Brothers George, 29, and Shota Mikaia, 22, grew up in war torn Georgia and understand intrinsically the importance of freedom—something that was often illusive in their lives where struggle and hardship were the norms growing up. For years, Georgia was engulfed in wars, with the brothers’ home region of Abkhazia hit the hardest. Yet, despite the horrors of what they witnessed, the brothers were still inspired by their country’s beautiful landscape and rich traditions—including shoemaking.
“When I was a kid, I enjoyed assembling new things, from the parts of my broken toys and turning them into something that I could call my own creation. I was really happy during this process and enjoyed doing it. That’s when I started to dream about creating a product that would be recognized globally. However, by that time, I had no idea that this product would be a fashion sneaker. The idea of creating a shoe came in 2015. My brother and I always liked sneakers and were observing the market, however none of us had any experience in fashion. I was a graphic designer and a branding specialist, and Shota was an e-commerce specialist. I adapted my graphic design and drawing skills to shoemaking and in 2015 we decided to create a startup, with a potential to become a global brand. I first started to experiment with shoemaking at our friend’s small atelier. That process reminded me of my childhood, when I was trying to assemble stuff. That’s when I knew designing shoes was what I wanted to do. We officially launched CROSTY in November 2016”, George tells me of how the decision to launch the brand came about.
The brothers invested their own capital to launch CROSTY. George continues, “With very limited resources coming straight from mine and Shota’s personal salaries, we started to create prototypes of the collection. We created visual communications for the CROSTY brand, developed an e-commerce platform, and a foundation for the company’s strategy and vision. We knew our limitations and therefore started to look for investments. In early 2016, we met our Managing Partner Levan, who liked the idea and together with his friend they joined our company. At a later stage, we used bank financing.”
Shoemaking has a long history in Georgia. “During Soviet times, there were many shoe factories, however after the collapse of the (Soviet) Union and hard 90’s, everything was destroyed. The industry is rebuilding from scratch. With hard work and persistence we managed to create the high caliber sneaker. Currently Georgia employs many hardworking and talented masters, however there is still a lot of work to be done. Mostly, Georgia lacks “know how” and technology, rather than masters. We want to tell the story of Georgian freedom, and “Made in Georgia” to spread the necessary message”, explains George.
When I dig a little more into his background, George tells me that CROSTYis not his first foray into the fashion space. He tells me, “My family never had any link to fashion. My first attempt in this industry was in 2009, when I decided to create a streetwear brand. I wanted to sell t-shirts with my graphic art printed on them, online. It was a failure. For nine years I have worked for different companies in the marketing department as a graphic designer and branding specialist. Also, back in school I was really good at drawing. I think that this skillset and experience helped us to create a brand that has the desire to tell the story of freedom. Our history is full of struggles for freedom. To be Georgian is to be passionate and to recognize the past while embracing the future—to move forward relentlessly. Georgia is a small country with very brave and creative people, with lot of inspirational places, and we are still struggling for freedom.”
Freedom is a concept that is not only part of CROSTY’s mission and story, but the word is inscribed on almost every pair of the brand’s shoes. “The inscription on the shoe is made using the Georgian alphabet. This alphabet is one of fourteen unique alphabets in the world that is still used. We are very proud of it and that is why we decided to include this unique script in the design. Inscribed on the side is “Freedom”, coming from the words for “myself” and “lord”, and reminding us that we are masters of our own destiny”, explains George.
CROSTY offers unisex designs with clean, modern lines with a dash of streetwear with each pair handmade using premium Italian materials. George tells me, “When I’m designing, first of all I tell the story and the emotions—after that comes the visual side of the product. I find inspiration in everything around me including nature, architecture, retro car lines, or modern art installations. I try to mix inspirations from different objects until a harmonious drop is achieved. All my designs are expressions of the pursuit of freedom and it will always stay that way. I am not creating just nice kicks, I am trying to create a story and make every owner of CROSTY a part of it. Our designs are always very sleek with minimalistic smooth lines—similar to the shapes of Georgian mountains. I feel liberated while free-riding on snowboard on the top of mountains. I see the smooth lines and ride my board like a pencil as if I’m sketching. That is truly the moment when I am inspired.”
When I ask George what it’s like to be on this journey with his brother and if his parents are still alive what they think, George responds, “It’s a great pleasure to be on this journey with my brother. Fortunately, our parents are alive and they support us emotionally. They always took us together everywhere, and taught us to support one another. They are very happy that we have found our way and are striving for our freedom together. We have been raised with the same principles and have always been partners in crime. Shota is an e-commerce specialist and he is in charge of managing our online store. He has built the website himself and still manages it solo. Shota is also in charge of digital communications.”
Launching a business is hard. Aiming to become a global brand is even harder. George continues, “As our close friend Zaza Pachulia once said, ‘Nothing is easy!’. We always knew it was not going to be an easy task. But, we find challenges interesting and motivating for us. I am sure there are many surprises ahead. But, I have learned that I’m on the right path—the path that I enjoy walking. We have a story of freedom to tell. So, we have to get it out there to the entire world.”
By Meggen Taylor