Sofia Tchkonia

Chances are you have heard Georgia and Tbilisi pop up in conversation in recent years. For me, it started with the recommendation of the wine, and then as an avid hiker, people were telling me to go hiking there. Next thing you know, I was being told to check out artists, DJs, and designers. It seemed as though many things were lining up for the small country tucked away on the Black Sea.

Once I went there, I got it. There was this young generation with a lust for life and an energy I hadn’t seen for years, but they definitely weren’t lost. It’s not an understatement to say that Sofia Tchkonia saw this potential and wanted to create a sustainable economic future for this generation, in the medium that she knows: Fashion. This is not an overnight success story, it’s about an ongoing work in progress, the struggles to create an industry whose roots are just being planted. But this is definitely about having a vision and working towards it.


My first introduction to Georgian designers was at Art Georgia during Paris Fashion Week, before you launched MBFW Tbilisi. I remember seeing designer Ria Keburia and thinking she has a lot to say through her work. What made you decide to take the next step and launch the fashion week?

I wanted to create a platform where designers could build their careers professionally, meet international press and buyers and also to promote the country which was completely unknown to the fashion world and put Georgia on the international fashion map. To bring together Georgian creatives and an international audience. Help designers show their talent to fashion professionals and experts. I truly believe that Georgia has a very big potential to become one of the interesting fashion destinations.


BeNext, was a project you took on from her mother in 2010. Would you say that fashion is in your blood?

Hard to say, I don’t know, I was born during Soviet times where fashion was just a dream and something which was far away from us and really hard to get. Georgian women even during those hard times looked stylish and elegant and till now this generation of ladies look very elegant and chic. My interest in fashion started when I was 14 years old when I first went to the United States and bought my first copy of Vogue. It was in the ’90s when fashion was completely different and for me as for the teenager who lived in the total darkness of the 90’s Georgia, it was a fantasy, a dream.

One of the things that stood out to me, was that around 2/3rds of the designers at MBFW Tbilisi are under the age of 30. This is very rare and very refreshing. What do you look for in young designers?

The young generation in Georgia is very interesting to me. They are fresh, innovative, open-minded, free and for me the future of Georgia is them.


And the number one advice you would give to emerging designers wanting to launch their own brand?

You have to be ready for everything, hard work, big desire, not afraid of competition and believe in yourself.

While all of the designers have their own DNA and the media definitely like to pinpoint post-Soviet youth culture, how would you describe Georgian style in general?

Georgians are fighters by their nature, but we love to be free and you can feel it in our fashion too.

Up until Georgian designers like David Jones and Demna Gvasalia entered the scene, the iconic image of Georgia was Brian Griffin’s 1989 Comme des Garçons shoot with Kawakubo styling. In the series, we see the beautiful countryside and the faces of local people. Beyond fashion, what places should we explore off the beaten track?

Georgia is a beautiful ancient country with interesting places to visit from mountains, seaside, and lakes to the Kakheti wine region, Svaneti, Kazbegi and many more. There are a lot of authentic places in Georgia to experience.


You were recently honored, during Paris Fashion Week, on the BOF 500 which is quite the accomplishment! People don’t always see all of the hard work that goes into such an achievement. What has been the most difficult and what challenges are you currently facing?

It was really hard to bring an international audience to Georgia for our event. International press and buyers visit more major fashion capitals but don’t often go to smaller fashion weeks. Also, it is difficult to keep this attention and it is hard work to make it more interesting season after season. Besides that, it is very difficult to make people, investors and sponsors invest in fashion as I have to prove that fashion in Georgia is worth of investment and it can become one of the major sectors of the Georgian economy, but it’s worth the hard work. I see how fashion is evolving in Georgia and I see the hard work of Georgian designers.


You have been pushing and advocating the development of Georgian designers for international export. Spain and Denmark are good examples of the role fashion can contribute to the economy while not competing with powerhouses like France and Italy. Has the government seen this potential? And what other industries have transformed the economy in the past decade?

I can say that the Georgian tourism administration is one of our greatest supporters. Each season with their partnership we invite more than 30 international press representatives. I wish there were more partners but it will come in time. Also, when I started we could hardly find any sponsors but now more and more are joining us.

Designers George Keburia and the Situationist both showed at Paris Fashion Week in recent seasons. Can we expect more Georgian designers any time soon?

Yes, there will be more and interesting designers presented at PFW from Georgia, but we have to be well prepared for this.

The most important talk in fashion has revolved around sustainability especially with deadstock and upcycling gaining popularity thanks to designers like Marine Serre and GMBH. Which Georgian designers have been implementing this into their practice?

More and more Georgian designers like Anouki and Ingorokva.


And finally, what’s next?

We have big ambitions and for the moment I can’t say which big project I’m working on, but I’m hoping we can announce it soon! Also, we are already working on next season which will be at the start of May and we want to make it much bigger and interesting.


Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi backstage photos shot by MARC MEDINA for Fucking Young!