Couture with retro-futuristic influences. Detractor of homogeneity, Georgian designer Lado Bokuchava is interested in the differences that coexist inside each idea. Future and past, classicism and brutalism, sensuality and moderation. He combines his work in his eponymous brand with the direction of another Georgian brand, Materiel, showing both collections at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi every season. A considerable effort that has sparked the interest of Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi.
Designer, creator, unconditional lover of your profession… What definition do you feel most identified with?
Most probably with all of them, because I am a designer and a designer must be a creator. I would not have been able to do my job well if I hadn’t loved it unconditionally.
You are an avowed lover of contrast. And your brand Lado Bokuchava pays attention to both sides that a story or a concept can agglutinate: the urban and the elegant, the earthly and the dreamlike… Is the fashion industry a field full of contrasts?
Today, fashion is more full of contrasts than it has ever been before. It’s free from restrictions and frames, and brands aren’t just for one type of person only. I love it when a piece can be seen from different opinions/points of view and has different sides, when it is multifunctional.
I have the impression that you implement this fanaticism towards the duality of ideas in your clothes in an organic, unpremeditated way. Do you work based on a predefined structure or do you explore different facets as you create the collection?
In general, I have always liked designers who use contrasts in their collections, who mix together couture and urban styles. So yes, probably this is all very organic for me. When I work on my collections, I always try to mix different styles in every look. I don’t want any of my looks to have only one direction, being only classic or brutal. That is why I mix all these styles and directions together. Sometimes I like to mix something very dreamy and soft with something very spooky, or maybe a Victorian costume mood mixed with futuristic elements.
The colour risk and the combination of different shades and hues are a constant in your proposals. Few creators dare to combine red with bronze or pink with blue in such an explicit way. What does colour mean to you?
Colour is very important for me because it defines a lot of things. A wrong colour can lead down the wrong path, while the right colour can define something very easily in the right way. I try to find new colour combinations every season because that way my creating process is never boring. I implement a new dominant colour in every new collection but I also have my favourite ones, which I use almost always.
And monochrome looks are also one of your hallmarks. Two-piece suits in mint green, looks that bet everything on white or black…
For me, monochrome looks are associated with uniforms. For example, in my first collection, I had a canary yellow trench coat that linked to the rubber uniforms used in chemical laboratories. Total white looks are my favourite, I have one or more in each collection, and they are associated with spiritual cults. In general, monochrome looks are inspired by science fiction movies and one can’t see very often people dressed like that in real life.
When comparing your Spring/Summer 2020 collection to your first proposal presented in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, I notice the influx of sophistication. As if you had condensed your essence in a surprising act of creative maturity. What changes do you perceive compared to your first collections?
Before 2017, when I created my brand, I had been working for a long time as a designer, so with my first collection I wanted to do something new, something I had not done before. Since then, I have been trying to understand my brand identity and who my customers are, thus the changes from season to season.
The way garments fall on the silhouettes is very important to you. The fluidity of the fabrics, the perfection of the gathers or the pattern of the jackets are proof of this. What does a garment need to have to feel good on the body?
I always start the creating process with a pattern. It is the most important part for me and I spend most of the time on patterns – I can throw out multiple samples until I create a perfect one. Most of my complex looks consist of many details that are detachable, which makes them multifunctional and comfortable to wear for any type of body, and also on different occasions.
Buttons or gloves evoke me of past times, including the ‘80s. But the draping and colour combinations take me to the future. What inspires you the most: past, present or future?
As I have mentioned before, I don’t like to take a single direction. That is why I always mix a lot of ideas together to create contrasts. The one thing I always tend to use in my collections is futuristic detailing. Even when I use a detail from the past, I develop it in a new way, so that the look itself has a futuristic vibe. So probably, the future is the most inspiring for me.
Some of the looks cover the body completely but they are incredibly sexy. How do you interpret femininity and sensuality through your creations?
For me, there is no one definition or criteria for sexuality. Not even a size, shape or gender. Everything I do is very organic. I never try to make something or someone look sexy on purpose. If I make completely covered looks, they are either transparent or shape themselves very sexily, or they might have a cut somewhere unusual and unexpected.
Let’s go back to your first contact with fashion. You graduated from the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts in 2011 and started working as Art Director at Kikala Studio. What did this experience mean and how has it influenced your current work?
From the very beginning, I never wanted to have only one profession, to do only one job. So when I started working in fashion, I tried a few jobs and directions. It’s helped me a lot to work on different angles while creating my collections to know exactly what kind of styling, photoshoot or makeup they need so that the message is delivered correctly to my customer.
Duality is present in your conception of fashion, but also in your profession. In addition to running your eponymous brand, you are at the helm of Materiel, a historic Georgian company founded in 1948. What are the most significant differences between these two brands?
In general, the working process is very different. It doesn’t matter what brand you work for, a designer must always take the brand’s identity into consideration. Materiel is very minimal and classy, but my brand is different. I am more free here and I can experiment a lot.
It may not be easy to combine both facets. Even more when you take part in Tbilisi Fashion Week with two different brands. How do you handle it?
Of course, it is very difficult to work in two different brands at the same time, especially when you are always late in fashion (at least we used to be). But I have always liked the rhythm and doing several projects together, because when I do one thing, I take time from another and vice versa.
Just a month ago, Forbes referred to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi as “one of the new global trendsetters.” Although the fact that Demna Gvasalia is originally from Georgia has generated interest, the proposals of the national designers have been applauded on their own. What impression does the current scene in your country deserve in terms of fashion?
Demna’s success made it possible for the global fashion industry to notice Georgia. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week played a crucial role in Georgian brands’ success and increased awareness. I think Georgia was and still is very different and interesting for the global fashion industry, and it deserves as much attention as it can receive.
Your garments are available on two of the most coveted international sales platforms: Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi. How have your proposals been received in these spaces?
Both of these platforms noticed my brand during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week when I was showing my Fall/Winter 2018 collection. After that, we have been travelling to Paris for showrooms and all this happened step by step. The first collection both platforms bought was the Fall/Winter 2019 one.
The future is uncertain, even more in these difficult times. But, what can you tell us about your next projects?
The future is uncertain indeed. I can’t say for sure what my future projects are, because all of our plans have changed directions. What I can say now is that I am working on my Spring/Summer 2021 collection and, in spite of all these changes in the world, my team and I are trying to stick to our deadlines and work the way that we had been working before.