New East Digital Archive

Sofia Tchkonia and Grigor Devejiev: the driving forces behind Georgia’s fashion boom

How did Georgian fashion conquer the world? Through the hard work of figures like Sofia Tchkonia and Grigor Devejiev

31 October 2017

Contemporary Georgia is not unlike a phoenix rising from the ashes: its recent past is marked by economic crisis and civil wars but its future is looking as bright as ever. With new developments in tourism and infrastructure, the country is on the path to global integration, and fashion plays an unlikely role in the process. Since Georgian-born Vetements and Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia secured his position as the industry’s ultimate royalty, fashion in Georgia has become a serious matter, a vehicle for telling the story of a new, reborn country.

The nation-wide fashion scene, however, was not born in a day, but rather crafted by they ongoing efforts of a small circle of committed professionals. Among them a special place is reserved for Sofia Tchkonia, founder and creative director of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. “I’d been organising various fashion and art projects in Tbilisi and Paris, and also working with young designers as I am the founder of international fashion design contest BE NEXT. At some point I understood that we have many talented designers and we need a platform, with a professional team, guests, experts from around the globe — we needed to move forward. That’s how the idea to organise Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi came about,” Tchkonia remembers. Since 2015, her efforts have helped to gather designers who possess vision, talent, creativity and potential under one umbrella, ready to be showcased to the world. Among the most notable names are Bella Hadid’s favourite Situationist, Tamuna Ingorokva, known for her carefully constructed leather garments, and George Keburia with his exquisite take on futuristic elegance.

“Our main aim is to make Georgian fashion successful, put Georgia on the fashion map,” Tchkonia adds. “I think international exposure for Georgian designers is definitely good for the country. It helps people to discover Georgia from a different angle, from its creative side. Then the international press covers not only fashion and designers but also interesting places, people, architecture and culture.”

One of their main goals was also to create a unified visual aesthetic for the scene, which would also be relevant globally. Photographer Grigor Devejiev, with over a decade of experience working in fashion, could provide just that. He is in charge of most of the visual materials for the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, and his atmospheric, somewhat gritty, bold editorials have instantly attracted the attention of international fashion magazines, including i-D and Metal. “My main aim is to clash a post-Soviet aesthetic, Georgian folk tradition and a reflection of today’s social inequality,” he says. “I think Georgian designers are very diverse in their styles, but when we talk of Georgian fashion there is still a common picture, and I think it’s great.”

Text: Anastasiia Fedorova