Vogue reporter LIANA SATENSTEIN, traveled inside of Georgia’s famous flea market and writes an article about what shopping peculiarities it has.
I visit the market during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi with stylist Ketevan Gvaramadze, who is clad in a Céline coat and Vetements tee; her boyfriend, Michael; and photographer Tamuna Karumidze.
Unlike Lesnoy in Kiev orMegastyle in Moscow, the sidewalks and booths are flooded with foreigners there to snap up hard-to-find souvenirs like sterling Azeri jewelry, century-old kilims, and WWII military jackets. There is also a fair amount of junk: Stacks of Nokia cell phones, circuit boards surrounded by fraying wires, and plastic sunglasses freshly shipped from China; Gvaramadze models a Dior-inspired necklace and a vendor tries to sell us “Swarovski” bracelets.
Further down the sidewalk, Gvaramadze discovers a carpet stuck full of Soviet enamel pins, lauding subjects ranging from the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. Gvaramadze picks one with a portrait of Vladimir Lenin and exclaims, “I wore this one in school!” She snags several more and starts piercing my T-shirt with them, creating a bejeweled badge.
As Gvaramadze tries on a huge, curly papakha, a traditional Georgian hat, I stray from the group and find a booth heaped with piles of silver jewelry: thick qasli bilezik forearm-engulfing cuffs adorned with carnelian stones, adamlyk necklaces, and triangular hair pendants, all hailing from Dagestan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. A cuff catches my eye, but it’s priced for less-than-thrifty foreigners at 500 American dollars, and the seller is not open to negotiation. But all is not lost—I spot a turquoise-dotted bracelet at a neighboring booth and manage to talk the vendor down $5: Success!
By the end of our shopping trip, Gvaramadze has scored a soccer scarf, an old USSR T-shirt, and the colorful handful of Soviet pins. I have my new bracelet, but I still have my eye on one more thing: In the spirit of bartering, I ask Gvaramadze if I can trade my thrifted UPS shirt for her soft Vetements tee. The obvious answer is “no.” And that’s okay—there is always going to be something beyond bargaining at Tbilisi’s Dry Bridge.