Those who know me also know of my love for Israel. it is no secret: every time I can, I go spend a few days there to relax, to soak up the sun and take some positive energy, drinking arak with my friends at any time of day. What may come as news to many is that Tel Aviv has its very own fashion week. Yes it does, and it is on its fifth edition, thanks to producer and former model Motty Reif. Every year, he invites local brands, some better known than others, to offer them a chance to have a show in their own country. It was pretty easy to decide to accept the invitation, pack my bag randomly and make my way to the White City. I was very curious about this experience, to discover what fashion means in a country where Teva sandals and Blundstone are as close as I ever got to it! 🙂
For the first year, the Gindi TLV Fashion Week shows took place in a new luxury mall, the Gindi TLV Fashion Mall, so new that it is actually still unfinished, and will only open to the public in the next few months. The atmosphere there was very different from any of the other fashion weeks I have ever been to: the models were mostly local celebrities, and the guests were not at all reluctant to vigorously applaud their favorite outfits when they saw them, or to throw flowers at the designers at the end of the show — all of which would make for a pretty unusual sight in the 4 traditional cities of fashion. I even saw several kids and a few dogs in the front row.
I saw lots of collections, some with almost too many looks, others embellished by video projections, live music and impressive performances that brought to mind Victoria’s Secret shows. I chose the four collections that are most telling of what fashion means in Tel Aviv, today.
Holy Land Civilians
The Show opened with Barak Shamir, an 18-year-old, famous in Israel for his handsomeness, walking down the runway with a full-logo bomber jacket. This collection was full of messages inspired by religion: T-shirts with Hebrew text on them, sweatshirts with bible illustrations, kippah-inspired beanies, and a man who looks like Jesus walking down the catwalk with a sweater that declared him a “Holy Man.” Everything in this show pointed at the fact that we do are in the Holy Land, and we quite got that. The most impressive piece of the show was a white cotton dress with the text Hallelujah, worn under a blanket with an illustration of Adam, Eve, the apple, the snake and so on. This young couple of designers definitely created something fun, honest and also very sellable.
This collection is the result of the work of second and third-year students at the Shenkar College, one of the 10 best fashion schools in the world. At Shenkar, on top of theory, students also learn to think, be independent and work very hard. Shenkar is not a brand per se, but it would have all it needs to become one: it’s truly a fighting machine that manages to hypnotize the audience. Most of the looks in this collection play with white and black, but there are also splashes of color in between that create contrast within the clothing and that are often deliberately gender-neutral. Student Hila Cohen got inspiration from the sentence that all ultra-Orthodox men say every day during their morning prayers: “Thank you God for not making me a woman”. She revisited this sentence, subtracting the word “not” from it, entirely subverting the sentence’s meaning. The shirt that is the result of this small revolution is very much in line with the feminist stance expressed by so many other brands this season, underlining an idea that means a lot to us, too: we should all be feminists.
Pure and simple couture straight from Bnei Brak, the centrer of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. This brand follows all the precepts of modest fashion, and makes us dream, taking us into a world of fairy tales. Each model is entirely hand-embroidered, and it’s an explosion of beads, tulle and pastel colors that will convince even the most skeptical among us. Too bad that three of the gawns came apart during the show: with every step, sequins & co. were coming off the embroidery, so for us in first row, we could almost touch the decoration with our very own hands. Uhm perhaps that was part of the show?! 😉
This young designer’s second collection definitely has more character than the previous one, which lacked in cohesiveness. Tartan, striped fabrics, shirts and dresses with a high neckline that show off the back, revisited Nehru collars, a lot of red, maxi-jewel details and rigorously Adidas sliders: Idan Laros‘s women have an urban, contemporary flair, they are sexy, and they are the perfect mix between Middle East and West.
There is no lack of ideas in Tel Aviv, and there are a lot of people ready to put them into practice, too. I find myself feeling happily surprised. I didn’t think I would find anything particularly interesting , and instead, I saw so much that was original and refreshing. But, is there really a fashion scene in Israel, such a new country with a modern mentality, where people would rather spend on technology and travel? There definitely is, it’s just different from what you will find elsewhere in the world, also due to the country being so young, barely 70 years old. Walking around Milan, you will be surrounded by beautiful buildings, elegant boulevards and blooming trees, surrounded by art and its history. If you walk for Tel Aviv instead, you can find more modern buildings, mainly badly kept, with AC units outside them, that in summer are dropping icy water on the pedestrians in the street below. I think to myself that creating beauty here must be twice as challenging. No one should ever underestimate the power of putting oneself on the line, to dream, and to create: Israel’s new generation is trying to do exactly this, and it is demonstrating that yes, it can be done.