“On a scale from Vetements to Balenciaga, how Gvasalia is this?” Any Georgian designer braving international fashion circuit at the moment has to come to terms with this myopic yet popular critical lens. Nano Babukhadia showed the FW’18 collection in Madrid as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Talent exchange. When I read that she had turned to German artist Otto Dix for inspiration, it made me queasy. Dix had documented the horrors of both World Wars in meticulous detail as a warfield volunteer. I experienced the gut-punch impact of his visions firsthand at the Art of War exhibition by Kazerne Dossin. “All art is exorcism,” remarked Otto Dix. For the record, Babukhadia has performed a real miracle in Madrid.
If you didn’t know more, you’d still tick off the editorial keywords: oversize, unisex, sheen, bold color-blocking, 1970’s vibe, laconic styling. Accomplished, assured, appealing. Not a single look competes for attention, yet each guarantees it. For all the merit and hype, Babukhadia isn’t into insta-creativity. These clothes don’t strike me as particularly right-now. There is a weight about them that defies trend-watching.
Otto Dix’s existential and creative predicament was how to take the utterly unseemly and distill it until a modicum of beauty crystallizes in its stead. The reference was not to the subject, but to the process. For this brilliant collection, Nino Babukhadia tapped into her memories of Georgia’s tumultuous Soviet past. And, this is what you don to outwear an empire. This is what you do to outlast the industry’s gvasalian moment. This is how you set your own terms. Bravo. Hola, bienvenido!
The next season of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week TBILISI takes place May 3-7, 2018