PHOTO: My new pair of shoes made by Georgian artist Eloshi (c) Sery Kim
One of my favorite aspects of traveling the globe is being able to the support the artisanal work of local designers. In particular, I really relish the opportunity to have things others don't have, aka when someone exclaims "Oh! I love your _________," I can then retort "I purchased it in Tbilisi, Georgia." It's self-conscious but still fun!
Before going to Georgia, I knew I would be purchasing a lot of wine but wasn't sure about anything else. After all, it's the country that invented wine so I brought with me an over-sized carry-on for this express purpose. I also managed an over-sized carry-on bag for clothes, which was 90% empty in case I made other purchases in Georgia. When learning of my advanced prep work before coming to Tbilisi, the others in our media group rued they had not done the research and preparation I had done. However I expressed, without the slighted bit of humility, I have learned by mistake. I have traveled on so many trips WITHOUT having been prepared so I definitely knew what I was doing this time around. I packed exactly five dresses, one pair of pants, one sweater and one workout outfit for six days of travel. I added to this two pairs of shoes, toiletries which were 90% used (so I could leave it behind in the rubbish bin in Tbilisi).
PHOTO: A friend posing in front of Fabrika Shopping District's mural (c) Sery Kim
I'm glad I made the effort because I made two excellent, non-wine finds in Tbilisi's Fabrika Shopping District. Located in a formerly upper-class neighborhood in Tbilisi, when the Soviet Union occupied the city they turned many of the large, single-family homes into communal homes. Over the years, this bit of socialism turned the gorgeous architecture into a woefully decreipt state. But with the Georgian democracy encouraging innovation among the young people of Tbilisi, Fabrika looks like any other "cool" spot in Austin, Nashville or even Union Market in Washington, D.C.
The Fabrika Shopping District space is narrow, resembling a double-wide street, with small businesses on either side. The exterior architecture is quite modern: steel-cast windows and doors, with some three or four story commercial buildings as well. Outdoor dining spaces allow visitors to have some delicious iced coffee while musicians play. The whole ambience is quiet charming, particularly because the weather was picture-perfect.
PHOTO: One of the gorgeous architecture of a home (c) Sery Kim
I walked into the first store I saw. Called Fundki, I purchased beautiful, hand-stitched leather shoes for $300 lira, aka $100 U.S. Made by Eloshi, and sold inside a store called Funduki. I also bought a lovely ruck-sack for $70 lira, aka $25 U.S. at the same store. So happy with both!! Funduki sells a little bit of everything: vintage clothes, jewelry, as well as more modern fashion from Tbilisi designers.
I have attached photos of the contact information because you can purchase these items online -- the shoes take 6 days to make because, again, they are hand-made individually but a wonderful quality and so comfortable!!
PHOTO: My beautiful new ruck-sack, which I hung on a random knob on a random wall (c) Sery Kim
We didn't stay long in this space because there really was so much more for us to do in Tbilisi, but I sincerely hope you will add it to your itinerary should you have the great pleasure to visit Tbilisi.