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Georgina fashion and the art of dissidence through clothes

Interview with Irakli Rusadze, founder of Situationist

Georgina fashion and the art of dissidence through clothes Interview with Irakli Rusadze, founder of Situationist

In May, the Georgian fashion week took place in Tbilisi, or rather, what remains of it, amidst protests suppressed with violence and political instability. Until last year, it was called the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, or MBFW Tbilisi, adding to the long list of international moments promoted by the German car manufacturer. This year's edition, renamed Culture Days Tbilisi, was held from May 9 to 12 and was a pale substitute for the vivid melting pot of creativity that used to animate the country. But, despite the absence of media, influencers, and all those who usually dedicate an Instagram story to local brands, Georgian fashion has never been so eloquent, political, and united in denouncing Russian intrusions and narrating the dream of a European and democratic future. Specifically, this year, creatives protested vigorously against the foreign agents bill and the anti-LGBT law, from the walls of Bassiani, the capital of clubbing and counterculture, to the runways, and through the streets.

The brands Prodiashvili and Berhasm reinterpreted the European Union flag (in the case of the latter, the yellow stars were replaced by the borjgali, a traditional Georgian symbol). Prodiashvili himself had to reschedule the interview with Vogue Runway because he had been up all night protesting and his skin and eyes were irritated by tear gas. Situationist instead created a blanket made up of 183 pairs of handmade shoe soles, crocheted to represent the EU. "I believe each of us should use the platforms at our disposal to defend the values we believe in. Engaging through cultural means gives our work a deeper purpose. The clothes we wear define the person we present to society, in an era where every choice reflects a stance,” says Irakli Rusadze, founder and creative director of the brand that has been showcasing Georgian culture to the world from Tbilisi, Milan, and Paris since 2016. From the t-shirt printed with the Georgian flag on the runway for the SS17 collection to the campaign depicting the brand's minimalist looks in contrast with a series of colorful traditional Georgian dresses, Rusadze demonstrates that fashion is political and that clothes can "transcend commercial or aesthetic purposes, allowing us to convey a strong message rooted in the present."

The very name of the brand is inspired by the group of intellectuals, artists, and philosophers from the mid-20th century known as the Situationists, who were emblematic of political dissent and cultural avant-garde of those years. Passionate about fashion since he was a child, Rusadze began his career visiting small ateliers, inspired by the street fashion of Tbilisi and women who grew up sewing their own clothes ("I found it extraordinary"). His dedication to Georgian culture involves reworking symbols and cultural codes into garments that play with androgynous silhouettes and simple lines: "I have always believed that creating collections can serve as a bridge to share and export Georgian culture beyond our borders, which remains unknown to many. Georgian history, along with contemporary Georgia, is my main source of inspiration. Our strong symbolism continues to convey messages that are still relevant."

For SS19, Demna Gvasalia presented his last collection for Vetements - before definitively passing the baton to his brother Guram - inspired by "family and violence": not only a tribute to his homeland but a project to educate the rest of the world about Georgia's struggle. For FW22, this time at Balenciaga, the oversized silhouettes and all-black ensembles conceived by the designer enveloped the models, who instead of walking down the usual polished runway, walked through a storm, like refugees on the run, in solidarity with the Ukrainian cause. Violence, migration, and war have defined Georgia's history but have also shaped its spirit, a resilience that from generation to generation animates the people in an unwavering aspiration for resilience. In challenging times for democracy and in days when European citizens are called to the polls to decide the fate of their governments, the Georgian protest is an example of collectivity, care for others, and hope. As in Rusadze's words: "Georgian culture is unique, with a rich history and a strong sense of identity. There is something special about the way we live and relate to each other, which I cannot compare to any other culture. War has had a significant impact on Georgians. The memories of conflict have left deep marks, shaping the way our new generations see the world. But despite the difficulties, there is a resilience that runs through all of us, we have witnessed and acted in the last weeks during the protests. We know the sacrifices made by our ancestors and this motivates our push towards a better, European future."