Visa Fashion Week in Almaty puts Kazakhstan on the global fashion map



Despite all the fabulous optimism broadcast live, the fashion industry is struggling to cope with the negative impact of the global pandemic. From supply chain disruptions to anxious consumer confidence, the latest McKinsey Global Fashion Index predicts “a patchy recovery” after a 20% market loss in the past two years. While luxury conglomerates may weather uncertainty better, smaller players and newcomers need extra support and attention. This is especially true for emerging markets. This is why the last edition of Visa Fashion Week Almaty was a successful case study of how local governments can engage transnational capital to stimulate the needs of its creative community in these difficult times. Since Kazakhstan hosted the World EXPO and I have spoken of it as “an emerging fashion destination for travelers from all over the world”, designers have taken advantage of Almaty, the former Kazakh capital, strengthening its role as center of traditional and modern expression of Central Asian cultures. What does it take to organize an event of this magnitude these days?

Kazakhstan, a country of 19 million people, has reported nearly one million cases of COVID since the start of the pandemic. With 47% of the population vaccinated, strict restrictions on travel and public gatherings are in place. Although the event took place in compliance with all preventive measures, its capacity and scope were limited as many international power players fear to travel beyond the industrial bubbles of Paris or London. Bauyrzhan Shadibekov, CEO of Visa Fashion Week Almaty, noted that the team always preferred the in-person format over the virtual-only option, as personal relationships are important to any creative endeavor. In fact, a smaller audience allowed for more interaction between audience, press and talent.

Among the distinguished guests were photographer Andrew Barber whose work has appeared in most major fashion publications, Anastasia Fedoseeva, founder of Street Pie, an avant-garde boutique and agency in Moscow, and Nino Sichinava, editor-in-chief. from London magazine Schon. With exposure and access to international media, buyers and direct customers being essential to building a national style brand, all of the catwalks were broadcast live on social media platforms #VFWAlmaty.

Among the national highlights was a collection of cruises by Saken Zhaksybaev. Her label ZhSaken focused on monochrome dresses accented with yellow as an exploration of Spanish and Portuguese heritage in the royal histories of Europe. “Black, as the deepest color, awakens feminine beauty and is in itself a powerful accord, and when presented in a fabric such as velvet, it gives the image even more mystery”, explains the creator.

A Kazakh alumnus of the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, Tatyana Yan delved into the treasure of fairy tales. “The older we get, the more we notice that history is not going anywhere: good triumphs over evil, after darkness comes to light, actions are stronger than words. Only his characters change over time, but now we need them more than ever, ”remarked Yan. Designer Ainur Turisbek experimented with a new approach to co-branding collections. “ALMA: Powered by Jusan Invest” is a reference both to his mother and to the nourishing story of the generosity of the Medici family “sponsoring” the Renaissance.

Historical crossroads between the mythical East and West, Kazakhstan has continued to master fashion diplomacy by inviting great Ukrainian, Georgian and Uzbek designers. It was a powerful and welcome gesture of goodwill to every country navigating a geopolitical stalemate with Russia. Designer Lilia Litkovskaya and her “daring clothes fit for a city shaman” have become one of Ukraine’s most recognizable style business cards. Inspired by Keith Haring and the poppy fields in bloom, his optimistic vision for the future is decidedly triumphant.

Georgian Datuna Sulikashvili is a sought-after ambassador of the new sense of Georgian style. Working in silk and cashmere, he is building a stellar brand reputation on several international platforms. Uzbekistan was represented by the two best-selling brands in the country.

Fashion designer Lali Fazylova imagined the contemporary youth of old megalopolises like Tashkent and Samarkand. His fine collection emphasized the use of adras, traditional Uzbek hand-dyed textiles, and alo-bakhmal, a royal technique of velvet weaving.

Since 2007, Dildora Kasimova has offered successful ready-to-wear collections to a growing audience of loyal customers and fans. Her fashion philosophy being a holistic lifestyle and not just a profession, she is one of the most followed style influencers in Central Asia, capturing the modern air of the Silk Road.

Looking and moving forward, Bauyrzhan Shadibekov, CEO of Visa Fashion Week Almaty, has the utmost confidence in the platform as he cites a few of his long-term project partners like Kaz Tour, Citix and Dyson, and its benefits to participating designers and national fashion industries in the region. Starting next year, a partnership with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana will allow an award-winning designer of the season to participate in a special showcase during Milan Fashion Week. An example of the international solidarity of the fashion industry, it signals a desire to make the economic recovery less “uneven” by prioritizing the future of emerging talents.



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