From Seoul Fashion Week to Budapest Central European Fashion Week, more Spring 2019 collections are continuing to debut outside of the New York-London-Milan-Paris circuit. On Monday, we saw the conclusion of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, which has increasingly attracted influencers, buyers and editors from across the globe, hoping to witness the next up-and-coming talent out of Georgia. After all, thanks to successful designers like Demna Gvasalia and David Koma, as well as emerging brands Situationist and George Keburia, the post-Soviet country has become the world's most exciting fashion destination.
Read on to find out about our favorite collections, and their designers, from the latest season of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi.
If there's a Georgian designer we'd like to see make waves among U.S.-based retailers, it's Lado Bokuchava. But the Tbilisi State Academy of the Arts graduate and former Kikala Studio art director is already busy paving the way for his hometown's fashion scene. In addition to running his namesake label, he's one of the head designers for Georgian fashion house Materiel and works with several other brands within his native country as a stylist.
For Spring 2019, Bokuchava invited showgoers to his venue of choice from last season's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi — an experimental primary school — and his latest collection stayed true to the designer's penchant for '80s aesthetics and vintage silhouettes. While some style choices were reminiscent of a few big-name designers' collections, it's clear that Bokuchava is refining his own signature details, from his unexpected takes on draping — a black boxy blazer with bright pink fabric that swoops at the waist, for example — to bold materials and embellishments, like colorful snakeskin patchwork and multiple silver rings used as trim. His dresses and gowns were particularly strong — a perfect fit for the street style set during future fashion weeks.
Though Lalo Dilodze never studied fashion (the 32-year-old graduated university with a degree in foreign languages and European culture), she always wanted to start a business in the industry. "My friends in Tbilisi are all designers and I wanted to do something that's new and what was missing," says Dilodze. She decided to focus specifically on knitwear and for the past four years, her Lalo Cardigans line, which she manages with her twin sister Nina, has expanded into a large, successful company, boasting a staff of 200 knitters — every piece is handmade and takes about two to three weeks — and about 50 full-time employees.
In 2016, Dilodze launched a higher-end line called Lalo, which presented its Spring 2019 collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. In addition to Lalo's signature knitwear, which included chunky cardigans and pullovers in bright colors or leopard print, as well as embellished with crystals or geometric cut-outs, Dilodze offered on-trend pieces that completed the full looks. Our favorite pairings were Lalo's sweaters with interesting skirts, including an asymmetric, pleated midi- or a mini-length version that's studded and made from shiny patent leather.
Mach & Mach
We were already familiar with Mach & Mach after attending Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, where Georgian sisters Nina and Gvantsa Macharashvili showed their Fall 2017 collection in Moscow for the first time. Since founding their line in 2012 in Tbilisi, the two designers have been extremely in tune with what fashion-savvy shoppers are drawn toward. Their Spring 2019 runway show, titled "Exoplanet Love/Cosmic Girl" was a hodgepodge of trendy temptations: velvet and sparkling party dresses, statement outerwear, cinched-in blazers and, of course, biker shorts. Mach & Mach is also well-known for its footwear and handbags, which proved to be strong within its latest collection, such as square-shaped purses, booties adorned with chains and strappy sandal heels. Get Bella Hadid in these looks ASAP.
Georgian fashion house Materia's premium label Materiel serves as an incubator for local designers to create and manufacture collections with on-trend, global appeal. For its Spring 2019 collection, head designers and Tbilisi State Academy of Arts alums Lado Bokuchava and Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili expanded upon Materiel's expertise in structured, minimal silhouettes, complementing them with unexpected takes on coats with circular cut-outs at the waist, fabrics (mirrored silver, faux leather and silk) and suiting — jackets that are cropped or feature extended hems, for example. It's no wonder Materiel is one of the most anticipated shows of the week.
Istanbul-based designer Sansim Adali made her Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi debut as part of the Mercedes-Benz International Designer Exchange Program, which supports emerging designers by providing opportunities to showcase their collections around the world. (Georgian designer Ani Datukishvili participated in the program by showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Istanbul in September.)
"Tbilisi caught my attention because Georgian designers are so cool," says Adali, who grew up in the southern part of Turkey, studied fashion design at LaSalle College in Istanbul and launched Sudi Etuz in 2008. "The experience helped me improve a lot because I'm out of my country for the first time working with Georgian models and a Georgian team."
Adali's biggest inspiration for Spring 2019 was Istanbul's Bosphorus strait, or narrow waterway, which she conveyed through the collection's color palette — green, white, blue and purple — and silhouettes. Over the past decade, Adali's award-winning line has been recognized for its romantic use of tulle, which made up some of the most exciting looks of her collection, including a tiered column gown in white and lavender and a bright green ballgown.
Based in Tbilisi, Tatuna Nikolaishvili launched her namesake label in 2003; she's shown at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi since the beginning. "Every season, it gets better and better," says Nikolaishvili. The designer actually kicked off the official start of fashion week with a presentation at Tbilisi's Stamba Hotel, a buzzing social hub and one of the hot spots of the week among showgoers.
For Spring 2019, Nikolaishvili turned to her city's architecture and buildings — both old and new — referencing the inspiration through patterns within the collection, which was made up of silk and other natural fabrics. While the majority of Georgian designers boast a more striking aesthetic, Nikolaishvili's quiet approach to design — a muted palette with sleek silhouettes — is what makes her stand out. Even her presentation was low-key, yet impactful: Four models stood on one side of the room in full looks, while the rest of the collection was on display on nearby clothing racks.
Though French-Italian designer duo Luisa Orsini and Tine Peduzzi aren't based in Tbilisi — Orsini has family roots in Georgia, but they split their time between Rome and Paris — being a part of a more intimate schedule like Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi allows for more attention toward the brand. And rightly so: Since launching in 2011, TL-180's luxury hand-woven handbags have become a cult favorite within the fashion industry. In 2017, Orsini and Peduzzi debuted ready-to-wear, and while the two are still figuring out their aesthetic, they enjoy leaning most of their design efforts towards knitwear.
TL-180's Spring 2019 presentation took place at the Writers' House of Georgia, a historic mansion built during the early 1900s, with models spread out along the venue's wrapping staircase and foyer. The latest collection was inspired by Orsini and Peduzzi's summer in Venice while working behind the relaunch of the heritage Italian brand Capucci. The designers also referenced Luchino Visconti's film "Mort a Venise (Death in Venice)" and the '70s-era spirit of Rive Gauche in Paris. This mostly translated to laid-back and party-ready two-piece sets, including a few checkered-print creations that would be best worn while on summer holiday.
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the event.