According to Sahar Shalev, a new era of Israeli fashion has just begun. Thanks to the emergence of young Israeli designers who draw on local influences, the Israeli fashion world is redefining itself, embracing its heritage and creating a truly authentic landscape far outside the mainstream.
It’s hard to pinpoint when the golden era of Israeli fashion faded. We could blame the death of the local textile industry, once amongst the biggest in the world, or we can accuse Zara and other fast fashion retailers that entered the local market around the 90s. We could even turn our heads to the 2nd Intifada that started in the early 00s, or the global economic crisis of 2008, as some of the reasons for the meagre existence of local designers in the Israeli fashion scene. But it is certain that a new era has begun. Many young designers are now working independently, some producing locally, and some creating work for an international market. Most of these young designers are creating their own niche, portraying a new Israeli fashion landscape, far from the mainstream fashion scene.
It’s interesting to note that there was a time when Israel was an exotic fashion destination. In the 60s, and especially after the 1967 War, Israel became a fashion exporter with an influential fashion week, important buyers and journalists and two world acclaimed brands – Gottex (the swimwear empire) and Maskit (which was launched in 1954 by Mrs. Ruth Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s wife. It closed in the 90s and was relaunched in 2013 by a young designer named Sharon Tal).
But recently there has been a shift. Young designers (mostly graduating from Shenkar School of Design) found their voice and a new Israeli fashion week started, bringing a ton of press and buyers. Advances in social media have also brought a whole new global market to our Israeli fashion doorstep as designers are able to advertise and sell their labels without the burden of buyers and other middlemen.
Now, something is stirring and changing the Israeli fashion scene further. If before designers were trying to show that they belonged to the international scene – hiding their roots and local influences – today, they are expressing their heritage and creating a truly authentic fashion identity that feels unique, trendy and very Israeli. Besides the big names like Dorin Frankfurt, Dodo Bar-Or and Maskit, independent designers work around the city and represent a new era for the modern Israeli dresser.
For example, take Hed Mayner, whose career began three years ago, after graduating from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. He is currently showing his collections in the Paris Men’s Fashion Week, but his style is rooted deep in the Middle East. His clothes add a contemporary twist on traditional tailoring like jalabiya, jackets and traditional Jewish pieces
like Tallith. He also incorporates military style coats, loose fitting pants and jeans in his collections – a mix of Israeli and Mediterranean style you can’t get anywhere else.
“This generation doesn’t just want to copy acclaimed European designers”, Mayner told me for an interview with Haaretz, “It wants to create original local fashion. Culturally, there’s something here that enables the creation of something new. The visual references to which we’re exposed, the culture and traditions, including religious attire – the tailored clothes of the ultra-orthodox, Muslim garb – even army uniforms, there is so much to work with here, and it hasn’t really been done yet. But for fashion to really develop here, stores will have to take a chance on new designers and people will have to have the guts to buy from local designers.”
Another designer, Eliran Nargassi, graduated from the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art in 2012, and became a local pioneer in creating avant-garde men’s fashion. His clothes draw inspiration from the world of sports, but he is also inspired by his religious background, combining it with a bondage and S&M twist throughout his collections – full of zippers, ropes and tailored uniforms.
We wanted to pay homage to Tel Aviv, declared the trio behind the Israeli brand TRES. “We wanted to make Tel Aviv a vacation city like Nice or Marseille, we don’t need to fly – like others – to places with sun and beach. We have it right there.” TRES created the “IT” shirt of 2017 – a logo T with the print of “Le Club Tel Aviv” that captured one aspect of the city that fashion designers tend to skip – its nonchalant vibe, mix of east and west and casualness that strives not to apologize but to be proud of itself, like every other aspect of their collection.
And finally, KAV is a Nordic, minimalist take on Mediterranean style that offers wardrobe staples that suit the mood of Tel Aviv – vibrant, simple and very local in a subtle way. The designer, Dikla Eilat, graduated from Bezalel Art and Design Academy in Jerusalem, and she delivers yet another aspect of what it means to dress casually in Tel Aviv. Together with other designers she draws the line of local style in a global village, making Israeli fashion meaningful again.
This story is included in the first issue of the Vera Magazine by Telavivian. Download the issue here.
Photo by Merav Ben Loulou