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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fashion Elite Glides Into Pankisi Gorge

APA Georgian model stepping onto a makeshift catwalk at a fashion parade Sunday night in a field at the mouth of the crime-infested Pankisi Gorge. Several hundred soldiers were on hand to ensure that designer Maka Assathiany's show went off without a hitch.
PANKISI GORGE, Georgia -- The Pankisi Gorge, suspected lair of assorted international guerrillas, seemed a less threatening place on Sunday when Georgia's top fashion designer chose it to launch a collection.

Just after darkness fell on the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus, which mark the border with Chechnya, seven stony-faced models glided down a makeshift catwalk in Maka Assathiany's latest creations. It was the first haute couture collection for Assathiany, a 28-year-old phenomenon who has boutiques in Paris and Moscow.

Her manager, Vaniko Tarkhnishvili, said the Pankisi Gorge provided the perfect backdrop for the launch: "This is not just clothing. It is a concept," he gushed. "This place is strange and crazy. It adds some emotion and action to the collection."

The fashion parade was held just in front of the last Georgian police checkpoint inside the gorge before no man's land begins. The catwalk itself was a mock roadblock -- complete with real soldiers, not to mention two armored personnel carriers.

Around 300 local villagers came to see the $45,000 show with a mixture of curiosity and confusion. "I don't know what this is all about but it's something different for us," said 54-year-old Tariel, an unemployed man from the nearby village of Kutsakhta.

Assathiany, dressed head-to-toe in camouflage fatigues, was delighted.

"The clothes are very emotional," she said breathlessly. "So we needed a hot place like this, like Pankisi."