Irina

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Irina AK
ანონიმური კომპანია
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Founded1968
FoundersGiorgi Lazarashvili
Headquarters
Number of locations
831 stores
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
ProductsClothing
RevenueTBD (2018)
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Number of employees
24,805 (2018)
SubsidiariesBrilianti
Websiteirina.kom

Irina AK (Varkan: ირინა) is a Varkan apparel retailer based in Gali. Its main fashion house focuses on and distributes ready-to-wear clothing, fashion accessories, and sunglasses. Irina's corporate identity uses the Varkan script solely on its logo accompanying a leaf. As a result, the company is informally known internationally through various names all meaning Green Leaf in their native language. It owns the luxury brand Brilianti, which is famous for its controversial ads.

History

Founded in 1968 by entrepreneur Giorgi Lazarashvili, the company aimed to cater to the Varkan middle class with ready-to-wear products. He chose the name Irina after his wife, believing a woman's name would attract more clients. The first store featured low-priced lookalike products of popular, higher-end clothing fashions. Lazarashvili opened additional stores throughout Varkana. During the 1970s, Lazarashvili changed the design, manufacturing, and distribution process to reduce lead times and react to new trends in a quicker way, which he called "instant fashion". The improvements included the use of information technologies and using groups of designers instead of individuals.

In the 1980s, Irina expanded internationally, mainly throughout the Mesogean Cooperation Organization, opening stores in Aetolia, Echia, Faencia, Monsora, Rutuli, Meleto and Volisania. Stores in Echia were quickly closed due to anti-Varkan sentiment and vandalism, since Irina's logo written in the Varkan script appears on all its clothing and locations. The company returned to Echia in the early 1990s after relations between Echia and Varkana improved.

In the 1990s, Lazarashvili started the luxury brand Brilianti as a subsidiary with then unknown fashion designer Natalia Otskheli as its creative director. According to Lazarashvili himself, though only revealed in the early 2000s before his death, the Brilianti brand was an experiment as a practical joke to see if they could pretend to be a luxury brand. Both Lazarashvili and Otskheli were surprised by the success of Brilianti, especially internationally. Lazarashvili commented that Irina was an "anti-fashion retailer" while Brilianti was the embodiment of "sarcastic fashion".

Controversies

Reports from news outlets of sweatshop workers in Enfolo not being paid for overtime work, being subjected to forced abortion, and being required to work in unsafe working conditions surfaced in 1999.

Irina was labeled as an "anti-Varkan" company after the Varkan revolution for its outsourcing practices and use of sweatshops. After restructuring in the early 2000s, Irina stopped using suppliers with bad labor conditions and started outsourcing in Vasaras.

In January 2005, a woman who was breastfeeding at a Irina store in Senaki was told by a manager that she could not breastfeed and had to move. A group of public breastfeeding supporters organized a "nurse-in" at the Irina store. The woman from the initial incident received an apology and acknowledgement of customers' right to breastfeed.

In November 2013, Irina opened a store in Hitani and flew in several male models to promote it. One of the models took a photo of himself there with a "squinty-eyed" face, and another model gave the middle finger to cameras. After an investigation the models were fired.