Drag has been having a moment in fashion. Just this past September in New York, Opening Ceremony featured drag performers on its runway, and there were numerous waist-whittling corsets at the men’s shows in June. Now, drag has come to the tiny Eastern European country of Georgia, first in the form of performances at small clubs and, most recently, on the runway at Fashion Week in Tbilisi earlier this month. Akà Prodiàshvili, a 23-year-old rising fashion star, presented a riotously colorful and flamboyant collection that put drag’s arrival to Georgia into focus. “I love Sasha Velour and Violet Chachki,” Prodiàshvili tells me a day later at his studio, a tiny space just outside of the city center. “I love their energy, taste, style, and the way they express themselves. They can tell everyone’s story, especially those who do not dare to show how they really want to be.” He first started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race about two years ago and has become something of a superfan ever since. You could see the influence of his obsession throughout his show: One male model wearing long Cruella de Vil–style gloves and a Dalmatian-spotted turtleneck sweater sauntered out holding an elegant lace-trimmed violet parasol aloft; another sported a tightly cinched green leopard-print suit with fluttering flares.
While Prodiàshvili often references American drag stars, he’s primarily inspired by the LGBTQI community closer to home. Take the mammoth black silk dress with sweeping bell sleeves that he showed in his last collection. Its darkly baroque dimensions were specially designed with Tbilisi’s gay and queer scene in mind. The extravagant, often BDSM-tinged look has attracted international attention, too. Arca, the cult electronic artist and onetime Hood By Air collaborator, recently wore one of the designer’s black dominatrix-style latex bodysuits