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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

To the Top With a Tracksuit

Courtesy Of Emperor MothKatya Gomiashvili
Jennifer Lopez may have brought tracksuits into style but Katya Gomiashvili took them all the way to high fashion -- with the help of "it girl" actress Chloe Sevigny modeling for her campaign, and an attention-grabbing $10,000 price tag on a single tracksuit top.

The 29-year-old designer of the Emperor Moth label first released a brand of her own, Mia Shvili, onto the market in 2002. Her quirky, colorful designs were applauded internationally, and in 2006 she was one of the few Russian designers to have her own boutiques in Moscow and London. But despite such success, Gomiashvili now says she's changing direction.

When asked in an interview why she wanted to be a fashion designer, she giggled and said: "I don't want to be a fashion designer," adding that she was stopping work as of April. Her stores remain open for the moment, but she isn't sure about the long term.

"At the moment I don't like the fashion industry and I am taking myself as far away from it possible," Gomiashvili said. "Besides, there's so many other things I want to do."

The daughter of the late actor and businessman Archil Gomiashvili and ballerina turned restaurateur Tatyana Gomiashvili, she has long been at home with the elite and theatrical.

Her Georgian roots are another defining characteristic.

"I don't look Georgian, I don't speak Georgian, but I have Georgian blood, it gives me a sort of toughness," she said, making a fist.

Gomiashvili did not follow a straight trajectory into fashion. After high school she applied to study architecture in London, but decided against it because she wanted to stay in Switzerland, where she was schooled.

"Everybody says that Switzerland is such a boring place. As an outsider, yes it's boring, but when you are a kid and you are surrounded by other spoiled rich kids it's incredible," she said.

At that time, Gomiashvili wasn't sure what she wanted to do, so she studied public relations, and later moved to Los Angeles to study marketing. Her decision to study fashion came during lunchtime: "I was sitting with all the other marketing students, in suits, and I looked over to the fashion students with their funky hair and cool clothes, and all the mess around them, and I knew that this was my crowd." A transfer to the London College of Fashion followed.


Courtesy Of Emperor Moth
Katya Gomiashvili has opened her own fashion boutiques in London and Moscow.
The Mia Shvili brand started with made-to-order dresses, and by 2003, it was in fashion fairs in Paris, Berlin and Milan. The collection featured floating fabrics and sparkly evening-wear, but it was the luxury sportswear line in 2005 that turned heads worldwide. The retro-styled zip-up tops with hand-sewn embroidery and semi-precious stones ranged from $900 to $10,000 -- and international sales included 20 at the highest price. The irony that such expensive sportswear was designed in post-Soviet Russia was not lost on the press, and Gomiashvili admitted that it was great PR.

Her company, Chic Blesk Krasota, had teething problems at the start, however.

"It's difficult to talk about fashion in Moscow because not everyone knows what fashion is," she said. She had to explain the basics, such as that there are two seasons, as well as teach her staff the nuances of taxation on imported fabrics.

In 2005, an Italian designer with a differently spelled name, also pronounced "Mia Shvili," attempted to sue Gomiashvili for confusing his clients. Gomiashvili did not want to waste time fighting for the brand name and decided to change hers. As the collection already had the M sewn into the garments and onto the zippers, Gomiashvili wanted to keep that part of the logo, so she registered her brand as "Em," the phonetic sound, to avoid further law suits from other brands whose logo was a big M.

In spring of 2006, Gomiashvili opened her Emperor Moth Store in Moscow with an ad campaign featuring Sevigny in a tracksuit top and shorts, complemented by retro-style roller skates. By autumn of 2006, Gomiashvili had a store in London's Mayfair and was selling her collection in Europe, Asia and South America, aided by a campaign starring supermodels Kate Moss and Devon Aoki.

Her work ethic is what she names when asked what advice she would pass on to anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps: "Work builds character, it defines who you are," she said. "Even though it isn't everything, it's very important."

"She works hard and deserves all the success that she gets," said Zak Burzag Kaghado, creative director of Brainstorm Management, whose studio was a neighbor of hers in the Arma factory on Nizhny Susalny Pereulok until recently moving to Project Fabrika. "To top it off, she is a really great girl."

Recently, Gomiashvili's hard work has been going into organizing "i-D Smile," a photography exhibition from i-D magazine to be held at the Arma factory from April 20 to May 3. "It's an amazing magazine, and a fashion bible," she said. "Giorgio Armani bought the exhibit to Italy, and I am bringing it to Russia."