Sofia Tchkonia’s confidence to underdogs: the tinkering of trust towards local creatives has kindled a spirit to unveil the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi
Sofia Tchkonia detects the candor, confidence, and creativity that drifts out of the individual. She begs no criteria in how she identifies talent: «Either you have it, or you do not. What makes them stand out from the rest is the impression I absorb from their composure and grit. Such combinations demand observation». We are in Georgia. Tchkonia recognized the absence of support and visibility towards the creatives in her home country. This mindset unveiled the creation of a platform where local designers and artists can showcase their flair and demonstrate the facets that make up Georgia. Through this viewpoint, she launched Fashion Week Tbilisi in 2015, supported by Mercedes-Benz.
For this year’s show, the MBFW – Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week – collaborated with the Georgian Fashion Foundation on the Factory, Art & Center Culture in Tbilisi. The event will take place on the digital stage. A former Coca-Cola factory doubles as the creatives’ hub and the space for this year’s Fashion Week. Tchkonia was named one of the ‘Business of Fashion 500’, a legion of professionals who define the fashion industry online. Although her title as a Creative Director of MBFW Tbilisi tails her endeavors, she shies away from the restrictions it bestows on her responsibilities. «Whenever people ask me what I do, I find it difficult to put it into words. It may be easier to tell them what this title entails, but it stretches far from such a name». She oversees public relations, selects and mentors designers, invites judges, participants, and partners, comes up with business plans, invents projects post-fashion shows, and secures deals with investors and clients, to name a few.
Tchkonia relies on the culture of Georgia. The country itself fosters eccentricity brought from Eastern, Western, and Soviet influences, sourced from its geo-position and history of being a former Soviet territory, manifesting a pot of unconformity from an identity. When the ways of life of Georgia take the spotlight in the runaway, they deviate from underscoring the fabrics, accessories, and materials to present performances that command attention. «The investors and supporters sit among the crowd to watch their craftsmanship, and they may never come again. They welcome such frenzy and transport it into their ethics». The designers have the chance to select where to conduct their fashion show. Their choices include theatres, opera houses, or cinemas, so long as they spread out the locations to allow the guests to travel from one side of the city to another, favoring Tbilisi’s sights. «Most of them are under the age of 30 and come from self-teaching. Being born in a democratic atmosphere, they experiment with what they can come up with. They are not afraid of what they want to do. They don’t follow the rules».
MBFW Tbilisi has experienced an influx of change five years since its inauguration. The number of local talents, sponsorships, partnerships, and collaborations has increased along with the global publicity spearheaded by publications and press abroad. «I have been fortunate to have a circle of friends and acquaintances around the world who have been supportive to the fashion week since its beginning. They did not know about Georgia and its designers. Still, when I invited them to witness what the country offers in fashion and art, all of them accepted the invitation. Through this consistency, the show has accumulated the support of local and international press and publications, clients, designers, and fashion and art enthusiasts». She continues: «To appear in the news is already a break from the status quo, for Georgia». The culmination of transformations occurs in the philosophy that the designers follow. «Before, they would tell me they would create their collections due to a sentiment of obligation. They nursed the vision of pessimism towards their designs. As we progressed, they learned what mediums to use and how to wield them. They gained confidence in their work: they now believe in themselves».
Tchkonia is also the Creative Director of BE NEXT Art and Fashion Foundation, an entity she took over from her mother’s helm in 2010. «We provide scholarships that encompass study abroad programs if they choose to dive deep into their studies outside Georgia. The MBFW Tbilisi is the fashion week for creatives who have established their brands or plan to do so. Those who excel at BE NEXT claim the spot to feature their collections in the MBFW Tbilisi». The multiculturalism profile that pivots back to her travels to – and from – abroad grips her ethos in work and life. When she was fourteen, she studied high school in the US. As a teenager from a former Soviet country in the Nineties, she wrestled with difficulties in adapting to the American culture but knew that she had to survive. Then, she transferred to Germany to study its culture and language before moving to Paris to work on projects she thought would turn her into a film critic and director. «I authored the documentary project ‘Icons and Muses’ and ‘Legends of Fashion’. I interviewed Pierre Berge, Madame Carven, Serge Lutens, Rick Owens, and Jean-Paul Goude. The conversations elicited how fashion and art intertwine with our lives and the impacts and functions they serve».
Today, she transmits what she has learned to the designers at BE NEXT Art and Fashion Foundation and MBFW Tbilisi. «While living abroad, I found out the importance of communicating to people across cultures, and I pass this onto the teams I work with. We now embrace the unitedness it gives off since we feel the interconnectedness». Tchkonia prepares the creatives not to focus on the designs they see before them but to step back, review their subjects, and work on themselves through meeting people to surpass the commonality of their works and conquer growth. Paris, Milan, Antwerp, and New York reign as the headquarters of the fashion industry. Tbilisi speeds up its pace to follow suit. Sofia Tchkonia heralds its league, whose beliefs towards Georgian designers and culture unlock the country’s potential.
Founder and Creative Director Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi