CHOKHA AS A STATEMENT

AND A SYMBOL OF PROTEST

by Elene Buachidze

We call this rubric “Contemporary heritage”. IERI team is in a constant search of some obvious connections between modernity and traditions, and that’s how we are trying to prove that Georgian heritage is still making a huge impact on designers (not only Georgian ones, by the way) and is influencing the modern fashion scene.

On the 17th of June 2020 chokha was granted the national status of intangible cultural heritage of Georgia. So this article is a tribute to chokhas — both modern and ancient

Gripped by wars and invasions throughout centuries, Georgians value peace above all other blessings. We say “Peaceful morning” instead of “Good morning”. We ask “Is it peace?” when someone wakes us up in the middle of the night with a call. Our legends and epics are mostly about heroes, bravely protecting their homeland against enemies. Though some of them also fought for love and were not afraid of difficulties. A good example of this is the world-famous Georgian epic poem “Vepkhistqaosani” (A Knight in the Panther’s skin), written in the XII century by Shota Rustaveli. The book has become a symbol of Georgian spirit and is considered to be a masterpiece of the Georgian literature. It tells the story of the main characters Avtandil and Tariel, who are facing a number of obstacles and going through alot for the sake of truelove and devoted friendship. Warriors or peaceful winemakers — when Georgians faced danger, they would fight till the last ounce of blood. Though there is something that unites both — passionate lovers and warriors — a traditional costume called “chokha”. A woolen coat worn by soldiers in battle and grooms on their wedding day.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHOKHA

Chokha is the most common national Georgian clothing that has several variations, depending on the origin of the owner. For the records, the Persian word “chokha” (outfit made of textile) replaced Georgian original word “talavari”. The fabric that is used for chokha is usually black, grey or brown wool. The winter chokha is made of a thicker fabric. Though chokha was the most common outfit, there still were other military “accessories” like abjari, made entirely of iron. Very heavy, but it protected the fighter from injuries. Or a muzaradi, a metal helmet. Remarkable cartridge cases adorning the chokha advanced the beauty and elegance. Silver belts and silver sheaths with daggers were worn on the man’s belt. Belts were made with a combination of metals, leather and fabric. There were various rules for wearing a chokha at a wedding and during other traditional rituals.

Metal protection called abjari

A warrior wearing muzaradi. Illustration of “Vepkhistqaosani”

Black chokha has a symbolic meaning. Back in the XIX century “karachokhelebi” — the name can be translated as “those who wear black chokhas” — were distinguished by the color of their clothes. They were acting due to their own code of ethics, quite similar to the one of medieval knights — devotion, passion, pride and bravery were their guiding stars. They didn’t serve anyone and didn’t enslave anyone themselves. Chokha was in that case a symbol of knighthood, an order of chivalry, if you prefer.

Time passed and European fashion and style were slipping through the borders, and little by little covered even the most remote parts of Georgia. The upper-class gave up wearing traditional clothes, opting to European silhouettes. But in all fairness, some nobles were worried about this quick but logical loss. Though some devoted defenders of Georgian identity, like a famous poet Vazha Pshavela, were never seen wearing anything but chokha. It was his way of conserving national independence. Later, in the 1920s, wearing black chokha became a true symbol of protest. Historian Pavle Ingorokva, writer Konstantine Gamsakhurdia and other famous and noble people wore black chokhas as a sign of their antisoviet dissent. In 1972, chokha again became a symbol of a protest. A group of students wanted to celebrate the 900th anniversary of King David The Builder, but the government didn’t allow it. On the 8th of February, they decided to dress in black chokhas and go to the street showing their respect to the roots.

Though, the biggest contribution to chokha popularization definitely belongs to Simon Virsaladze, an artist who worked with The Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili. In the middle of the XX century he made traditional costumes that looked so modern and elegant, that the dancers would still sometimes wear them for the best shows.His chokhas were light, colorful, with many decorative elements like embroidery, silver clasps and golden brocade.

Nino Ramishvili and Iliko Sukhishvili

A sketch by Simon Virsaladze for Vakhtang Chabukiani’s ballet “The Heart of the Mountains

Nino Ramishvili and Iliko Sukhishvili

A sketch by Simon Virsaladze for Vakhtang Chabukiani’s ballet “The Heart of the Mountains

MODERN LIFE OF CHOKHA

We have already told you about that amazing shooting made by Brian Griffin together with Rei Kawakubo in the Kakheti region in 1989.“Rei was inspired by the clothing in Pirosmani’s paintings,” says Griffin and used traditional chokha for styling her own collection. Another Simon, this time Machabeli, a famous contemporary Georgian costume maker and artist, also made his own variations of chokhas. For Art Georgia exhibition in 2015 together with Grigor Devejiev he made an amazing project featuring Tako Natsvlishvili and a collection of costumes with traditional details, old rhymes and some chokha-akhalukhi-like design elements.

Chokha has become an inspiration to many outstanding Georgian designers. LIYA, Anuka Keburia or David Koma are a few to mention.For example, David Koma, who is a London based prominent georgian designer, integrated some core elements of a national Georgian costume in his Fall 2017 collection, which was later worn by many celebrities. Chokha, as worn a century ago, is still used in Georgia as a symbol of national pride. Georgian brand – SAMOSELI PIRVELI has been creating Georgian traditional clothes for ten years now.Chokha was also spotted in VOGUE

”On the first day of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, set in Georgia’s capital city, we take a close look at the country’s chokha, a centuries-old piece of traditional clothing that is having a fashion moment.”

ieri recommends:

ieri recommends:

Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha

Black Chokha

₾1,960.00

Samoseli Pirveli

Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress

Dark Red Dress

₾825.00

Samoseli Pirveli

Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha
Black Chokha

Black Chokha

₾1,960.00

Samoseli Pirveli

Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress
Dark Red Dress

Dark Red Dress

₾825.00

Samoseli Pirveli