze, Situationist is one of the few Georgian labels to achieve international success (a fact that's garnered many comparisons to the brand's more famous "Georgian" counterpart, Vetements). With an endorsement from leading "it" girl Bella Hadid and a show at Milan Fashion Week already under its belt, Situationist has become a go-to presentation for both local and international fashion week attendees in recent years.
Key Pieces: Burgundy/plum double-breasted peacoat (though all of the outerwear is really on point), green leather catsuit, near waist-length slouchy red boots.
Vibe: A smattering of hard leather looks evoked a very fetishistic femme fatale narrative throughout (which was complimented by a searing soundtrack of hard techno), but the chic suiting balanced out the overarching club vibe ever so slightly.
Summary: Georgian-bred, Moscow-based designer Alexander Arutyunov is one of the more conceptual designers in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi's lineup. With a penchant for whimsical silhouettes, bold colors, striking design embellishments and, of course, leather, an Arutyunov collection can draw inspiration from fashions existing within past, present and future eras (*mind blown*).
Key Pieces: Leather duster coats with buckled straps along the sleeves, red leather deconstructed overalls with zipper-fastened leg, grey tartan prairie dress.
Vibe: Futuristic Victorian techno princesses.
Summary: Another leather specialist (clearly the material is a Georgian favorite), Tamuna Ingorokva's minimally provocative take on tailoring and knitwear have boosted her namesake among fashionistas and working women throughout the country in the last few years.
Key Pieces: Electric blue leather trousers, black patent leather side-slit peasant skirt, black slouchy mohair sweater.
Vibe: #Officecore, female edition.
Matériel by Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili
Summary: Tbilisi-based designer Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili is the creative force behind Matériel, the premium line of Georgian heritage fashion house, MATERIA. Defined by razor-sharp geometric cuts, block color schemes (especially black) and luxe fabrics (leather included, naturally), Matériel's modern, ultra-femme allure comes from Akhalkatsishvili's astute eye for the female form along with a sensibility for the contemporary woman's lifestyle.
Key Pieces: Black robe coats, side-slit pencil skirts with hip cut-outs, green sleeveless trench coat.
Vibe: Power-dressing with a party girl spin (a la Alexander Wang).
MACH & MACH
Summary: Founded in 2012 by sisters Nina and Gvantsa Macharashvili, MACH & MACH added a pleasantly shocking jolt of colorful energy to the week's expansive gamut of stark, leather-everything creations. Though keeping with the Georgian capital's love of all things futuristic-tinged, MACH & MACH's range took less design cues from The Matrix and more from The Fifth Element: think metallics, sequins, feathers, sheer fabrics and high necklines.
Key Pieces: Purple metallic puffer jacket, eye-slit Matrix sunglasses, ruffled fuchsia shirt dress.
Vibe: Disco queens on Saturn.
Summary: At just 27-years-old, designer George Keburia is one of the younger talents helming from the Georgian capital to achieve global success with his namesake brand. Stocked in boutiques spanning from Georgia, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, Keburia's droll aesthetic has made him a favorite for more adventurous fashionistas who don't take themselves too seriously.
Key Pieces: Pepto-pink funnel neck dress with flower holder and billowing bishop sleeves, canary-yellow high-waisted trousers, gothy pilgrim suit with oversized bow neck attachment.
Now check out 13 fashion trends to expect in 2017.