What Is Georgia’s Traditional Chokha and Why Is It in Fashion?
21 October, 2017
What Is Georgia’s Traditional Chokha and Why Is It in Fashion?
Georgian historic outfit Chokha has been spotlighted by leading fashion magazine VOGUE. Recently this national Georgian clothing has been integrated in modern fashion industry by famous designers that once again brought to the surface Georgian culture.

VOGUE unveils the reasons
of its popularity in modern fashion industry throughout the world.

Chokha is a woolen coat with a high neck that is part of the traditional male dress in peoples of the Caucasus and in Georgia as well.

The chokha has been in wide use among Georgians from the 9th century until the 1920s. It is still used in Georgia as a symbol of national pride, and is frequently worn by Georgian men at weddings and national holidays or celebrations.

Nowadays, ancient Georgian clothing is quite popular in fashion industry. Chokha was served as the inspiration of famous Georgian designer David Koma’s 2017 collection.


Dresses decorated with Georgian warrior clothing elements attracted massive attention and received positive feedback from the critics and leading fashion publications.

Here is what VOGUE tells about chokha:

What is a chokha?

The chokha is a wool coat, typically worn by men, with cartridge holders on the chest. They were once basic folds, later made to hold bullets and gunpowder; now, they are simply ornamental.

What is its history?

The piece originally hails from Persia and came to Georgia around the 9th century. The chokha is also worn elsewhere in the Caucasus region, like Chechnya.

Depending on the part of Georgia, the garment differs in appearance, whether that means the length or how the holders are used. Though it was rarely worn during the Soviet Union era, many Georgians brought it back as a source of national pride after they claimed independence in the early ’90s. It has become popular to sport the garment at religious ceremonies like weddings and funerals and at political events.
geotv.ge
A Georgian chokha (left) circa the 1880sPhoto: Alamy

Why is it having a fashion moment?

Recently, the chokha made an international impact thanks to Georgia-born designer David Koma, who visited Tbilisi last season. For London’s Fall 2017 collections, Koma went back to his roots with a thigh-skimming homage, asymmetrically placing cartridges on his signature body-hugging dresses.

geotv.ge
An interpretation of the chokha by David Koma for Fall 2017Photo: Indigital.tv

Before that, the traditional piece had been making cameos in the collections of local designers, such as Nicolas Grigorian, Datuna Sulikashvili, and Simon Machabeli.

“Unfortunately, during the Soviet era, the skills for making a chokha were a bit lost. But now it’s coming back,” writes Machabeli. “It is established as a Georgian folk costume and modern interpretations of it can be very interesting.”

geotv.ge

A sketch of a coat with chokha motifs by designer Simon Machabeli for Fall 2017

Where can you see it right now?

On the first day of Tbilisi’s Fall 2017 season, two designers have already referenced the chokha. Anuka Keburia put cartridge holders on sandals and reworked its silhouette in coats; Liya also used the same shape, focusing on flared sleeves.

geotv.ge

Modern interpretations of the chokha by Anuka Keburia (left) and Liya (right) for Fall 2017.
Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi

Fun fact?

In 1989, Rei Kawakubo, a fan of the Georgian artist Niko Pirosmani, went to Soviet-era Georgia with British photographer Brian Griffin to photograph villagers in Comme des Garçons designs. There, Griffin shot locals in a mix of national dress and CDG, and one famously featured a chokha with a pair of slouchy orange pants. The 12 photographs resurfaced last year when Project ArtBeat held an exhibition in Tbilisi.

geotv.ge

A photograph of a Georgian woman wearing a traditional chokha with Comme des Garçons clothing in 1989.
Courtesy of Brian Griffin / ProjectArtBeat

Where can you buy it?

The Tbilisi store Samoseli Pirveli is known for re-creating traditional Georgian dress and selling different versions of the piece. If you’re looking to make a more casual statement, you can purchase the chic tourist tee, which is typically a simple shirt boasting chest cartridges.

Related stories:

David Koma’s new collection inspired by Georgian chokha spotlighted by VOGUE

“David Koma was in a combative mood” – Leading fashion journal on Georgian designer

Nino Ananiashvili in a chokha! – Prima ballerina’s incredible performance with Sukhishvilebi ensemble
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