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by Anka Tsitsishvili

Almost every fashion enthusiast’s dream is to work for a big fashion house like Hermes, Bottega Venetta, Alexander McQueen, Loewe — even one internship at any of those could play a life changing part. But if you did it all, then you might expect the whole world to be at your feet. Anybody would, of course. But not Ketevane Maissaia. She is probably one of the most humble people in the Georgian fashion industry and definitely not the kind of braggart who boasts of her experience and network capital. Though what she actually has done — using all the knowledge she has gained within all these years of work at big houses, she established her own mono product brand — Le Mocassin Zippe.

Coming from a small country like Georgia, where the fashion industry is still in the establishment process, it sounds almost impossible to get an internship at Hermes or Maison Martin Margiela. But there she is — Ketevane Maissaia, who has made it just using her creativity and working hard.

Creative director of IERI store, Anka Tsitsishvili, talked with Ketevave on her internships and asked the questions we all wanted to know, like did she meet Lee McQueen himself and was she able to work with Martin Margiela himself. The video is in Georgian, but below we have prepared a full transcription for our English Speaking readers.

ANKA: Tell us about you and your brand...

KETEVANE: It’s been 7 years since I established my brand. I left Georgia 15 years ago to get an education abroad and then I decided to stay in Europe and work there. I always wanted my work to be connected to Georgia. As you may know, there is a traditional way of shoe-making in Georgia. My dream was to find a developed field and take it outside Georgia. That is why I decided to choose a classic mocassin shoe as my monoproduct. We import all the required materials from abroad and produce a shoe itself in Georgia. At first my main focus was a good quality European leather, but today I am trying to choose eco-friendly materials. Producing a good quality leather is quite damaging to our environment.

ANKA: Your latest presentation was about planting the trees, how did you come up with this idea? The IERI team was very honoured to become a part of your project.

KETEVANE: Generally, whenever I work on a new project, I try to choose a subject that is close to my heart. In this case I was very concerned about the overall global situation: so many forests were on fire and also a very polluted air in Georgia. A lot of people could participate in the tree planting process and we did it all together.

IERI store has partnered together with Ketevane to plant trees on the territory of the University Library in Maglivi as a part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi new collection presentation. Apart from trees being planted, all the guests had an opportunity to tie a colored ribbon to a Wishing Tree (IERI’s Natvris Khe) and make a wish due to an old Georgian tradition. The Wishing tree is still kept securely in the flagship-store at Wine Factory N1. This is not the only environmental activity made by IERI store and executive company Heritage — the story on other activities is to come.

ANKA: Tell me, when did you realize you were interested in fashion?

I don’t remember an exact moment, but I was always fascinated by this industry. Back then fashion was in an early stage of development in Georgia. My parents were artists and maybe that also played a certain role. My mother is a painter, she also worked as a costume designer in films. My father is an architect, so basically I was around creators. I think that is what I am good at and love to do. 

ANKA: Where did you study and when did you choose accessories design as your priority?

KETEVANE: At first I designed clothes as well, but then there was a very dramatic period in my life. I did a one year internship at Hussein Chalayan, after which I got a job offer from the brand. Unfortunately I had to decline the offer, because I was not able to make documents. I had to go back to school and that is when I decided to change my major to accessories design. After graduation I quickly found a job at Hermes and then I followed the flow.


ANKA: How did you start your job at Hermes? It must be incredible to be working for a brand with such a rich heritage…

KETEVANE: It is also quite an interesting story. Generally, some brand representatives always attend the graduation ceremonies. On my graduation Hermes brand representative was late for my speech and missed my presentation. Because of that, I decided to send her my work personally, she could not deny it and even offered me an assistant’s job in the bag design team.

ANKA: What other brands you worked for? If I remember correctly it was Alexander Mcqueen. 

KETEVANE: Yes, my first internship was for Lee, for my freshman year. I did not know who to contact when I was looking for a job. I had a big book about the designers and on the last page it had all the emails. I chose the brands that I was most interested in and started sending out emails. Only one brand replied and offered me a job, it was Alexander Mcqueen.  

ANKA: When did you establish your brand and how did you come up with the idea?

KETEVANE: When I left Margiel’s studio, where I worked for accessories as well, I was pregnant and wanted to take some time off, because working in the fashion industry is super tiring both physically and morally. So I wanted to peacefully spend my pregnancy and the early years of my child. That is exactly when I started my brand, I had both space and time to think. But I quickly realised that I had to go back to work, because it is really hard to survive with only such a small brand. Back then the fashion industry was super strict and for small brands it was hard to withstand. 

ANKA: What was the inspiration behind Le Mocassin Zippe?

KETEVANE: My project was about the procession of time, I always think about our present time and not only me, I have heard a lot of people think the same. The past and the future is in our memories and dreams, but the present time goes on constantly. I connected this constant movement to the melting process. I created a red suit, a red because it is a lively color. The suit instead of the stiches had zippers, then I froze this model and connected it to the melting project. It was very emotional for me.

ANKA: How did you start a job at Loewe?

KETEVANE: I was already planning to leave Paris and come back to Georgia, but one day a woman visited my showroom, which I had met at my graduation. She asked me if by chance I was looking for a job. I confirmed and it turned out she was looking for a candidate for a job at Loewe. I spent very good and productive years at the company, it was my first time that I got to work with a group of such professionals. 

ANKA: What is your main motivation? 

KETEVANE: Maybe, the desire to constantly do something. I am a very creative person and I want to always create something. Working a calm schedule is really hard for me. In our present circumstances I try to workout, read and so on.  

ANKA: What is your dream and what you consider as your biggest success?

KETEVANE: In my mind there is not a peak, the most important part is to enjoy the process. My main dream would be to do the same job in my country, Georgia, but on a bigger scale. I want to establish a fashion house, which will unify a bunch of Georgian designers. Really hope that I will be able to accomplish this dream. 

ANKA: What advice would you give to the designers, which are just starting out?

KETEVANE: The most important thing is to believe in yourself and your vision till the end and not to be afraid of the doubters. It is also crucial to educate yourself in the aspect of arts and culture, and to always be up to date about the fashion industry news and to use this knowledge to demonstrate your vision. 

Translated and editedby Salome Jakeli
& Masho Naskidashvili

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