In Georgia, One Young Designer Is Bringing Drag to the Runway

Edward James /

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.

Beyond the provocative fashion message, there’s a politically charged aspect to Prodiàshvili’s work. Though Georgia is one of the few countries of the former Soviet Union to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI people, conservative attitudes linger and Tbilisi can be a hostile place for members of the gay and queer community. Prodiàshvili has experienced this firsthand. In fact, he considers both his designs and growing success a form of creative resistance. Says Prodiàshvili, “I transform this pain into energy, work, and protest, not only for myself, but for others as well.”


Hisense unveils Designer Collection range in partnership with Harvey Norman

Hisense has announced its exclusive Designer Collection in collaboration with Harvey Norman.

“We’re proud to partner with Harvey Norman, a retailer that has a long-standing relationship with Australians,” said Andre Iannuzzi, Head of Marketing at Hisense Australia.

“Together, we’ve created a range that we think will resonate well with consumers around the country. The result is a minimalist television that offers a high quality viewing experience whilst being pleasing on the eye with its all-white frame.”

The range is available in 65”, 55” and 43” models and feature Ultra Local Dimming, Wide Colour Gamut, HDR Plus, VIDAA U 2.5, RemoteNow, 200 Smooth Motion Rate, Game Mode and Elite Backlight.

The range features the VIDAA U 2.5 Smart TV platform and mobile app RemoteNOW; allowing users to control their TV and customise their favourite apps, channels and inputs straight from their smartphone. RemoteNOW also enables users to cast photos and videos from their smartphone to their TV screen.


How Homepolish’s Collection Tool Is Transforming the Interiors Industry


Noa Santos doesn’t think he’s famous. Yet, over lunch, he relayed how a woman from the Philippines stopped him in his tracks, fawning over him, his company and its Instagram account (which boasts a staggering 1.8 millions followers). He is the co-founder and CEO of Homepolish, a six-year-old interior design company that is much more than that descriptor suggests. Essentially, it is the middleman, a platform that connects clients with designers through a streamlined process on its website and manages projects from start to finish.

How then does a woman from across the globe know about him, especially when there are many others in the space? Well, it would appear that Santos and Homepolish is a cut above the rest, evidenced by the considerable coverage. Clients include Karlie Kloss and influencers such as Leandra Medine and Hannah Bronfman, along with corporate firms like Goop, Soludos and Barclays. It also represents, so to speak, notable interior designers like Alec Holland, Ariel Okin and Tali Roth, who are among a network of 800 others.

Indeed, according to Santos, the list to join that roster has become sizable. This is because Homepolish does all the legwork, allowing the designers to stretch their creative muscles. It acts as a management service, handling all the logistics, payments and any problems that may arise. More recently, it has simplified the process further by introducing Collection, a tool on its website that sources and tracks a range of furnishings and objects from brand partners.


Homepolish’s Noa Santos.Christian Torres for Homepolish

As with so many light bulb moments, Homepolish was born out of frustration. To rehash what others have said before, Santos graduated from Stanford University, where he studied business and architecture. He then made his way to New York City and joined an interior design firm before starting his own practice soon after. It was during this period, at the tender age of 24, when he saw how there was a lack of transparency and accessibility within the industry. (The commission model, which is standard, causes many to inflate budgets.) Santos also noticed how there were so many emerging designers who were experiencing the same perils: garnering a client, formulating budgets and dealing with planning and organization. So, he partnered with his co-founder, Will Nathan, and thought of a solution. And now, six years later, in the eyes of at least one woman, it has made him famous.


Here, Santos elaborates on Homepolish, the new Collection tool and how he is looking to expand the company even more.

What did you learn from your past experiences that made you start Homepolish?

As I was working with clients, both in my first job and then within my own practice, I noticed the sheer demand for a transparent, accessible design service. Simultaneously, I found an overwhelming number of emerging designers who were interested in joining a design firm that promised a new way of doing business. Obviously, Homepolish has evolved considerably over the past six years but initially, we set out to create that connection between emerging clients and emerging designers.

How would you describe the ethos of the company? How does it benefit consumers?

The Homepolish team brings the right level of professionalism to the experience of designing a home—or office—without losing the energy and fun that make the design process what it is. On the one hand, we understand how complex, emotional and intimate the design experience is and it’s important we respect that. That said, we believe the sum of the design experience is not simply the beautiful space you end up with; rather it’s a process during which you learn about yourself, what matters to you and how you choose to live. Design evolves as you do. A room should feel finished, but never complete.


Living room designed by Homepolish.Homepolish

How does this service benefit an already established designer?

Designers are artists, craftsmen and creatives. Unfortunately, they’ve also had to step up and become business operators as well. Designers are now HR managers, bookkeepers, account managers, purchasing agents and marketers—responsibilities that are all important in running a business, but not ultimately what designers should be doing. Homepolish aims to provide a strong foundation and layer of support and tools to minimize the time designers spend on non-design tasks, freeing them up to do what they were meant to do.

Briefly, how does the platform work?

Potential clients find Homepolish in various ways. Whether it’s from our 1.8M followers on Instagram, our network of over 800 designers across the country or our in-house team of business development managers, prospective clients come to Homepolish and share information about themselves, their projects, style and budget. We then broker the right designer match—or general contractor or architect. It’s almost like dating. Once the match is right and the terms of the project are agreed upon, the designer and client start working together, with the support of our procurement team that facilitates the purchasing—and best prices—for the items going into a client’s home. Clients and designers use Collection, a sourcing and purchasing management tool built by Homepolish, to keep tabs on furniture and decor options, order confirmations, costs and tracking information. If a client has a renovation or construction project, we also facilitate working with one of our approved general contractors or architects and similarly help manage the process to successful completion.

What is this point of the Collection tool, and how does it simplify the process?

Collection is a tool we built specifically to streamline the collaboration process as designers and clients source, vet, order and track the furniture and decor items that go into a successful project. It eliminates the need for complicated spreadsheets, as well as all the other interfaces designers have to cobble together to communicate their designs, and then plugs directly into our procurement team. From there, we’re able to order trade and retail items on behalf of a designer and bill the client—all with a simple checkout. Finally, all of the details that go into a purchase, from final dimensions to tracking information, is then automatically updated and made visible to clients, allowing for a whole new level of transparency and eliminating the need for designers to have to constantly follow up with vendors and clients.


The Collection tool on Homepolish’s website.Homepolish

Who would you say are your biggest competitors in the market, and how are you looking to stand out?

There have been a lot of fascinating developments within the interior design space over the last several years. From e-decorating companies that operate solely online to resource directories that offer 100,000 designer options and even more product SKUs, clients now have access to an unprecedented amount of information that would have seemed unfathomable only a decade ago. All of these solutions, however, give a client an assisted DIY experience. Homepolish clients are not interested in doing things themselves. Of course, they want to be involved in the process and have fun picking out furniture, fabrics or accessories, all the while learning about their aesthetic preferences. When it comes to execution, however, they understand the need for professional help and want to get it right the first time around. Homepolish is truly the only platform providing clients with that premium end-to-end design experience, marrying clients with the right professionals and tools.

What are you biggest successes thus far?

We are entering into a new age of Homepolish. When we began, we felt very much like a services business with some level of technology helping streamline the process. With Collection and the next generation of product in the works, we are becoming a true technology platform with a premium, differentiated service and a singular brand. Our greatest success thus far has been in creating a voice and establishing an offering that is so compelling that thousands upon thousands of people value and trust Homepolish enough to invite us into their homes.

What other ways are you looking to expand the company?

While we’re heavily investing in the right, scalable product and processes for our own designers and clients, we see a massive opportunity in being able to help the other 100,000 designers—and their clients—across the country. With years of experience and thousands of projects, we’ve come to understand the nuances of what makes a design experience great. We intend to make that information, our tools and support available to all those who hope to walk through their front doors every day and smile at what they call their homes.


The Wait Is Over! LaQuan Smith’s Sexy ASOS Collection Is Now Available Online

Months ago, ESSENCE reported on the highly-anticipated collaboration between UK retail giant, ASOS, and beloved designer, LaQuan Smith.

Well, fashion fiends, we’ve got great news: the wait is officially over.

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RELATED: Fashion Designer LaQuan Smith Wins Big With ASOS Collaboration

This week, the glamorous fashion union has finally announced that items from the collection are now available for online purchase via the ASOS website.

Smith has quickly built a name for himself as the go-to celebrity dress designer for megastars like Béyonce, Kim Kardashian, and Lala Anthony, to name just a few. He runway collections are also frequently showcased during New York Fashion Week and his looks are often seen on multiple, A-list red carpets.

Now, through the ASOS partnership, fans have the opportunity buy into the Smith aesthetic without breaking the bank.

“It’s all about confidence and being unapologetic in who you are,” he says of the collection. “It’s always about accentuating the body and this concept collection will reinforce that in an affordable and attainable way.”

ASOS DESIGN x LaQuan Smith Curve off shoulder midi dress in vinyl $103.

ASOS DESIGN x LaQuan Smith in slim joggers in camo jacquard $103.

ASOS DESIGN x LaQuan Smith embellished mesh bomber $198.

ASOS DESIGN x LaQuan Smith embellished maxi dress in leopard print $316.

ASOS DESIGN x LaQuan Smith Curve wrap front bodysuit in leopard print $72.

ASOS DESIGN x LaQuan Smith camo jacquard oversized parka with detachable hood $237.

ASOS DESIGN x LaQuan Smith skinny check PANTS with contrast check panel $87.

With a range of women’s and men’s merchandise made available for consumers, the price points are between $35 – $285, and includes extended sizing for ASOS Curve and ASOS Plus. Shop the collection at

Six New Designers To Watch From Tokyo Fashion Week

Global Fashion Collective (GFC) is fast becoming one of the top showcases of new talent from around the world, producing runway shows in various fashion capitals. GFC launched at Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo in October 2017, followed by a presentation at New York Fashion Week in February of this year. New York Fashion Week in September 2018 marked the third outing for this innovative fashion producer and this month, GFC showed for the second time in Tokyo. Tokyo Fashion Week is the ideal partner for Global Fashion Collective as both organisations strive to encourage and promote new designers. The six new international brands that took the stage in Tokyo, in two catwalk shows, included Annika Klaas (Germany), Atelier M/A (Japan), The House of AmZ (USA), Atelier Grandi (Canada), Alicia Perrillo (USA) and EmulEos (USA).

German knitwear designer Annika Klaas’s collection at Tokyo Fashion Week, October 2018Paul Allen/

1.Annika Klaas is clearly a young designer on the rise after taking the top prize at the European Fashion Award (FASH) this year. While her catwalk show this month in Tokyo was only her second (her first was at Vancouver Fashion Week in September) her collection was both innovative and confident. Annika’s  Spring/Summer 2019 knitwear collection “Jaune” was produced using a completely new production process on Stoll ADF, German-made, computer-based knitting machines. Using these machines allows on demand production with orders produced the same day (the most complicated piece takes around 3 hours to knit) ensuring no overproduction and very little waste. Annika’s collection features cheerful fluorescent colors with lots of yellow, plus green and orange. The German designer’s fine art background is apparent in her collage-like, layered designs, all made without seams. A long viscose and silk pale yellow pleated dress was knitted in one piece but features two layers. Another standout piece was a dress in orange and yellow cotton and viscose with wide pieces of ribbon woven through the centre. Knitted in pockets and magnetic closures are nice details in this strong new collection.

Atelier M/A on the catwalk at Tokyo Fashion Week, October 2018Paul Allen/

2.Atelier M/A is a wearable, creative new brand launched this year by Japanese designer and fashion lecturer Masato Koide and pattern cutter Azusa Koide. The Japanese duo combine hand sewing with digital print work and recycled plastics. Their casual, ready-to-wear collection shown at Tokyo included high-waisted trousers, lightweight raincoats and knitted sweaters in bright colors. Based in Osaka, everything is made in Japan, using Japanese made fabrics and materials. Showcasing a bag on the catwalk that was made of recycled supermarket bags, Atelier M/A, like many new brands, demonstrate that being sustainable and environmentally conscious is an essential element of fashion today.


Two looks from American brand House of AmZPaul Allen/

3.The House of AmZ is designed by Alexandra Marie Zofcin who studied in Florence where her first ready-to-wear collection was launched at a boutique in 2017. She is now based in Florida. At Tokyo Fashion Week,  Alexandra presented a collection divided into six parts: winter, neutral, lotus, blush, amalgamation and finale, with each each capsule reflecting various emotions. The collection featured pleats, gathers and woven strips in the garments, in a soothing color palette of sage green, beige, pastel pink, navy, cream, grey and burgundy. The centrepiece was a gorgeous long, floaty dress with a pale pink background and a triangular print in brown back and sage green. Another designer who is eco-conscious, Alexandra has a “less waste” philosophy with made to order pieces. She also doesn’t adhere to traditional fashion seasons that advocate new clothes be purchased twice a year.

Two looks from Alicia Perrillo’s new collection shown at Tokyo Fashion Week, October 2018Paul Allen/

4. Award-winning graduate of School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s rigorous fashion program, Alicia Perrillo launched her eponymous brand in 2016. With a focus on luxury fabrics and beautiful handwork details, she combines contemporary silhouettes including asymetrical hemlines, with old-world couture. Alicia brought a whimsical soft color palette of lavender, grey, pale pink, fold and white to the ultra-feminine gowns shown on the Tokyo runway. Techniques such as painting, beading, crochet, and embroidery paid homage to this Chicago-based designer’s late grandmother. Figure-flattering dresses included a show-stopping long sleeve white fishtail dress with soft pink painted effect and pale blue frills, accessorized with handmade tassel earrings.

Two looks from Canadian brand Atelier Grandi at Tokyo Fashion Week, October 2018Paul Allen/Andfotography

5. I was already a fan of the Canadian designer Grandy Chu’s brand Atelier Grandi after seeing her attractive designs at Vancouver Fashion Week last year so it was good to seeing her showing in Tokyo. The collection at Tokyo had a pop art crossed with Chinoiserie feel to it, with large scale, vibrant hand-painted prints on dresses and separates for daywear. Colorful cigarette trousers and pleated skirts were teamed up with tops featuring print patterns in satin. Jumpsuits and long evening dresses were both stylish and fun, with the addition of jungle print patterned panels. A key look was a silk strapless dress with fitted bodice worn over a printed shirt with contrasting cuffs and collar. For the Tokyo show, the atelier collaborated with Zoe Olsson’s funky eyewear brand Black Iris.  All items are made locally in limited quantities to order at Grandi’s Vancouver atelier.

EmulEos from North Carolina at Tokyo Fashion Week, October 2018Paul Allen/

6. EmulEos literally packed a punch with a collection that included boxing gloves and visors made of crystals. Emily Prozinksi, the North Carolina designer behind the brand, was inspired by female boxers for her collection “Tougher Than Diamonds.” Fabrics included chiffon, georgette and faux leather. Oversized hoods, chainwork and studded boots featured on the catwalk. A standout piece was a faux snakeskin full- length jacket, encrusted with crystals.

From left: Japanese design duo, Masato Koide and Azusa Koide, Annika Klaas and Alexandra Marie ZofcinPaul Allen/

With its fourth successful showcase completed, Global Fashion Collective is going from strength to strength and is a great supporter of emerging fashion brands. Next up for GFC will be a third showing at New York Fashion Week in February 2019, followed by presentations in Europe (London and Paris) later in the year.


Francesco Fucci’s New Vision for Theory Is All About Vibes

It’s been almost a year since Francesco Fucci joined Theory as its women’s creative director, but you probably didn’t know that. Theory shoppers likely don’t, either. Fucci’s arrival at the 21-year-old label built on wear-to-work clothes, and the changes he’s implemented since, have been quiet and subtle, reflective of his own thoughtful, unflashy demeanor. But if you look closely, you’ll realize that what he’s doing is unlike anything we’ve seen from Theory before. The foundation is the same—classic, timeless, reliable staples—but any lingering stiffness is gone. In its place are nuanced proportions, luxurious materials, and an attention to detail you don’t find at most of the direct-to-consumer basics brands encroaching on Theory’s turf.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. Fucci hails from Naples, Italy, and studied fashion from a young age. In his studio at Theory’s Meatpacking HQ, he recalled winning his “first and only” fashion prize when he was 19: “I made a dress in ivory triple organza that was super pure, super simple,” he said. “It could have been in my new Theory collection.” He worked as a print designer for Italian menswear labels, and 10 years ago he moved to New York with his wife, who is also a designer. Fucci took jobs at Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg in the mid-2000s, but more recently, he was at The Row, where he spent five years working as head designer.

If you had to guess Fucci’s aesthetic based on that background, you might arrive at “minimalist”—and that’s pretty accurate. He calls himself a “basic guy” but is also a self-proclaimed romantic. He’s fixated on über-luxe (usually natural) fabrics, gorgeous colors, and tiny yet transformative tweaks in silhouette and fit. “I love minimalism—it’s why I moved to New York,” he said. “I needed a clean slate. New York is so strong, but I’d never want to abandon where I’ve come from, so I like to mix my European culture with something more streamlined.”

Francesco Fucci

Francesco Fucci

Photo: Courtesy of Theory

That’s the essence of his plans for Theory, where he’s been tasked with “refreshing” its pared-back, office-friendly look. “Andrew [Rosen, Theory’s founder] and I were speaking the same language [when we met],” Fucci said. “What he needs in this moment is someone who can reinvigorate the brand codes. Times change; people change. It just needed a refresh. It’s like changing the furniture in your apartment.” In lieu of a complete aesthetic overhaul—which we’ve sort of come to expect from designers taking on established brands—Fucci did the opposite: He revisited Theory’s earliest collections of the late ’90s and “translated” the look for today. “I really wanted to understand what Andrew was trying to do 20 years ago and give a new energy to those initial ideas,” he said. “It’s an evolution of his original menswear inspirations but with new codes, new finishings, new silhouettes, new volumes, new proportions.”

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Elaborating on his debut collection, which arrived in stores and online yesterday, he said: “It’s very pragmatic and straightforward, but there’s also this emotional feeling. I always try to merge those ideas.” Minimalism often gets a bad rap for being stark or cold, but Fucci is passionate about making even the simple stuff feel special. He pointed out a graceful, nipped-waist poplin dress to illustrate that balance, as well as a beige georgette dress with bell sleeves and a tie neck. “These are minimal dresses because of the clean lines and purist [sensibility], but there’s romance in the proportions.”

In other words, they’re simple pieces with soul. Fucci talked more about moods and feelings than the technicalities of cutting a great shirt (though he’s well-versed in both, having grown up in his uncles’ tailoring shop). He was particularly excited about the “feeling of the colors” in the new collection, ranging from rich chocolate and sand to cerulean and bright lilac. “For me, I don’t like too much decoration, and the colors [give you] room to appreciate the quality of the fabrics,” he explained. Resort’s palette was lifted from a recent trip through “the true America,” namely Texas and Arizona. “It was monumental for me,” he said. “I wanted to bring this emotion and American feeling and [filter] it through the lens of the new Theory.”

But how, exactly, do you bring something as dreamy as the contrast of a Donald Judd structure against the Marfa desert sunset into such a minimal collection? And how do you educate your customers about it? “I like to collect a lot of information and create a big story, and then I spend a lot of time editing,” Fucci explained. “It’s like when you tell someone about a book in just a few minutes—what is the essential part of the story? For me, the essentials are the expression of the silhouette, the fabric, and the colors.” Fucci mentioned Carhartt and L.L. Bean as references, too, showing khaki pants and blouses with bandana-like draped necklines. There was a vaguely rugged, American casualness to those pieces, but you could still wear them to work.

“Office clothes,” of course, have been Theory’s bread and butter since ’97. But the concept of “the working woman” has changed drastically since then. “When Theory was born, it was for a woman who needed a business wardrobe because she went to an office as a lawyer or on Wall Street,” Fucci said. “Now, there are different ways to work. You’re working at home, or in a coffee shop, or a co-working space . . . It’s more free, so I wanted to address this. I think there’s more versatility in the pieces now.” On his Instagram page, he’s been showing those garments in a new light—literally. Ribbed cardigans, leather coats, and wool suits from Resort hang in Theory’s shop windows, and Fucci photographed them so the glass distorts and reflects the cobblestones and construction sites of Gansevoort Street in the background.

Fucci’s second collection for Spring 2019, shown in September (arriving in stores early next year), included a more comprehensive look at his new “workwear”: easy pinstriped suits styled with flat slides, midi skirts and cashmere sweaters, unstructured coats in leather and cashmere, and what he referred to as “a men’s wardrobe for a woman’s body”—crisp button-downs and straight, wrinkle-proof wool trousers. What felt different about these simple, digestible pieces was their sense of warmth. They were even a little sultry. “It’s about the expression,” Fucci explained. “Or like re-creating a movie in the clothes.”

To put it in millennial parlance: It’s about the vibe. The Spring presentation itself distilled that in an experiential, “365-degree” way: Models wandered through a white gallery space in neutral silks and pops of bold color—think saffron, cherry, tangerine—while TVs played footage of oceans, rivers, and houses. Fucci even installed a yellow-ish light to mimic the sun. “It was cinematic,” he said. “When I was trying to explain the collection here [in the studio], I just told everyone to watch Call Me by Your Name to see where I was coming from. It was about the piazza in the summer, flirting after the beach . . . I like those deep feelings. And I’m always inspired by Pina Bausch, her expression of the body and the relation between men and women. That’s what I had in mind,” he continued. “When I go on inspiration trips, it’s more to catch the spirit and feeling, not to find actual garments.”

Fucci is hoping to bring that spirit and feeling into Theory’s stores and website, as well, so customers can feel like they’re experiencing the brand’s world. “It won’t happen overnight, but we’ve started,” he said. “The excitement is there.” It’s a move that mirrors how indie labels have built up organic, super-loyal followings by creating their own communities on Instagram—and it could be a game changer for Theory, especially because it has to compete with those upstarts now. Young women find buzzy new brands every day on social media, and it isn’t easy to get their attention. But Fucci’s main objective will likely be to establish Theory as the go-to for discerning, stylish types of all ages who expect a lot from their clothes: quality, luxury, and ease, sure, but also an emotional pull. They need a good reason to buy it. So far, it looks like he’s up to the challenge.