Imagine a group of mannequins standing on a small hill covered in artificial grass, all dressed in beautiful, colourful dresses made of plant and mineral dyed silk that were inspired by nights in the Caucasus mountains. This is how internationally acclaimed Georgian designer Tamuna Ingorokva and Colours of Caucasus, a Georgian eco-dyeing textile maker, presented a capsule collection at the TRANOÏ Trade Show in Paris in February 2020.
INGOROKVA is a member of the Georgian Apparel and Fashion Association (GAFA), which was established with the support of GIZ’s Clusters4Development project funded by the EU. With the support of EU4Business, industry clusters help SMEs team up with other businesses to become more competitive.
A risk that paid off
Over two decades ago, when Tamuna Ingorokva attended the ESMOD fashion school in France, she understood that this would be her profession for life. Coming from a family of doctors, her relatives always thought that fashion was just a hobby for her, and that, sooner or later, she would study medicine. But Ingorokva took her “hobby” very seriously indeed, and knew that she could play a major role in the development of the fashion industry in Georgia. And that’s exactly what happened.
In Paris, Ingorokva had a clear plan: to finish her studies, go back to Georgia, and start her own company. In 2001, she came back and began to build a brand that was to become an internationally acclaimed fashion label. In 2002, when Ingorokva presented her first collection, Georgia’s fashion industry was just taking its first steps. The country itself was in transition and there were not many opportunities to travel and export. So the INGOROKVA brand was focused on the local market. As soon as the borders opened up, Ingorokva took a major leap of faith and participated in the TRANOÏ Trade Show in Paris. The risk paid off and the brand was hit with success. Today, Lady Gaga, Gigi Hadid, Linda Rodin, and other celebrities wear INGOROKVA.
“The creative work of INGOROKVA is inspired by contemporary culture and the hidden aesthetics of everyday life,” says the brand’s website. Tamuna Ingorokva combines offbeat fabrics with feminine designs and traditional tailoring, while playing with lines and geometry to create high-quality clothes destined to be worn for a long time. Sustainability has been one of the core values of this brand right from the start.
“For me, fashion is an art and I associate it with high quality,” says Tamuna Ingorokva. “Every piece of clothing is made with a lot of love in my studio in Tbilisi, and lasts for a long time. I’m very proud when a customer tells me that she still has a dress of mine that she bought over 10 years ago. In fact, I have customers who still wear dresses from my first collection back in 2002.”
A new website and new perspectives
In January 2020, the INGOROKVA brand lost its website for technical reasons no one could satisfactorily explain. With it went years of work and a good deal of brand information. Just as the company was trying to restore its online presence, the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Many shops that INGOROKVA worked with suddenly closed, while others took a break or limited the number of collections that they would take. The brad faced some financial issues.
But the pandemic had its silver lightning, too: for the first time in many years, Tamuna Ingorokva was able to slow down, take a break and look at the future in perspective. At this critical juncture, the Clusters4Development project and GAFA showed up to help the brand put together a more modern website and an e-shop that offers a better shopping experience to customers. Until that point, internet sales had not been a priority for Tamuna Ingorokva, as she had been focusing on shops that sell her clothes to customers.
“For the most part, we did not have direct contact with customers,” explains Ingorokva. “But now we want to reach out directly to consumers around the world and interest them in the brand and its work. The EU4Business support implemented by GIZ was very important in making our move online a success, because it’s impossible to reach customers without a solid, user-friendly website.”
GAFA now has over 30 members, representing textile manufacturers, fashion designers, and clothing factories that altogether employ over 1,000 Georgians. With digitalisation, GAFA supports its members in introducing new, innovative technologies, transforming business processes and becoming more competitive on both the local and international markets.
With the help of EU4Business, GAFA supported INGOROKVA to shoot and edit a brand lookbook and provide texts for its new collection, and assisted the brand in taking part in the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. GAFA also supported INGOROKVA’s collaboration with Colours of Caucasus to create an eco-friendly capsule collection and display it at the TRANOÏ Trade Show in Paris, in the sustainable fashion section.
INGOROKVA currently employs seven, works with 20 countries, and has about 40 regular international clients. With its new website and new opportunities, INGOROKVA keeps moving forward and plans to present the brand’s new collection in person in Paris Fashion Week in the fall.
“We will return to our old lifestyle in a new way,” says Ingorokva with a smile.