A new generation of Tbilisi-based creatives are dismantling gender with their progressive approach to fashion
Fashion’s gaze might be notoriously capricious, but there’s something about Tbilisi that continues to hold the industry’s attention. First thrust into the spotlight by Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia, the previously overlooked Caucasus country’s capital is bubbling under with a unique creative scene, spearheaded by a radical new generation of artists, musicians, and fashion designers.
Though the region is largely conservative in its values, and homophobia has historically run rife on its streets, things are improving for Georgia’s vibrant queer community. Hedonistic nights like Horoom, which take place at world-renowned, labyrinthine techno club Bassiani, and spaces including Cafe Gallery, Drama, and Success – Tbilisi’s first ever gay bar – offer LGBTQ+ youths a space to drink, dance, and connect, bathed in the red light that illuminates the city’s nightspots.
On the catwalk, too, a revolution is happening. Integral to the rise of the Post-Soviet aesthetic that dominated international fashion from 2015 onwards, over the course of the last few seasons, at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, Georgian designers are breaking away from the stereotype and focusing on developing their own, wholly original style.
But it doesn’t end there – recently, the lines between gender are finally starting to be smashed down, too. Though the likes of Situationist and Dazed 100 designer Akà Prodiàshvili have long experimented with clothing that goes beyond the binary, for the most part collections have been specifically created for men or women – until the SS20 season at MBFW, that is, where more designers than ever before showed gender neutral offerings.
Meet some of them below.
Following in the footsteps of 2019 Dazed 100-er Akà Prodiàshvili, new kid on the block Levau Shvelidze debuted a subversive, gender-fucking collection at this season’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. As part of a wild show which saw model, performer, stylist, and Troublemakerz signee Matt Shally stumble down the runway, letting a series of blood-curdling screams out as he went, the offering channelled iconic cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What did that entail? Slashed and skewed minidresses paired with stockings and suspenders, technicolour outerwear trimmed with clashing fur, a lot of towering heels, and plenty of leather, feathers, neon, as worn by an androgynous, eclectic cast.
Founded by Irakli Rusadze and Davit Giorgadze, Situationist was first propelled to fame when Bella Hadid stepped out in a look from the Gerogian label back in 2017. From day one Situationist has endeavoured to blur the lines between gender, sending male models down the runway in delicate, see-through chiffon shirts and feminine leather culottes, while female models are often seen wearing traditionally ‘mannish’ slouchy tailored suits as part of its shows. With one of the most diverse runways on the MBFW line-up, Rusadze constantly challenges existing beauty ideals with his model casting: notably, for SS19, the designer enlisted a transgender woman he met on the dancefloor of Bassiani to walk in his show the next day, as he continues to support and uplift the LGBTQ+ community he is an integral part of.
Drawing inspiration from iconic drag queens including Violet Chachki and Sasha Velour, Akà Prodiàshvili has long been pushing a message of inclusion and diversity with his dramatic, avant-garde shows and thoughtful, imaginative collections – which is why we included the Georgian designer on the 2019 Dazed 100 list. This time around, for SS20, Prodiashvili took over a house in Tbilisi’s old town to serve up what he’d been working on for the last six months: an offering incorporating slinky evening dresses in rich, jewel-toned satin, old-school tailoring imagined anew, and uber-glam accessories, all of which had a distinct old Hollywood vibe.With each of his collections underscored with a unique, sometimes slightly macabre, but always wholly appealing edge, the designer has found himself fans in Arca, Lady Gaga, and even Paris Hilton.
With a sporadic approach to the fashion week schedule, Tamra’s shows are few and far between: but when they do happen, they’re one of the most artistic, imaginative, and boundary-pushing events on the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week line-up (“I don’t want to create collections, I want to tell stories,” she told us back in 2018). Founded by Tamuna Karumidze and beloved by the skateboarding community of Tbilisi, the skate-inspired streetwear label is wholly dedicated to a sustainable method of production and a distinct, DIY aesthetic – SS20 saw Karumidze take over the basement of the Stamba hotel with a collection crafted from old duvets, and repurposed surplus fabrics and finishings, with blown-up, XXL silhouettes and garments designed without gender in mind. Alongside creating clothing for Tamra, in 2017 Karumidze also established Troublemakerz – an unconventional modelling agency which works with the likes of Balenciaga, Vetements, and Marine Serre.