Last updated November 3rd 2015
Most people think about Israel as a gigantic boiling pot of conflicts and violence – yet this tiny country surrounded by religious extremism is actually a multi cultural, trend setter hot spot for everyone and anyone. It’s vibrant metropolis’s, Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride attracts hundreds of thousands, it’s art schools are up there in the top 5 of the world’s finest ones, and it hosts a Fashion Week can easily compete with the most prestigious International fashion fairs. Read my menswear report from the front row for Manner magazine, Germany’s leading gay publication.
Wearing a traditional Arabian jellabiya as a European looking guy is not something what many foreigners would recommend for someone arriving to Israel’s greatest fashion event. Especially not now, when the tensions between Jews and Arabs are sky high, and the violence on the streets of Israel and Palestine are daily topics in the international news.
“People might think you are making a point, taking sides.” – a worrying friend told me, when I told her my plan: that’s exactly what I’m planning to put on for Gindi Tel Aviv Fashion Week. And thank God I did so, as – guess what – no one ever raised an eyebrow. I wasn’t trying to be political – I simply wanted to make it clear: when in Tel Aviv, nobody would harm you for being proud of who you are – gay, Jewish, Muslim, or a daring fashion victim.
More over, I only got compliments at the venue, a soon to be opened TLV Fashion Mall, a gigantic compound for luxury fashion. As for now it’s a rather industrial looking construction sight, which was pimped up with fancy chandeliers, bright red carpets, and posh cocktail bars, giving an exciting, diverse vibe. The event featured the latest collections of leading designers in the Israeli fashion industry, many of which have enjoyed fame beyond the local scene.
The event also gives a chance to dozens of up and coming artists to introduce themselves to the fashionistas arriving from all over the world. Over 30 designers presented their collections – thanks to producer Motty Reif, Israel’s top event and TV producer, who directed fashion and lifestyle television programs starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Bar Rafaeli, and his show “Brave Miss World” was nominated for an Emmy award in August 2014.
The Middle Eastern dandy
“Inspiration is something that follows me everywhere, at all time and any place. Without inspiration all that is left is technique. I am particularly drawn to the smallest details and nuances and it is significant in my designs. I love examining boundaries through fabric combinations, transparency and the use of unconventional materials” – say Maoz Dahan, the designer and creator behind Nouveau Riche Dog. The young artist presented a full winter collection for the very first time, and the collection was inspired by the dandy gentleman look characterized especially between the 50’s-70.
“This particular style, which perpetuates masculinity, with preciseness on tight-fitting suits and combined with 90’s cuts, grants the collection glam and sex appeal and emphasizes tailoring for the coquettish men. The collection was born from the desire of the designer to use materials which he generally does not make use because of the constraint of seasonality in Israel which is hot and humid.” – Dahan confessed.
Religion VS secularism
Another fantastic feature was Eliran Nargassi’s show. The label was established in 2013, bringing a clean-cut & minimalistic design blended in with contrasts and graphic cuts & geometrical forms to the buyers all across the globe. “My inspiration derives from personal biography and my inner world” – says Eliran, who was born to a Jewish orthodox family but is leading a secular lifestyle. “My collection for fall-winter 2016-17 deals with secularism and worship.
Three years ago, as part of my thesis, I designed a collection that was inspired by the tension between Jewish religious and secular lives, tension that was reflected in my life at the time. The current one focuses on my own secularism.” – he states. The collection is made of 20 pieces, limited to black, white and grays, made of wool, cotton, jersey cotton, scuba knit and neoprene, featuring oversized overalls accessorized with leather straps and metal rings, as well as tailored oversized T-shirts, and – the now days oh-so-trendy- dress shirts.
Inspired by fine art
“It’s very hard to be a designer here, because there are so many great talents and the market is so tiny. In the same time these difficulties are pushing us to the next level: all our works have to be truly unique, special, and fun to wear.” – said Nadav Rosenberg, founder and designer of the label Northern Star when he featured a the photo shoot “Open The Doors For Israeli Fashion” a few years ago – and by now he became one of the most talked about young designers from Israel, shipping complete collections to several countries in Europe and the United States.
In the recent years Nadav was focusing on women’s wear, but this year his line up also included items for us, boys. “I was inspired by Kehinde Wiley’s art show which was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in the past year. The Afro-American artist is known for his unique creations displaying large-scale portraits of youngsters re-creating poses from historical paintings. The contrast in Wiley’s larger than life paintings is comprised by New York City’s street esthetics rooted in the colorful atmosphere of Harlem, with classic European paintings.” – he says explaining the dramatic color pallet that includes black, white, iodine blue, fire orange, silver and gold.
Milan in Tel Aviv
The most fascinating fashion show of the week was without any doubt Marcelo Burlon’s. His “kingdom” is not simply a fashion label, more of a way of life: “County of Milan” is a multi-cultural blender of fashion, music, nightlife, extreme beauty, and now a complete clothing line – which has created a global phenomenon. “Drawing in iconographic elements from different cultures, I try to create my very own symbols that celebrates diversity.
Making music or designing clothes I celebrate liberty, and the pure expression of the moment.” – he says. The Patagonia born artist moved to Milan in the late nineties, but he is an “honorary Israeli”, as he is spending quite a lot of time in Tel Aviv. The “wow factor” meter was sky high as the Israeli dance group, LEV took the runway prior the show, dressed up in Marcello’s designs, presenting a modern dance flaunting surreal body movements pulsing to the beats.
Say no to fear, say yes to life
Getting to know all these fantastic designers was very exciting indeed – yet the real impact of the Fashion Week was more about sociology rather than beauty. The recent few weeks in Israel were all about the “third Intifada”, and as the news were flooded with horror stories of stabbings, shootings, and revenge attacks by radicals on both sides, people started to let dread to control their lives. Even the ever-busy “non-stop city”, Tel Aviv became sort of sad, empty and uninspired. But as Fashion Week kicked in, the vibe changed.
Hijab-wearing Muslims, secular Jews and fearless tourists all said good bye to worries -and not only for a week. This was the gateway to recognizing, we must live our lives, and go on believing in Tel Aviv’s most important attribute: coexistence. The much-needed lightening up elevated the general mood, and sneaked sparks into the darkness – giving hope to all: yes, we can live in peace and continue to get inspired by all the fascinating cultures impacting Israel’s society, art scene, and fashion industry.
More updates and news from Tel Aviv on my Facebook and Instagram page. Magyarnyelvű beszámoló a Tel Aviv Divathétről a Marie Claire blogon, az Index Dívány.hu oldalának Tejben-Vajban rovatában, és a decemberben megjelenő InStyle magazinban.