Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Valentino Haute Couture Meets Suzani

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Valentino's Central Asian suzani-inspired jacket
Although Garavani Valentino retired in 2008, creative directors of the fashion house, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, have continued Valentino's signature opulence.

They are also respectful of the house's preset design codes, from Valentino's special red to his beloved high neckline.

The Valentino 2015 haute couture spring/summer  collection, in parts folkloric, was inspired by Central Asian, Russian and Ukrainian patterns.

It included stunning dresses, skirts and accessories with Central Asian suzani designs.

This is not the first time Central Asian patterns have been incorporated into couture pieces. Oscar de la Renta started the ikat trend in 2005 and then Dries von Noten and Gucci followed.

Since then, ikat continues as a strong fashion and interior trend.

Although there are many embroidered items for sale in Uzbekistan, Samarkand designer Nargis Bekmuhamedova sets the benchmark for quality, style and design.

Working with a women's cooperative in Nurata, Nargis commissions suzani embroideries for her unique coats, dresses and accessories. She also uses old suzanis and vintage woodblock printed fabrics to make exquisite coats, skirts and jackets.

On an Uzbek Journeys tour you visit Nargis' atelier in Samarkand. And in Tashkent a visit to to one of the finest embroiderers in the country is included:  Medena creates bags, ballet flats and boots as well as dresses and skirts.

Swoon at the images below of Valentino 's meticulous detailing and embroidery.

Related posts:  Samarkand: A Fashion Show & Uzbek Concert
Nargis Bekmuhamedova - Samarkand textile designer 
Symbols in Stitches: Uzbek Suzanis
Suzanis as Upholstery: the Brilliance of Bokja Design
Oscar de la Renta's Love Affair with Uzbek Ikat

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Valentino's to-die-for suzani-inspired boots

suzanis uzbekistan, uzbek tours
Valentino's signature red, high neck and exquisite detailing

suzanis uzbekistan, uzbek tours
Valentino's mix and match suzani patterns

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Valentino's couture pieces left and right with traditional Central Asian suzani centre

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Uzbekistan as Film Location

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Jerzy Zelnik as Ramses XIII in Jerzy Kawalerowicz's film Pharaoh
Uzbekistan's majestic monuments, landscapes and walled cities have attracted movie makers for decades.

In the Soviet era, the government-run Uzbekfilm studio earned a reputation for producing quality patriotic dramas, comedies and even animations, such as There Will Come Soft Rains based on the Ray Bradbury short story. Today, Uzbekistan produces at least 50 films per year.

Directors from other Soviet republics took advantage of the expertise of Uzbekfilm (founded in 1925) and the wondrous landscapes to shoot many films there. The great director, Tashkent-born Ali Khamrayev (now based in Italy), made many films in his home country.

Here are some foreign movies you may have seen that were filmed in Uzbekistan.


Jerzy Kawalerowicz's 1966 film Pharaoh was nominated for an Academy Award in 1967 and was also entered in the 1966 Cannes Film Festival.

This epic film took three years produce. Some scenes were shot in Egypt and in the studio. However, mass scenes were filmed mainly in Uzbekistan's part of the Kyzyl Kum Desert. The crew spent nearly five months there, working in very difficult conditions - at the height of summer, the noon temperature exceeded 50C and the temperature of the sand, 80C. Film stock had to be kept in cold storage. The ubiquitous desert dust also made filming difficult. Every day, 10,000 bottles of mineral water were delivered to the shooting location.

uzbekistan movies, films shot in uzbekistan, uzbekistan tours
Tilda Swinton starring in Sally Potters' Orlando


Directed by Sally Potter, Orlando is based on Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando: A Biography. The film starred Tilda Swinton as Orlando, Billy Zane as Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I.

Potter chose to film much of the Constantinople portion of the book in the remote city of Khiva in western Uzbekistan. She made marvellous use of the forest of carved columns in the city's 18th century Djuma Mosque.

The film premiered at the 1992 Venice International Film Festival.

The Journey to Kafiristan

This 2001 German-language film was directed by Swiss brothers Donatello and Fosco Dubini.

Many scenes were filmed in the ancient Uzbek Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.

The film is based on Annemarie Schwarzenbach's and Ella Maillart's 1939 road trip to the remote Kafiristan valley in Afghanistan. Schwarzenbach was a Swiss writer and Ella Maillart, a noted athlete, photographer and anthropologist. 

The Keeper

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Poster from The Keeper, about Omar Khayyam's life and work
Omar Khayyam's life and work has inspired many movies, most recently the 2005 film The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam, written and directed by US-based Iranian director Kayvan Mashayekh

According to director Masjayek,  Omar Khayyam personified all the great qualities of an intelligent man who was able to balance the concept of reason and faith. Persian history has many such men, but the combination of a scientific mind and soulful poetry made him an attractive candidate for a movie.

The Keeper was filmed almost entirely in Samarkand and Bukhara with an international cast and crew, including Vanessa Redgrave, again in collaboration with Uzbekfilm. The story switches from modern days to the 11th century.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero

This controversial 2004 film is about the Indian nationalist who, during World War II, tried to rid India of British rule with the help of Nazi Germany and Japan. The scenes in which Subhas Chandra Bose crossed Afghanistan to meet with the Italian and German governments were filmed in Uzbekistan.

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Poster from Shyam Benegal's Bose: The Forgotten Hero
The critically acclaimed soundtrack for this movie was composed by two-time Academy Award winner A. R. Rahman. The songs Aazadi and Ekla Chalo were particularly popular. A song Zikr is composed in the style of Sufi prayer chants.

No Smoking

This is a joint 2007 Indian-Russian psychological thriller written and directed by Anurag Kashyap . The film was shot extensively in parts of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Siberia, in extremely cold climates.

The huge-budget film was panned by critics though has garnered a strong cult following among Kashyap fans and movie buffs.


Of course many documentaries have been made about the Silk Road in general and Uzbekistan in particular - a quick YouTube search will yield many results. A recent and noteworthy documentary is a Russian television network's Uzbekistan: Pearl of the Sands.

Related posts: Khiva's Open-Air Cinema
White Silk Road - Snowboarding Afghanistan
Uzbek Rhapsody: The Films of Ali Khamraev
Uzbekistan: Pearl of the Sands - a New Documentary  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kancha - Design for Urban Nomads

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When co-founder Tobias Gerhard first travelled to Kyrgyzstan, he was fascinated with the art of felting developed by Kyrgyz nomads. Back in Berlin he noticed a different type of nomad: urban nomads, with laptops and smart phones, who move from metropolis to metropolis without a fixed workplace or home. This gave birth to the idea to make the traditional crafts of Kyrgyzstan attractive to the world's urban nomads and contribute to the livelihoods of Kyrgyz artisans.

Tobias together with the other co-founders Sebastian Gluschak, Oskar Kim and designer Jonas Görtz put the concept into reality with a successful crowd funding campaign in 2013.

There are many reasons to support this business:

1.  The designs are very cool

Kancha products are felt and leather device covers - for notebooks, tablets and smart phones. Recently wallets were added to the range. (Kancha means "how much?" in Kyrgyz).

kancha design bishkek, kancha desgn for urban nomads, kyrgyzstan tours
Kancha laptop sleeve inspired by the magnificent Kyrgyz landscape
The patterns that decorate the products use Kyrgyz design fused with a contemporary twist, e.g., the burning sun over pointed peaks, lush valleys, and deep mountain lakes.

The company logo is an elegant design based on a Kyrgyz tunduk – the round, central, roof element of a yurt.

2.   The quality is brilliant

All items are handmade. The natural felt is dense to ensure the device is well protected. The embroidery and stitching are beautifully done and the leather is world class - remember that Kyrgyztsan is a land of nomadic traditions where livestock are plentiful and leather work has a long tradition in producing saddles, bridles and other horse tack.

The covers are designed so that the device slips in and then "tucks in" under the leather flap. It cannot fall out.

3.   Kancha is an ethical employer

A cornerstone of Kancha's philosophy is a commitment to ethical work practices. Its craftsmen and women have fair working conditions, are paid on time and actively contribute to product development.

kancha design bishkek, kancha desgn for urban nomads, kyrgyzstan tours
Embroidery master Elniza and leather master Artur
Every Kancha product comes with a handmade label from the artisan who made it and you can read the profiles of the craftspeople on Kancha's website.

Kancha is also committed to making a positive contribution to the economic development of Kyrgyzstan and social entrepreneurship projects.

Uzbek Journeys is committed to introducing clients to the best Central Asian artisans. Kancha is one of them and a visit to Kancha  is included in the Kyrgyz tours.

Visit the Kancha website to watch the video about the device designs and preview the goodies before your trip.

Related posts: 5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan
6 Quirky Things About Kyrgyzstan
100 Experiences of Kyrgyzstan