metamorphosis | visa fashion week tashkent

Having just presented its second season in late November, Visa Fashion Week Tashkent would appear to be a fledgling event, but it is, rather, an expansion of the Visa Fashion Week which has already run for eight seasons in neighbouring Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, is the most populated city in Central Asia and was once the fourth largest in the Soviet Union. For centuries, it profited both economically and culturally as a major trading hub on the Silk Road. Later, as part of the USSR, it experienced migration from far flung corners of the union, including a significant diaspora of ethnic Koreans. A major earthquake in 1966 resulted in much of the city being rebuilt in the Soviet Brutalist style, but the Modernist architecture is often interwoven with Islamic influences and traditional craftmanship, such as intricate carvings and stained-glass.


This rich heritage can be seen not only in the ethnic diversity of its population, but in the fabrics and embroidery – such as the striking and colourful Ikats – and the ‘East meets West’ aesthetic is something several of the designers at the fashion week have embraced.

Opening the ten runway shows, which took place at the impressive Hyatt Regency Tashkent, was popular Uzbekistani label LALI. Lali Fazylova, who opened her atelier in 1996 and launched womenswear brand LALI in 2007, is one of the most recognised designers in the country. Her made to order creations marry Eastern traditions and Western elements, paying particular attention to the combination of colours, handmade jewellery and detailed accessories.

Traditional influences are also key to Mursak, founded in 2014 by Nilyufar Abduvaliyeva. Mursak exclusively uses natural fabrics, such as Shoiy, Adras and Bakhmal: varieties of silk woven by hand on ancient looms. Working with craftspeople and factories in Namangan, Fergana Valley and Bukhara, these unique fabrics are created with a strict quality control. Mursak aims to avoid clichés and overload of ornamentation, and instead breathe new life into familiar classics and offer its customers (which include stars, socialites and royalty) effortless elegance.

As well as Uzbekistani designers, there were also brands from elsewhere in the region. Tiko Nebieridze from Georgia has worked as a designer since 1998 and founded her eponymous brand in 2014. Her focus is on quality and attention to detail and a graceful style, merging the Georgian past with modern concepts. The demi-couture label presented sophisticated eveningwear and tailoring in classic silhouettes, but with exquisite flourishes, such as bows, ruffles, rosettes and beading.

Saken Zhksybayev is a key player in the fashion industry in Kazakhstan. He launched the ZHSAKEN brand in 2011 and has since presented his sell-out, ‘demi-couture’ creations at over 30 shows in Almaty and Astana. This season, his predominantly black and white collection was punctuated with stripes and silver leather. Voluminous or slinky silhouettes were accessorised with ski goggles, gauntlet gloves and baseball caps that spelt out ‘quiet luxury’.

But there weren’t only established brands showing at Tashkent. We were impressed by young Georgian designer Lashao Gabunia and his label House of Jesus Star, which he founded just last year. Based in Tbilisi, where he has an atelier and showroom that doubles as an exhibition and performance space, Gabunia designs with an intriguing and self-confident woman in mind.

The theme of this edition of Visa Fashion Week was ‘metamorphosis’ with the butterfly as a recurrent motif in the design of the event. As General Director and Producer Bauyrzhan Shadibekov explains: “It’s hard to imagine something more constant – and more changeable – than fashion… The AW season gives way to the SS season, a new collection appears to outshine the previous one – just as nature changes over time and season… We invited our participants to reflect on the topic of variability, cyclicality and tireless development.”

This does indeed seem like a fitting theme for designers from a region that has experienced constantly changing cultural influences, blossoming into a colourful and intricate mélange of East and West, new and old.  We look forward to seeing what the next stage in this metamorphosis brings.

Find out more about Visa Fashion Week Tashkent here.

Words. Huma Humayun

Backstage photography. Pogosyan Sergey

Catwalk photography. Raimonda Kulikauskiene | StreetStyleSpy 

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