Talent can be found in every corner of the world, and outside the big fashion capitals is where names that will become the future of the industry are often created and nurtured. Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili is one of these names. In this interview he talks about his work, his sources of inspiration and motivation, and his concern and need to put his country, Georgia, in the spotlight and give it the importance it deserves.
With a career that started in 2015 with his graduation from Tbilisi State Academy of Arts and the recognition he received as winner of the Be Next Fashion Design Contest, it's no surprise that the Georgian designer Aleksandre Akhalkatsishvili was at the gates of a promising future, and the prophecy has been fulfilled. Since launching his eponymous brand in 2018, he has managed to establish a characteristic aesthetic, faithful to his personal style and his vision of life.
Minimalism is Akhalkatsishvili's signature. Minimalism can only be achieved when one has the expertise to know how to exploit the properties of each garment without resorting to a lot of ornamentation or paraphernalia, but understanding its characteristics and deconstructing it to build in its own way. His other particularity is vegan leather, a material that perfectly complements the aesthetics he seeks. There's nothing like letting a material as expressive as leather speak for itself.
Akhalkatsishvili is a great creative, and as he mentions in this interview, he is motivated by his past. A past and present that he builds in Georgia, his country, which he wishes to come out of its shell and which he compliments any chance he gets. He is living proof that by expanding our imagination beyond conventional limits, we can find stories and people that deserve to be heard.
It's a pleasure to talk to you. Where are you right now and what have you been up to lately?
Now I'm in Tbilisi, spending my time at home and trying to recharge. We had a showroom in Paris and I arrived several days ago. September is a tough time for people working in fashion.
It's been a very busy fashion month! Do you live it as frantically and chaotically as almost everyone in this industry or do you approach it in a different way?
I agree. The moment I finish collections I have to shoot campaigns, lookbooks and start preparing for the showroom and also control the production process of the previous collection, think about deadlines, etc. I have a fantastic team of motivated young people who define my brand, but I'm also involved in every direction.
We've seen your Spring/Summer 2023 collection and we love it! Please tell us more about it.
Thank you. We always think about interesting architecture and nature when we start planning the shooting. This time around, we decided to use just a simple background, dark tones and lighting. My collections have a lot in common, but it changes from time to time and they evoke desire, fantasy and seduction. The inspiration was 90s fashion editorials, Tom Ford's Gucci campaigns, and Gisele Bündchen and Rhea Durham for Dior by John Galliano Spring/Summer 2000 photographed by Nick Knight.
Do you have any particular moment you want to share with us from the process of building and producing this collection?
I love talking to people and discussing ideas. To me, every meeting with my creative team members is equally interesting and memorable.
All the pieces have their unique charm, and as the creator, it may be difficult to choose, but with which one do you feel the most satisfied after seeing the final result?
I always know which item will represent the collection in the first image of the campaign. I always have my favourites and some of them have become permanent items in my collections.
You are known for your skilled way of handling leather (faux, of course) and the wide range of garments you create with it, but has there been any point where you felt somewhat tired or restricted by its particular characteristics?
No, never. I can't get enough leather in my repertoire, especially when it's eco-friendly. A leather piece is a timeless investment, and it's easy to re-create the look. It's for everyone. I compare it to denim. It will be forever in our wardrobes.
Aside from the leather, another standard of your brand is the minimalist approach to your concepts. Why are you particularly fond of this way of designing?
It makes me think about the female body. I have a focus on it. Furthermore, minimalism is a guarantee that pieces won't be outdated next season. To me, this is the way I feel and this is the way I create items that are not going to get burnt.
Is this minimalism something you practice in your daily life as well? Or does your personal style differ in some way from your creative choices?
I don't buy often; I try to build a wardrobe that lasts for years. I mostly wear black t-shirts and pants with leather ankle boots or white sneakers. My everyday style is classic, timeless and casual.
Is there a particular style or concept you are curious about or want to explore in future collections?
I really want my brand to be more ethical with good environmental standards and more eco-friendly materials. It requires many experienced professionals and more financial resources and time, but it's mandatory, I think, for all of us, not superficially.
In an interview from 2020, you mentioned how you felt comfortable with not many people knowing who you are. Has your state of mind changed through the years, or do you still agree with your 2020 self?
Nothing has changed about it, but there is one thing I'm worried about. A minority of people know my country. Some people have no idea where I come from; some people think it's a state in America. The problem is that Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, and that is the reason many generations learned in geography lessons that it was part of it, unfortunately. It's the country with the earliest evidence of wine to date; our language dates back to 300 BC, etc. To make a long story short, I don't care if people don't know me and can't pronounce my surname because it's really difficult (laughs), but I really worry about people not knowing my country, which is struggling and trying to develop and lose this toxic Soviet mentality, but it's very hard, especially when your neighbour is evil. I mean Russia.
I'm curious about your perspective on the fashion and design industry in Georgia, your country. Do you think it's on the right path? Would you like it to be in some other way different from what it currently is?
We have approximately four to five good designers, and that's a lot for a country with a 3 million population, isn't it? The lack of experienced tailors and pattern-makers is a huge problem. We have an academy of arts, but it does not give you enough theoretical knowledge. There is no faculty of fashion management, for example. We need more people who have a strong desire to do something big in this industry, and then we will give them experience because it's the only way to raise professionals here.
For years, the fashion industry was not valued here, and the reason was the Soviet Union. Everyone was required to wear the same low-quality clothing. Different, exciting, and even denim items were restricted. In the USSR, it was not allowed to buy and sell denim publicly, only in black markets. Denim was associated with America and that was the reason. Of course, it's a totally different situation now. Generations have changed and the whole image is kind of different.
What is your biggest motivation right now? What keeps you going?
My past is my motivation. Then comes the future. My family, my friends, and my country, Georgia.
Finally, we know you just presented your new collection, and you rightfully deserve some rest, but as you know, the fashion world never stops! What can we expect from you and your brand in the near future?
I promise I won't lose my main line. You will recognise my clothes.