Dear Shaded Viewers,
Attending the Benext Fashion Design Contest in Georgia was, once again, a truly unique experience. Thanks to Sofia Tchkonia's relentless energy, complete determination and belief in the designers she supports, the last edition of Benext allowed a full jury of international guests to discover new and exciting talents, with the potential to become future fashion stars. I was struck by the diversity and creativity on offer, as well as the passion displayed by all the designers we met. They were definitely willing to defend their work, even if it meant overcoming their shyness. Three collections stood out for me. The first was Nino Gvinjilia's gorgeous Sahara-inspired lineup, which artfully combined hand-knit pieces with unstructured separates. Her clothes were refined, subtle and timeless, echoing some of Georgia's oldest knitwear traditions. She was, in fact, awarded with a full scholarship in Art Direction for Fashion Design and Haute Couture at the Haute Future Fashion Academy in Milan. I also loved Mariam Gvasalia's sleek silhouettes and special treatment of leather, which felt fresh and interesting. Her pieces were strong, urban and cool, without renouncing their feminine appeal. Her striking sandals caught the attention of the jury and she won a spot in Camper's Majorca Workshop. Lara Quint delivered a stunning and powerful show, with precisely tailored shapes and Couture references. Her volumes were strong and I liked the serene feel of her work. Quint, who hails from Ukraine, won the jury's Best Collection award and will be part of Sofia Tchkonia's upcoming Paris showroom. The most precious moment we shared during the Contest was sitting down with the designers to discuss their work, portfolios and hopes for the future. It reminded me of how tough and demanding it is to be a designer now and how you can never make it on your own. It was an inspiring exchange and heartwarming moment, emphasizing the human dimension of this special Contest.