ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN — Tucked between global powers such as Russia to the west and China to the east, the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan was once one of great trading outposts of the legendary Silk Road. The major commerical, financial and cultural center of the former Soviet republic, Almaty lies near the border of Kyrgyzstan and geographically at the proverbial crossroads of Europe, Asia and the fashion world.
3,248 miles from the closest fashion mecca of Milan, Italy, one would never associate Almaty as a hub of fashion, let alone the next potential one. While Fashion Week already has what is known as the “Big Four” featuring New York, Paris, London and the aforemention Milan, thanks to the emergence of other notable fashion weeks in Miami, Los Angeles and Dubai 1,758 miles to the south east in the ultra-luxirious United Arab Emirates, could Almaty be the fashion hub of Central Asia?
Thanks to the efforts of Bauyrzhan Shadibekov, Founder and CEO of the recently concluded VISA Fashion Week Almaty this past weekend, the so-called “southern capital” of Kazakhstan, could be well on it’s way to becoming one.
Below is my Q and A with Mr. Shadibekov, as we discuss the Silk Road, the future of Almaty, VISA Fashion Week and the promising future of being the new Eurasian capital of fashion.
1. For those that don’t know, but Almaty has a rich history and connected to the storied Silk Road, how are you hoping to tap into that rich legacy and bring it to the world of fashion?
– Almaty combines many different cultures, lifestyles, ideas. It is a city of diversity and versatility when it comes to all aspects of life, from people to architecture, from cuisines to activities. This kind of mix is the exact thing that inspires creative people to create. Almaty is a perfect place with infinite sources of inspiration for designers, photographers, editors, influencers and other people from fashion world. This city is the ground for people to bring their vision and ideas into reality
2. New York, London, Paris, Milan and now Dubai. Being the fashion and cultural capital of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, what is your vision of VISA Fashion Week?
– This event gives people a chance to share what they have created as well as enhance their sense of beauty, and inspiration to grow within the industry. For example, designers with experience and the ones who just start their careers share one podium and work side by side. It creates an amazing exchange of experience and a fresh view. As well as createing a healthy competition
3. What unique features do you think that Almaty can offer as opposed to the “Big Five”?
– Almaty boasts a distinctive allure rooted in its rich tapestry of Central Asian culture and history. Its beauty is unrivaled, evident in every facet – from its diverse flora and fauna to the unique customs, warm-hearted inhabitants, flavorful cuisine, intricate ornaments, soulful music, and captivating art. Central Asia’s profound history has shaped our present, a narrative deserving of global acknowledgment.
4. Are there any big name designers and brands that we should expect to see over in Almaty this season—or in the future?
– Every brand featured this season brings a remarkable quality to the table, a prerequisite for their participation. These brands enjoy significant local acclaim. Additionally, we’re proud to showcase the winner of the Next Designer Award, a testament to its burgeoning success among the most gifted young designers in Kazakhstan, securing its spot as the foremost talent in the industry.
5. Who were your influences and role models growing up?
– There is no specific person in mind. I would say I was always admiring people with strong vision and sense of purpose in any industry. Those are the people who push us as a society forward
6. What are your long-term goals and ultimate vision of what VISA Fashion Week could be?
– VISA Fashion Week is like this awesome mashup of the hottest fashion trends and the coolest innovations, all served up as a killer art show for everyone to enjoy. Seriously, there are no rules holding this event back, and that’s what makes it so unique.
7. For anyone who has never come to Almaty, or Kazakhstan, what would you recommend, and why should they come?
– Almaty has some go-to spots that pretty much anyone familiar with the city would suggest. I’d advise, when you’re here, just roll with it, embrace the local vibe, and that’s the ultimate way to soak up the city’s charm.
8. Any last words, advice or things you wish to say to those hoping to come to VISA?
– Everyone who is attending the event is someone with purpose, vision and mission. That is why we value each and every guest, each one is contributing. So I want to sincerely thank everyone who is a part of it!
Special thanks to Mr. Bauyrzhan Shadibekov and Francesca Venturi of ELEVATE PR and Communications for their help, time and assistence with this interview.