|Letter From Paris: (Republic of) Georgia Fashion Week|
|Saturday, 13 November 2010|
By Beth Arnold
After the catwalks of Milan and Paris, Fashion Week inTbilisi? As curious as it may sound, the answer is yes. It was a whirlwind of Georgian feasts, tours of the beautiful and textured city, museums with historic icons covered in jewels, parties galore, and show after show of hungry young designers who wanted to impress with their visions of what Georgian fashion could be. So many delicious layers to peel away in discovery. What could be more fun!
The small Republic of Georgia, located strategically at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, along the historic Silk Road routes, is a cultivation and clash of those dual civilizations. Think about the alchemy of East and West that stirred the Georgian pot, and how richly veined the history and culture are. In more recent memory, Georgia's long occupation by the former Soviet Union was in lock-step with the other countries around them. The concepts of art and fashion were officially snuffed-out to make room for a sea of Soviet conformity, and the high culture of fashion was lost for a time, if not forgotten.
No longer. Georgia fashion is back! President Mikheil Saakashvili, elected in 2004 at the ripe age of 37, is reinvigorating his nation, replacing the old--those who retain the Soviet mindset--with a younger generation who can build a new Georgia, free of U.S.S.R. attitude. A wind of passionate, creative energy is blowing through, which we were lucky enough to ride in this Fashion Week. Part of the allure of fashion is its ability to express and transform us. Fashion becomes symbolic of our interior selfhood as well as of our personalities and status to those around us. It is a material consciousness and representation of us, moving through our public lives and relaxing at home; how we, our friends, cities, countries, continents, and globe are tuning into the vibes of our times, and all the news, politics, economics, arts, etc. that go into them.
And so as Georgia is exploring its fashion identity, the simmer of young Georgian designers has come to a boil. Their visions are bubbling up and out with their nation's second Fashion Week, held October 22 - 26. The striking, immensely resourceful, and talented Sofia Chkonia issued the invitation to my husband, James Morgan, me, and others in the Parisian and European press to experience Georgia for the first time, and we were delighted to accept her kind offer.
We hopped a direct flight from Paris to Tbilisi. Upon arrival at the modern Tbilisi airport, I flipped open my computer and published a HuffPo blog on the free Wifi, while we were waiting on our luggage. Boom, done! Plenty of airports don't offer this ease and service without more stress and/or paying a fee. Afterward, we were delivered to our plush Marriott Hotel by an excellent driver and one of our hard-working translators and guides for the next few days, Tato Kharchilava.
The opening night was held n the center of old Tbilisi, on the Metechi Bridge over the Kura River, music pounding, wind blowing through our hair, excitement rippling through the crowd. The seasoned designerAvtandil acquired the lucky slot to initiate Fashion Week in this spectacular location.
The energy of the bold evening was flow, the breeze and the gowns floating through them. My take on theAtvandil collection: What happens at midnight, when fairies and zombie fashionistas slip on their frocks, and come out to play. This, for me, a Georgian fairy goddess.
Over the next few days, we acquired a sweet taste of Georgia on our tours around town, the shows, our endless courses of lunches and dinners, and through the people we met along the way.
Note to Self: Georgian mothers are revered, and this is Kartilis Deda, the Mother of Georgia statue looking down at the city of Tbilisi. "The statue is said to symbolize the Georgian national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand is a sword for those who come as enemies." Not a bad icon for women and mothers everywhere, pour some wine or kick a butt.
Most of the collections were shown in Rustaveli State Theater though a few were presented in the National Library of Georgia. The last show was perhaps the best location of all, especially for the dramatic spectacle of Datuna Sulikashvili, the Theater of Music and Drama.
The fabric of Ms. Kuliani's silhouettes was a modern felt, handmade in ancient Georgian traditions from Merino wool and silk, a fur alternative. And this could be exported! Cool handbags and hats were handcrafted as well. The models' bare feet a brilliant touch.
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