Instead of hitting the beach this summer, third year Fashion Design student Ria Keburia was occupied with pens, paper and patterns – preparing her first collection for Ukrainian Fashion Week. Working in a Moscow atelier from mid-summer into fall, she presented 21 looks on the runway in Kiev in early October before returning to classes. Oh, and throwing press appointments with some of the top international fashion magazines as well, and it was busy break for the 24 year old.
“I started the sketches at the end of July, beginning of August. I went to Paris and it took me about a week to find the fabrics. I had a mood board that only had one picture, so I had to realize a lot through that process,” she says. She started out searching for production in Georgia, but settled on a respected atelier in Moscow that would give her in depth experience with the process of garment construction.
Before starting at IFA, Keburia graduated from the American University of Paris with a degree in marketing. “I came back to get a bachelor’s in fashion because I always wanted to do design and I wanted to learn technical skills, so I started again to learn everything,” she says of the decision to enroll in fashion school. But really it was more than learning to cut, sew and style: “I came here to fulfill my childhood dream.”
It was fitting then that working with seasoned artisans turned out to be the perfect learning experience to bridge classic technique with Keburia’s forward-thinking designs.
“It’s an old atelier, where you go in and you sit down and they give you coffee - very proper. At first I thought they wouldn’t get me. I worked with a patternmaker and sewer, but I have very strange patterns with a lot of asymmetry. So we spent a lot of time creating.”
“I worked with the atelier for around two months. I did technical sketches because my patterns were a bit complicated, I was communicating verbally and doing small prototypes at home to show how the garments worked. They prepared the first patterns, I gave them the sketches, they returned the prototype which was not sewn to the end. Then I had an opportunity to change the length and the shape. The final prototype was made from that, which was what shown on the runway.”
“We did a lot of verbal and visual communication, and in the end it turned out exactly as I wanted.”
She went through the same process with different artisans for the headpieces and the handmade leather shoes, creating complete individual looks.
Asking Keburia to relive the day of the show elicits a still-breathless response: “The moment before it goes out, you are in the fitting room and you are dressing the models, and you know that’s it! At that moment nothing can be changed, you have to show your work. It’s like you don’t feel anything because you are so tired,” she says, describing those last few seconds when the models are putting on the last accessories and scrambling into order.
But when the lights went up and they hit the catwalk, it was a different story for Keburia. “When I was behind the scenes and the models were passing in lines [on the runway] and there was the music, it was very, very emotional. I was happy when I heard people applauding. It was press and guests - people you don’t really know that were all invited because of you. They’ve all come to see you and what you are doing. You went through a long process to achieve this, and you have that moment after to appreciate you’ve worked very, very hard,” she described. “It was really a very impressive day. I will never forget it.”
The collection was featured across the internet, from Russian paper Pravda to the Canadian Globe & Mail, and on the front page of the hugely popular Russian blogBuro 24/7. Since then Keburiya has fielded requests from both Russian Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
“I received really good press in Moscow. Buro 24/7 is very famous in Russia and they never feature new designers, but this time they did. They put me as “The New Name in Fashion,” headlining as a new Georgian designer. It’s what you check daily for fashion in Russia, so that’s how Vogue knew about it. They were like, ‘Oooh, who is she?’ I took my clothes to the Vogue offices and went through the collection. I had to explain a lot to them, talk about the experience and show sketches,” she says of the process. While her samples are still sitting in the vaunted Vogue offices, the editors have told her to expect a January feature in the international fashion bible.
As for her next moves, she’s producing garments from the runway collection on a small scale in coordination with the Moscow atelier. Through the press coverage and great word-of-mouth she’s had clients approach her directly, and she’s gathered Facebook followers by placing her prototypes on friends that go out to the hottest clubs in Moscow and Paris. She’s looking at getting a press agent or signing on with a showroom in Moscow, then completing her second collection as part of the graduation show at IFA in March, quickly followed by a presentation in the Russian capital.
“It will be a big collection for school, about 20 - 21 pieces. If I do it very well I can go to Russia and have a small show. Right now, to skip a season is what I’m afraid of. I’m a bit on the way up and they can forget me, or maybe somebody will come and take the same target as me, because I have a certain style which is new for Russia. My next work needs to be more innovative, to prove you are good.”
“I can’t take 3 years off to think, I have to take this wave of press. It’s like, ‘New Georgian Designer!’ That’s why they are impressed. But now everybody’s waiting,” she says, knowing that her sophomore collection will be widely watched. “There’s a lot of pressure for next season.”