Despite all the fabulous optimism being streamed, the fashion industry has struggled to cope with the negative impact of the global pandemic. From supply chain disruptions to anxious consumer confidence, the latest McKinsey Global Fashion Index predicts “an erratic recovery” following a 20% market loss over the past two years. While luxury conglomerates can withstand uncertainty better, smaller players and newcomers need extra support and attention. This is especially true of emerging markets. That’s why the latest edition of Visa Fashion Week Almaty was a successful case study on how local governments can engage transnational capital to increase the needs of its creative community in these difficult times. Ever since Kazakhstan hosted the World EXPO and marked it as “an emerging fashion destination for global travelers”, designers have benefited from Almaty, the former Kazakh capital, strengthening its role as a center for expression. traditional and modern of Central Asian cultures. What does it take to organize an event of this magnitude in these times?
Kazakhstan, a country of 19 million people, had reported nearly a million cases of COVID since the start of the pandemic. With 47% of the population vaccinated, strict restrictions on travel and public gatherings are in place. Although the event took place in compliance with all preventive measures, its capacity and scope were limited as many international power players are wary of travel beyond the industrial bubbles of Paris or London. Bauyrzhan Shadibekov, CEO of Visa Fashion Week Almaty, noted that the team still prefers the in-person format over the virtual-only option, because personal connections are important to any creative entrepreneurial endeavor. Indeed, a smaller audience allowed for more interaction between audience, press and talent.
Among the distinguished guests were the photographer Andrew Barber, whose work has appeared in the most important fashion publications, Anastasia Fedoseeva, founder of Street Pie, a boutique and a trendy agency in Moscow, and Nino Sichinava, collaborating editor of Schon Magazine based in London. As exposure and access to international media, buyers and direct customers is key to building a national style brand, all shows were live streamed on the #VFWAlmaty social media platforms.
Among the national highlights was a Saken Zhaksybaev cruise collection. His ZhSaken label has focused on yellow-accented monochromatic clothing as an exploration of Spanish and Portuguese heritage in the royal stories of Europe. “Black, as the deepest color, awakens feminine beauty and in itself is a powerful accord, and when presented in a fabric such as velvet, it gives the image even more mystery,” says the designer.
Tatyana Yan, a former Kazakh student of the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, dived into the treasure trove of fairy tales. “The older we get, the more we realize that the story goes nowhere: good overcomes evil, after darkness comes light, actions are stronger than words. Only his characters change over time, but now we need them more than ever “, remarked Yan. Designer Ainur Turisbek has pioneered a new approach to co-branding collections.” ALMA: Powered by Jusan Invest “is a reference both to his mother and to the story of generosity of personalities such as the Medici family that “sponsored” the Renaissance.
A historic crossroads between the mythical East and West, Kazakhstan continued to dominate fashion diplomacy by inviting leading Ukrainian, Georgian and Uzbek designers. This was a powerful and welcome gesture of goodwill towards any country that was in a geopolitical stalemate with Russia. Fashion designer Lilia Litkovskaya and her “bold dresses worthy of a city shaman” have become one of Ukraine’s most recognizable business cards. Inspired by Keith Haring and the fields of blooming poppies, her optimistic vision for the future is defiantly triumphant.
Datuna Sulikashvili of Georgia is a much in demand ambassador of the new sense of Georgian style. By working in silk and cashmere, she is building a stellar brand reputation across multiple international platforms. Uzbekistan was represented by the nation’s two best-selling brands.
Fashion designer Lali Fazylova imagined the contemporary youth of ancient megacities such as Tashkent and Samarkand. His beautiful collection highlighted the use of adras, hand-dyed traditional Uzbek fabrics e alo-bakhmal, a weaving technique of royal velvet.
Since 2007, Dildora Kasimova has been releasing successful ready-to-wear collections to a growing audience of loyal customers and fans. Her fashion philosophy is a holistic lifestyle and not just a profession, she is one of the most followed style influencers in Central Asia capturing the modern Silk Road zeitgeist.
Looking and moving forward, Bauyrzhan Shadibekov, CEO of Visa Fashion Week Almaty, has the utmost confidence in the platform as he cites some of its long-term project partners such as Kaz Tour, Citix and Dyson, and its benefits to participating designers and industries of the national fashion in the region. Starting next year, a partnership with the National Chamber of Italian Fashion will offer a season-winning designer the opportunity to show up in a special showcase during Milan Fashion Week. An example of international solidarity in the fashion industry, it signals the desire to make the economic recovery less “uneven” by giving priority to the future of emerging talents.