All great things begin with an idea and a courage to pursue it. Nana Shukvani, the founder of Dalood, had both. Growing up in the high mountains of Svaneti, in the northwestern part of Georgia, the only source of new clothes came from small-time traders.
Since, what they had to offer was unsatisfactory either to her taste or her budget, Nana began to seek more viable, creative solutions. She started making her own clothing and knitwear – mostly by refitting some old clothes or sewing new ones from curtains and any fabrics at hand, that even involved nicking stylish items from her older brothers’ wardrobes.
Today, she recalls those times with a reminiscing smile, “Maybe my clothes weren’t the most expensive, but they were unique, and I knew that nobody had anything alike.” When she was 18, Nana started a family and her creative pursuits had to be put aside for a longer while. It was only in London – where she stayed with her children during their studies – that she firmly decided to follow her life-long passion and open an atelier in her beloved country. Georgia was still recovering from its Soviet past and a very recent civil war. Georgian fashion scene hardly existed, and Nana was one of the very few designers working in the country.
For them it was more a way of life than a business or an industry. The artists were purely fueled by their enthusiasm, optimism and hard work. In Georgia, fashion shows, and other cultural projects, were reminiscent of mass public events; they brought hope and belief that better times were yet to come and hundreds of people would attend, hoping to get their own slice of that momentous happiness. In 2002, Nana, accompanied by her daughter Maka, brand’s creative director since 2013, visited a little province of Prato, a textile centre of Italy, to purchase fabrics for her very first fashion show. The show featuring sixty gowns, characterized by visual dynamics and classic black and white contrast was a great success. During the following weeks, customer demand had sky-rocketed and the company had to hire two in-house designers, George Amirejibi and George Pantsulaia. In the future collaborating with newcomer designers, allowing them to create their namesake clothing lines, managing and promoting their brands would become one of Dalood’s legacies.
Nana was among the pioneers in Georgia to design textiles for her collections and introduce hand painted fabrics. In 2003, Dalood’s second fashion show, which was inspired by one of the Georgian artist’s, Irakli Parjiani’s paintings owned by the designer, presented beautiful evening gowns covered with hand painted Svanetian snowy landscapes. Using natural dye, designing and painting mostly silk garments entailed a skillful labor-intensive process. Every peace was unique. In order to ensure the color integrity dying saturation was methodically controlled, then pressure-steamed and put through a softening process to achieve good colorfastness and comfort. Years later, in 2007, the very same collection had a triumphant presentation in Svaneti, after which the local Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography offered Nana to contribute the bridal dress to the museum’s permanent exhibition, what nana was more than delighted to accept.
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