LA STAMPA

Orthodox Black Is The New Black: Welcome To The Fashion World Of Israel

With the help of Italy, Israel enjoyed its first bona fide fashion week in decades, which was a showcase for a unique approach to style inspired by everything from religious vestments to kibbutz clothing to gothic duds.

Black and white inspiration for designers on the streets of Jerusalem (Matthew Wilkinson)
Black and white inspiration for designers on the streets of Jerusalem (Matthew Wilkinson)
Antonella Amapane

TEL AVIV - In Israel, the gold embroidered coat of the ultra orthodox rabbi Ovadia Yosef can be seen as hyper-trendy, and former Prime Minister Golda Meir can be considered a fashion icon.

Last week Israel hosted its first fashion week since the 1980s, a three-day event in Tel Aviv, in cooperation with Italy. The event actually ruffled a few feathers in France, after Italy's Embassy helped reach an agreement between Israel and the Italian National Chamber of Fashion, which offers the opportunity to Israeli designers to showcase their collection at an upcoming Milan fashion week.

The new fashion week was inaugurated by Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, who claimed a strong connection with the country. "I have visited Israel regularly since 1974. I came here for the first time with a then girlfriend of mine. This country brought me good luck." Cavalli cited Tamara Jones and Victor Belaish, whom he met in Israel, as "some of the best people I have ever worked with."

The Italian designer sat front row through much of the week, cheering like a star-struck fan – and keeping his eye out for breakthrough talent.

The businessman Lev Otfir organized the event, which featured 18 fashion shows in the old Turkish station Tahanà. More than 1,000 buyers, students, critics, and local celebrities attended the fashion week. It was a success for Israeli fashion sector which has a rather modest annual turnover of $150 million, and is trying to expand to new markets.

There are several new brands to keep an eye on. The brilliant and red-headed Dorin Bar Or, an actress and designer, made her debut with the collection Pas Pour Toi. Her sources of inspiration are unusual. "Ultra orthodox rabbi Ovadia Yosef's clothes are total black with silk and gold threads embroidered by the women who work for him," she says. "This is the top of elegance for me."

Iconic women of the past

Her pants, clocks and dresses are inspired by the Berber clothes of the Egyptian opera singer Um Kultum. "I added a masculine and serious spark inspired by my muse, Golda Meir," says the designer. She is already selling her clothes in Florence and is planning to open a store in Milan.

You could also see in the front row 90-year-old Ruth Dayan, first wife of the Israeli general and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, a lifelong fashion maven. In the 1960s, she founded the Mazkit fashion house which sold top clothes, accessories and jewellery from across the Middle East.

Tovale, who has a Star of David tattooed on her face, is a designer like no one else. A poster of former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is hung in her boutique where no price tag is under 1,000 euros. For many years Tovale lived in the kibbutz Mishmarot, in northern Israel. It still has a big place in her heart. "I don't believe in sexy. Uniforms are more practical and feminine, as long as they are made of wonderful fabric. In the kibbutz, amazing love stories happened all the time, without coquetry," the designer says.

Yaniv Persy - who worked with designers Cavalli, John Galliano, and Alber Albaz -- designs tailcoats and gowns, and has an odd obsession for fishtails. Young people like his mixed dark style. He dreams about opening a store in Italy.

Black is the main color in Yossef's collection too. Right now, he is the most glamorous designer around. He has worked with Italian car company Fiat, and has designed packaging for cigarettes, chewing gum, and Pepsi cans. He dresses singers and actresses of studs and black leather, in a very American gothic style, but he also loves Cavalli-style prints. His fans are super thin. Curvy women prefer Sasson Kedem, who is specialized in plus size women, and whose first muse is his wife. He designs ironic clothes cut in a Japanese style, and uses affordable fabric that needs no ironing, and which women in their sixties love.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - Matthew Wilkinson

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