Ria Keburia: Morals, forgotten values and Mythical creatures

All Images Courtesy of Ria Keburia, Spooky Forest AW16.

Ria keburia developed her unique signature of “talking silhouettes” early in her career, flawlessly blending fragments of Japanese culture and contemporary arts with echoes of Georgian folklore. She creates strong imaginative stories, broadcasting messages of morals, forgotten values and mythical creatures, in a playful and artistic manner. Omnipresent elements in her work are gender ambiguity and timelessness, often playing around the concept of youth and maturing. Hailed for her successful collaborations, she has worked with many talented designers and artists. Among them have been British design duo YashkaThor, high-end jewelry label Eshvi and conceptual Japanese eyewear brand Fakoshimaand for her SS16 collection Stadion she joined forces with Russian artist Roman Ermakov and Anastasia Komarova, architect and founder of Forms Studio.

This year Ria takes her collaborations to the next level. 2016 marked the birth of the Ria Keburia Gallery, a global collective fostering the work of various independent designers and artists, with Ria as its curator. Gallery’s first collection Spooky Forest- tells the mystical story of reincarnation: the transformation of the spirit from one physical body to another, until they finally merge in the body of Leshi, an androgynous Russian forest king. Ruler of a dark, spooky forest, it is who he reigns over all wandering spirits and it is he who swallows them all. Gallery’s second collection, Fortuna 79 debuted this November 3rd at MBFW Tbilisi. I sat down with the incredible woman behind the designer gallery to talk about collectives, wearable art and her views on todays booming ready-to-wear market.

Mrs. Keburia, what is it you like about collaborations?

You can say I’m already quite qualified at collaborations, hehe. I’m drawn to it because of its process of exchanging minds. One has the idea, another is master at realisation etc etc- and the result is the fascinating coming together of those worlds.

What is key to a successful collaboration?

The right selection of artists, a dynamic team of brands and designers who understand the idea behind the collection, a constant control of the investments and, of course, a never-ending longing for success from everyone involved in the collective.

And how is Gallery different compared to all the other collabs you have done?

Ria Keburia Gallery is the illusionary space where other designers take the leading role in the creation of my story, whereas with the Ria Keburia I narrate my own story within my own avant-garde approach- and collaborate with designers for a specific part of the collection, such as textile design or accessories. Gallery is a global collective, uniting designers from all over the world to create one story, each section told in the approach of those individual designers.

There are up to 10 independent designers and artists involved in the Gallery collective, what are your criteria for sourcing designers to work with?

I picked them for their know-how, fitting to the idea and expectations of the collection. Once I have the artistic idea, I need to find the right ‘actors’ (designers) to realise the story and very often I classify them by their style, know-how and talent. Every year there are thousands of designers appearing and as the director of my own universe I need to make sure to pick the right ones for each project, by evaluating their skills and inserting them into my imagination. I focus on their signature — good designers always have some kind of a signature and this can be placed into the collection narrative, coming alive and becoming and important aspect of the story.  

You seek to create an entire experience around your clothes- what is it you want to show to your audience by applying this approach?

I try to show my audience forlorn morals and sometimes hidden thoughts and ideas I have, of which I can only express through my designs and performance, because I know they wouldn’t come out right in words. I’m a talkative designer, who talks through her gallery.

While many young (conceptual) designers today are struggling to sell, you’ve made a success out of your brand.

I just kept telling my stories and never forgot about my artistic side. Success is a vague word. I am trying to create a new way of fashion and like to see myself as an illusionist. The goal is to create the illusion and allow people to buy my clothes, if the Illusion pleases them, rather than pushing a certain trend or style upon them that is stated by fashion critics. The innovative idea should stand for its success. I guess. May be not?

And does ‘wearable art” sell?

The only difference between me, and say, a commercially-focused brand is that I like to operate as a creative platform in the first place- seeking to give designers and artists visibility and a different experience of creating clothes. There’s an element of performance art, something that a commercial brand might lack. Nonetheless, realising the sale is an important aspect of the process, especially if there are more designers involved in one collection. I make my sales through showrooms and commercial agents but I’m continuously in the process of finding new ways of commercialise Ria Keburia Gallery. One of the new concepts I am thinking about is auctioning, I feel that would go well with my ‘gallery’ concept- but it will have to wait until I finish my Masters, as I need more time to investigate.

What is the biggest risk you’ve had to take on your way to leading a successful company?

Investing in to the wrong product, or people.

Do you regret? Perhaps risks are part of the process?

I don’t regret having gone through that- obviously we learn from our mistakes. But I’m kind of trying to avoid risks from now on.

Your clothes are full of artisanal details and you are known for you beautiful textiles. What are your thoughts on today’s grand focus on minimalism and the big rise of 90s-inspired ready-to- wear brands such as Vetements? 

I can’t say a lot about Vetements, it’s just not my universe. I can only appreciate the idea of commercialisation easy garments with perfect styling. Very clever! As for the current rise of minimalism and excess of RTW brands, I support the idea of easy-going fashion, though it isn’t my thing. But I believe we need a good quality mass market: better clothes for the masses, is something we need in order to provide people a chance at a better lifestyle and ways to express themselves. The world continues to change and we as designers are the ones who need to listen and follow these innovations – in order to answer the need of making quality clothes for people to wear.

How do you think we can revive the appreciation for embellishment?

I work within the field of embellishment. I think the salvation can be found in the rise of 21st century contemporary arts. Today we see various materials (wood/lead/plastic) being put to use to tell a story or depict an idea. A good example is British artist Damien Hirst, he puts uncommon things together and creates an ambiance with otherwise useless things- while depicting a deep message underneath. I am delighted that respected institutions such as museums and auction houses have embraced this form of embellishment. I feel it is the right time to act for me.

After Georgia, Paris, Moscow and Tokyo (probably a few destinations missing in this list), what will be the next stop in your nomadic life?

Actually, I am trying to find a place to settle down. I’m currently doing my masters in London and at the same time I am running my own label and the brand new Gallery collective— at the moment I am longing to find a place to truly make my home base and that will be- besides running brands- a big priority.

Have you possibly found that in London?

 Not sure yet, I guess I’m still browsing.

Fashion should be about….

BEAUTY. Beauty is the final realistic picture to gaze upon and beauty can be of various shapes and forms, starting from the very savage and destructive, to elegance and excess.

What can we expect from you for SS17? 

A new and interesting drama. My new and upcoming collection is called Fortuna 79, realised with participating young designers Ksenia Seraya, Teyo, Aka Nanita, Mintsev Kirill, Nathats and Tamar Areshidze. Together we will tell the tale of androgynous aliens and the wheel of fortune as an ancient symbol of chance’s victory over mind.

This interview was conducted in collaboration with long time- fashion-partner in crime Samira Verhees. Like to know what Ria is up to next? You can follow her on Instagram.