Four million Georgians. Five hundred thousand single women. How’s that for a crazy statistic? It’s quite accurate though, and a tragic phenomenon. Because if you’re a Georgian woman, you’re inherently appalled by your fellow male countrymen. Or as one of them (whose boyfriend is Italian) put it plainly: “Georgian women don’t like Georgian men”. (Is it vice versa?) And I guess I can kind of see why? I personally didn’t spot many good looking men when I explored the streets. The tall-dark-and-handsome types you’d expect to see, are everything except that. They don’t seem to care much about their appearance. But then again, why should they? It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The girls aren’t looking at them; they’re looking outside the borders for a lover. When they heard Julien Boudet – points if you can spot him in the photo gallery – was among the invitees at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, they went properly wild, and the requests to meet him were overwhelming. And I don’t blame them… Bravo, Julien.
Anyways, we weren’t all deprived of beauty in Tbilisi. It’s an absolutely incredible city: sometimes modern and architecturally experimental; other times grey, abandoned and Soviet-stark; but in essence quaint and scenic. The old part of town is like a Tim Burton movie set – you’d think the houses are haunted – and the countryside reminds me of Austria or Hungary, with ancient cathedrals and fortresses sitting atop green rolling hills, and small villages nestled in lush valleys with meandering rivers. Georgians ski in winter, and sunbathe on the beaches of the Black Sea in summer. Catherine Baba, one of the other guests, compared “the joy of Georgia” to “a jewelry box”. Apparently Coco Chanel was inspired by the Georgian cross when she designed the original jewelry line.
You can basically see Tbilisi in one day: walk around the old town, take the cable car up the mountain, visit the castle, the baths, the shopping street, have lunch at Gabriadze Cafe, dine at Funicular and you’re done. But there are a few rare treats worth chasing. We had the privilege to sit in on the rehearsals of the Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili. That was pretty epic. But what’s more? It’s the beautiful, testosterone-laden hub where all the cute boys are hiding – I found them! – the shining, buoyant epicenter of the tall, dark and handsome myth! These guys were phenomenal, like the strident warriors they portray. (Fact: Georgia was in a perpetual state of war for thirteen centuries, fighting off Romans, Arabs, Mongols, Turkomans, Ottomans, Iranians and Russians until its independence in 1918.) And we paid a visit to the studio of Samoseli Pirveli, a private company with the sole purpose of preserving and promoting traditional Georgian costume. The embroiderers are only allowed to work four hours per day, and the coats they make still rock the gun powder holders. I wore one on the last day of Fashion Week – it was a proud moment.
Fashion-wise, Georgia has quite a bit of talent. The overall impression was positive and happy. Unlike their Ukrainian friends, who are essentially dark and avant-garde, Georgian designers love color and youth, in the comfortable footsteps of Marni or Creatures of the Wind. I saw very few body-con silhouettes – everything was boxy, not always flattering or feminine I would say – and besides Datuna very little evening wear. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week showcased twenty-four designers from Georgia and Ukraine. Some of my personal highlights included Materiel, Atelier Kikala, Flow The Label, Eloshi, Litkovskaya and Bessarion. And I discovered a few cute models as well! After I posted the Instagram of Lika I got frantic calls from a few notable agencies in New York… More about that and the looks I chose to style for a shoot on Thursday!
There’s never enough time to see all the sites, but I got a pretty fair idea of Georgia. Its people are ridiculously generous and hospitable. Guests are “god sent” as they say, and are lavished with food, wine and gifts. I gained about five pounds in five days – gasp! The most common ingredients are grapes, pomegranates, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, spinach, walnuts and cheeses. The climate is Southern and agreeable, the religion primarily Orthodox Christian, the language completely incomprehensible, the alphabet even worse, and the prices are low. Georgia’s economy isn’t doing very well, mainly because the country doesn’t have any particularly viable resources, except agriculture. And the kids? They party like it’s 1999. I’d love to come back in the summer and visit the Black Sea and see more of the countryside. But for now, I’m content with the experience and the hundreds of photos and videos I took.
Many thanks to Sofia Tchkonia for inviting me; Tamara and her protocol for being by my side 24/7; my mustached driver for bobbing his head to my music; and Mercedes Benz for the heated seats.