Nicknamed ‘White City’ because of its abundance of white Bauhaus buildings, Tel Aviv hosted its first ever fashion week last year. The country that until relatively recently considered fashion and tailoring bourgeois relics from Europe, is now dubbed the New York of the Middle East and is spinning with young designers, gaining a following for its street style, and is home to a small army of hip-young-things.
While the likes of Chanel, Prada, Burberry and Ralph Lauren have been the ticking clock of the fashion world for decades, there is an insatiable appetite for influences from further afield. Cue Tel Aviv. Last November’s fashion week was well aligned with the city’s spike in all things cool. Here we catch up with a few people whose work is turning Tel Aviv into a stylish force to be reckoned with.
It’s safe to say Alon Livne is one of Israel’s most-watched fashion designers. By the age of 22, he’d already worked for Roberto Cavalli in Florence and trained at Alexander McQueen’s House in London. Back in Israel, in 2009 he won the local equivalent to “Project Runway” and has gone on to collaborate with the Israeli fashion chain Castro and most recently Lee Jeans where he brought together the casual world of denim and the delicate, feminine world of ballet. The result is a dreamy capsule of delicately tailored denim leotards and pieced-together tops.
Looking at Livne’s collections, it’s easy to see he’s trained with McQueen, probably one of the best tailors the fashion world has ever seen. Livne’s work is structured, yet feminine, with interesting lines and fabrics and everything is expertly tailored, draped, and fitted. He’s got skills and he knows how to use them.
I wondered if it was a tough decision to return to his hometown after working with such famous international designers and obviously possessing an incredible talent that could pave his way in any big fashion city.
“I felt an urge to work from my hometown, to build myself as a unique and independent designer. I think it is important for a designer from every field to connect with his roots and local background.”
Tel Aviv does have a unique allure to it and those from Tel Aviv seem helplessly drawn back to it time and time again. Livne’s recent collection is inspired by the iconic buildings of the Catholic church in Europe and in old Jerusalem. Tel Aviv, however, has a world-famous collection of Bauhaus-style buildings which is no less magnificent, even with their obvious signs of age.
“The first buildings of the city – from the beginning of the 20th century – presents a unique and fascinating combination of design style and culture between west and east tradition. I find all this so very inspiring.”
Ha Garçonnière, the men’s fashion blog written by best friends Eyal de Leeuw and Sahar Shalev, teaches men how to be stylish gentleman on all points. Bows, suits and endless class, it’s hard to deny these two have a strong sense of cool. After living abroad and returning to Tel Aviv, both gents noticed the lacklustre menswear on their home streets. Determined to make a little dent in the way men dress, they started a humble blog which has become a worldwide affair despite (or because of?) it being written entirely in Hebrew. Pulling inspiration from the sharp-dressed-men of old, obscure books, current menswear magazines, and ‘unknown streets abroad’ these guys know how to dress and I suspect their blog has been a big inspiration behind the recent surge of Tel Aviv street-style covered by many a blogger around the world. Now there’s a full-fashion-circle for you.
The aim of Ha Garçonnière is “to connect heritage to the contemporary and to show that in order to break the rules you have to know them pretty well… Tel Aviv has always been an intersection of cultures. Since we live here, we know that people are curious, thriving for new things and more information about what’s going on in the world – and we are trying to be the messengers of such point of view.” Very noble, indeed!
What do they love about Tel Aviv?
“We see Tel Aviv as a mixture of so many things – east & west, beauty & ugliness, hutzpa & kindness. It is a very cosmopolitan city by the vast influences that it reflects upon itself. If any of the spirit comes out, its amazing creativity, we can only hope it will set real sustainable stylish trends, not ones that disappear so fast.”
Pas Pour Toi
Dorit Bar Or, the well-known Israeli actress showed her beautiful Pas Pour Toi collection at the Tel Aviv fashion week last year. Garnering much acclaim, the all-black collection embellished with rich gold details was inspired by the famous Israeli rabbi, Ovadia Yosef. A proud Israeli, Bar Or draws her inspiration from all over the middle east including Golda Meir and the Egyptian singer, Umm Khultum, who she believes was the original original diva.
Feminine but strong and always sexy pieces, Bar Or designs for confident women who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go for it. I get the feeling she’s not unfamiliar with these traits. It takes a certain type of woman to play the Israeli Peggy Bundy in the local version of Married with Children to which Bar Or asks, “Don’t you find it hilarious that I play a woman with so little style?” But acting alone doesn’t do it for Bar Or anymore.
“My gift and my curse is that I have to create all the time. Now I find it more interesting to create an outfit rather than reading someone else’s lines.”
What about Tel Aviv keeps the ever-glamorous, fire-engine-red-haired designer/actress from wandering away to Europe or another alluring city?
“Tel Aviv is my city for better or for worse. We are very eclectic people gathering goods from all over the world. We have the best nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Just a few weeks ago we held the gay parade in which they closed half of Tel Aviv. And our film industry – people are now buying scripts written by Israelis that win awards such as: Homeland.”
How can you get your hands on Pas Por Toi? She recommends you visit Tel Aviv and visit them in the concept store in Neve Zedek, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, where they have the atelier, the store, garden, office and library.
Ayala Meromi Keinan started Gusta eight years ago in Tel Aviv, a chic, urban line of womenswear that looks just as well-matched with a sky-high pair of heels as it does with a beat-up pair of motorcycle boots. Gusta works for just about anyone, just about anywhere.
The Gusta studio and one of their two shops is located in the center of the famous Jaffa Flea Market which is fitting for a designer who draws inspiration from the streets of Tel Aviv – the architecture, the people, the musicians. She says the spirit of Tel Aviv is “youthful and intense,” a couple of words that could easily describe Gusta.
“I think that my designs hold together the spirit of a young city mixed with foreign cultures which have merged here over the years.” Her plans are to stay in Tel Aviv but to open up Gusta to the world via an online shop, which we personally don’t think can come soon enough!
Photo Monica Feudi
This year Tel Aviv will be hosting one of fashion’s most celebrated designers as Yohji Yamamoto exhibits more than 80 of his signature silhouettes at the Design Museum Holon. The exhibition marks the 40th anniversary of his company Y’s and the 60th anniversary of the Japan-Israel relationship. The visionary designer explains that, “After exhibiting in London, Florence and Paris, it is a natural flow for me to organise an exhibition in Israel this time – a country very rich in culture. In an era where we only receive prepared information, as a thinker, I want to see Israel with my own eyes and feel it through my skin to get to know it well. Now I will be able to experience it live.”
The exhibition will run from July to October at Design Museum Holon.
by Erin Spens and Anouck Mutsaerts
Top photo via.