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berhasm ss19 le depot collective russia georgia
Photography Alan Dorodnyh

The collective using fashion, art, and music to fight for freedom

Based between Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine, Berhasm’s members are standing up to oppression through creativity – and throwing some really good parties

At the end of Paris Fashion Week, emerging design collective Berhasm threw a rave. As far away from the typical champagne and small talk-heavy industry receptions as it’s possible to be, the party was thrown in collaboration with ADULT's Emmanuel Caurel and Julien Bizarrelt, and took place in the heart of Le Marais, at Le Depot – the iconic gay sex club well-known (and loved) for its dark techno, darker corners, and all-out, hedonistic debauchery.

It was, as founder Beso Turazashvili explains, a place that the Berhasm family felt right at home, given it was in clubs like these that many of them first met.

Hailing mainly from Georgia, Russia, and Ukraine, the collective is made up of a new generation of creatives who grew up under the shadow of Soviet rule. Drawing on their experiences of this time, members come together to create fashion, art, and music, as part of a statement against political and sexual oppression, and the suppression of human rights – all ongoing issues in these regions, despite the fall of the Eastern Bloc almost three decades ago.

“We’re transforming the suppression of rights, expression, and love into a vibrant movement that will not stand for censorship,” says Turazashvili. “The one thing that unites us and all of Berhasm’s collaborators is the fight for freedom and equality. And yes, there is still much to fight for in our part of the world.”   

Alongside Turazashvili, members of the group include Moscow-based creative director Nikita Egorov-Kirillov, Ukrainian photographer Alan Dorodnyh, and artist Elene Metrevell, who lives in Tbilisi. Dorodnyh is known for his intimate portraits of masculine beauty, and says that many of the men he photographs come to him as a type of therapy, as, in front of his camera, they can be what they can’t be in real life, while Metrevell creates art with the concept of ‘closed eyes’ in mind – after a short illness left her temporarily blind. Egorov-Kirillov, meanwhile, is the man behind one of Moscow’s best-loved queer techno parties, Popoff Kitchen. Dubbed ‘The Gay Warrior’ by his friends, owing to the scars on his face and head, he set out to create a safe space for those living in a country known for violent homophobia and brutal attacks on its LGBTQ+ community.  

Now, following the party at Le Depot, Berhasm launches its first clothing collection. Based on the concept of rave clothing, it’s is basically what the collective want to see you wearing at one of their events. For SS19, this means oversized sweatshirts, boxy, cropped tees, cut-off tank tops, and loose, shell suit-style pants, most of which bear photography and artwork created by the collective’s members. Alongside tongue-in-cheek slogans (‘I fucked your boyfriend’) are more poignant styles – including a hoodie designed in tribute to anti-Soviet activists killed in Georgia in 1989, and garments bearing Dorodnyh’s personal, tender imagery.

Here, we talk to Turazashvili about the label’s debut collection, the ongoing fight for freedom among Eastern Europe and Russia’s young, queer creatives, and how he sees the collective growing.

How did the idea to form Berhasm come about?   

Beso Turazashvili: I started thinking about it earlier this year during a conversation with some of my friends. Many of them are great artists, musicians, and photographers whose voices I respect, and I wanted them to be heard globally. I didn’t study fashion but I worked for Stella McCartney after I graduated from NYU, and then started my own fashion line Beso Turá, but I wanted something more, and to be closer to the audience that’s closer to me – the audience that uses fashion for self-expression rather than as a statement on their social status. The concept of Berhasm is based on many capsule collaborations with different artists who each have something to say, linked by their shared fight for expression and freedom.

How did you all meet?

Beso Turazashvili: Most of them I actually met at parties, but I think life brings some people into your life for a reason. A party isn’t just a temporary moment of fun, it’s the life we fantasise about, and Berhasm is not just a fashion brand: it’s a party, a way of expressing yourself, and of living. Usually, from the first time I meet someone, the message we will spread together is clear to us.

How often do you get together?

Beso Turazashvili: Actually, a lot of what we do is done digitally. The beauty of our era is that you can have soulmates without ever having met them. Some of the group I became friends with through social media: I just messaged them and asked if they wanted to do something together. Everything has become digital – digital marketing, digital sales, digital models. I call the collaborators ‘digital designers’.

Music is a huge part of what you do. What tracks sum up Berhasm, and the label’s debut collection itself?

Beso Turazashvili: Music is the way everything we do as part of Berhasm comes together – we are united when we dance, and in dance, we remember the past, celebrate the present, and look to the future. If I had to sum up Berhasm in one track, it would be Emmanuel Top’s “Acid Phase”, which is rough and brutal, but at the same time emotional and free – and it brings memories of the old days. Berhasm makes collections for the present, though, as we express our past in contemporary ways, so the track for the new collection would probably be Amelia Lens’s “Stay With Me”.

Tell us a little about the campaign – what was the concept behind it?

Beso Turazashvili: We shot the campaign in a former Soviet apartment with three characters: one from Moscow, one from Tbilisi and one from Kiev who have all just arrived back from a party. They are sharing love, sexual connection, and unity – physical and emotional. Aside from being a promotional campaign, it’s also a political statement on the conflicts that are still ongoing in these three countries, where people just want to love and be loved freely. The campaign was shot by Alan Dorobnyh, who’s also known as i2406. He has a very special aura around him that lures everyone who stands in front of his camera out of their comfort zone.  

You talk about the conflict many of Berhasm’s members face in creating. How do these issues inform what you are creating as a group?

Beso Turazashvili: Coming from a ‘troubled background’ is so normal for people of our generation in our part of the world, and it’s also one of the greatest inspirations for me. When I tell my foreign friends about Georgia in the 90s, when we used to have access to electricity and water for only a couple of hours a day and food for many was scarce, no one can believe where my country is at now. But that’s a big part of our history and heritage, it’s what made people fight for everything we have now, and it’s only the beginning. Our generation has a strong voice.

“We are united when we dance, and in dance, we remember the past, celebrate the present, and look to the future” – Beso Turazashvili

Why is throwing parties so important to you as a collective?

Beso Turazashvili: We throw parties to bring the Berhasm community together. We want our audience to feel that they are a part of the family, and we are always open to new collaborations with new parties, too, since each party is its own small world. It’s a way to grow as a collective, and bring new voices into the fold. Following on from the PFW rave at Le Depot, our next party will be in Moscow in collaboration with Popoff Kitchen, where we’ll be taking one of my favourite Berlin parties – Herrensauna. Hosting international and intercultural parties is very important for me and for the brand since they break down walls, prove how similar we all are, and show that we aspire for the same things in life.

What’s next for Berhasm?

Beso Turazashvili: Now we’ve launched our first collection, we’re going to grow our pool of collaborators, and bring in more diversity since that’s what we stand for. The next showcase will be in Paris at Men’s Fashion Week in January, and I hope to have a show and a rave in Georgia next spring as well. And we will continue telling our story and growing the Berhasm family – there are many more exciting things to come.