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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

While fashion in the US aims to be different each year, design in Israel is more about style, rather than trends, whether you’re looking for every day basics or couture. Clothing is made to have staying power in your closet. This year, there is an increased emphasis on innovation in fabric, with environmental concerns finding their way into design.

Kosher Casual is an Israeli made brand available online and in stores; locally, Carly’s Craze carries several selections. Gary Swickley, CEO, said one of the biggest trends now is sustainability in fabrics, and Kosher Casual is already there. “Our goods are almost all made from natural fabrics and are designed to go from trend-to-trend and year-to-year, while still working effortlessly,” he wrote in an email interview. “Kosher Casual is on point, as comfortable fabrics and fits have always been our priority.” As for color, Swickley said bright colors, especially blues, are being promoted for 2020. Although they may dabble in the new colors, he says Kosher Casual customers generally prefer the basic neutral colors that are always available.

Galit Reismann is the Israeli proprietor of TLVstyle, a company specializing in group and private tours of the Israeli fashion, art and textile industries. As a woman who has her finger on the pulse of what’s new, I asked for a few names of designers to watch in 2020. One common denominator, she explained, is their experimentation with form and fabric.

Michal Mangisto is a 2015 graduate of the Bezalel School of Design. She is training Ethiopian women like herself to enhance their skills in sewing and weaving. Reismann said she is “planning to integrate the final products into her collection and present them to the world.”

The throwaway knits of Israelis are finding new life in the creations of Dana Cohen. A 2015 graduate of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Reismann describes her as an award-winning designer developing environment friendly textiles from discarded clothing. According to her website, Cohen has developed a procedure in which discarded knits are shredded into fibers and made into new recycled textiles and integrated with new knits for a soft, touchable fabric.

Reismann also likes Adi Benjo, a designer creating fashion for “the modern woman seeking comfort within elegance.” Benjo is inspired by the functionality of packaging design, utilizing concepts like the tabs that hold cardboard boxes together in closing her jackets. “In this way, the human body becomes dynamic when it is ‘packed’ in our carefully curated pieces,” she says on her website.

Fern Penn, a New Yorker who owned the Rosebud store specializing in Israeli designers, first in Soho and then on Madison Avenue, now takes women on fashion tours of Israel and keeps current with the industry. Asked about design and designers in Israel as we begin 2020, she described Israeli fashion as “comfortable with an edge.” She also made the point that Israeli fashion is more about adaptation than dramatic change. “I know people who shopped at my store 15 years ago and the styles are still as current as they were then. It’s not like here, where Prada can make a print and you know it’s from 2018.”

Israelis come from all backgrounds—Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Morocco, Greece—and they also travel frequently, Penn said. All these cultural influences show up in the things Israel produces, from food to fashion. Dress is also more casual in Israel and the same outfits can be dressed up or down. “You can wear a gorgeous silk, crinkled dress with sneakers for daytime and then with fancy, strappy sandals you can be dressed for a wedding.”

Tel Aviv is the center of the fashion industry but designers are not unaware that observant consumers need to be more covered up. “Collections run the gamut,” said Penn. “There’s always something to choose from everyone’s collection. And it can be adapted by wearing something over or under it.”

Penn’s favorite designers also included Adi Benjo, whom she met and ‘discovered’ at the 2014 Tel Aviv Fashion Week. “A girl came running by wearing the most amazing coat I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I asked where she got it and she said ‘I made it.’” At the time she was a student at Shenkar. Benjo made a collection for Rosebud that quickly sold out.

Kedem Sasson was an architect and sculptor before becoming a fashion designer 20 years ago. His wife wore a larger size and couldn’t find clothes she liked. So he designed a collection she could wear. Penn said his influences are the Far East and Middle East. He makes comfortable, funky clothing, appealing to women from age 30 to 90.

Anny Jacobson uses ribbons and interesting fabrics on simple shapes. She “mixes and matches” all those textiles for a cool, funky look. Penn said her store is located in the Jaffa flea market, an area that is increasingly becoming home to fun stores, restaurants and gentrified designers.

Maskit is another fashion house now based in Jaffa. One of the first fashion houses in Israel, it was founded by Ruth Dayan, wife of Moshe Dayan, in 1954 to create jobs for immigrants skilled in embroidery and decorative arts. Maskit closed in 1994 but then re-established itself in 2013. Penn noted that Sarah Jessica Parker wore a Maskit dress for her Broadway opening. “Their clothing is exquisite, very high end, with beautiful fabrics, beading and tailoring,” she said.

Ronen Chen is a long-time designer whose collection is more mass produced, very stylish with a twist, aimed at working women in the 40 plus age range, said Penn. His clothes are almost architectural, more structured.

Finally, she loves the colorful, flowy clothes at Alembika, founded by designer Hagar Alembik in 2005.


Although these designers sometimes have parts of their collection in U.S. stores, mostly they are only available in Israel. Include a stop to their shops if you’re planning a trip to Israel. Or look into a fashion tour of Israel with Galit Reismann (website: www.tlvstyle.com email: [email protected]) or Fern Penn ( www.rosebudfashiontour.com   email: [email protected]).