(March 5, 2018 / JNS) “We are not Russia, Paris or Milan. We are a young country and our story, parallel to the establishment of Israel, is the story of the growth of creativity,” says Galit Reismann, founder of TLVStyle, on the fashion industry there.
Mirroring Israel’s startup nation mentality in the face of minimal resources, Reismann maintains that with no fashion houses, textile factories, governmental support and few large brands to intern for, young designers must become entrepreneurs to survive in a small and competitive industry.
She hints that challenge breeds innovation. As such, her creative tourism company conducts fashion tours of Tel Aviv and produces fashion pop-up events.
Elisha Abargel, owner of a store by the same name (Lilienblum Street 20, Tel Aviv), notes that the inaccessibility of fabrics can make it “more interesting” for the country’s fashion designers. “I was in Paris last week and needed ribbons, so I walked across the street and found exactly what I needed,” he tells JNS. “But in Israel, we don’t have the material. You can’t find everything you can wish and dream for, so we need to innovate and invent.”
Abargel upholds that colorful fabrics are in low supply in Israel, encouraging designers to get creative with their work, developing solutions such as 3D and digital printing.
Up-and-coming designer Danit Peleg uses 3D printing to “email a dress and jacket through an incredible new design tool”: a digital printer the size of a large microwave. Inspired by artwork, the city of Tel Aviv, modernization and sustainability, she tells JNS that “you can print any structure. Your imagination is the only limit.”
Likewise, Moran Porat, a jewelry designer based in Rishon Letzion, developed her style after being inspired by pieces that were inaccessible to her. “I couldn’t buy royal jewelry, so I made my own,” she says.
“They were right to say that necessity is the father of all great inventions,” quips Reismann. “That’s the spirit of the people in Israel. Even with a history of hard times, we continue because there is no other way. Innovation is in the DNA of our country.”
‘Doing something for my people’
Because of shared challenges, says Reismann, Israeli designers often reflect a kibbutz mentality and are more willing to work together rather than fear competition. They often mentor young designers, forgoing their desire for ego and power.
“Here, people are happy to share their time without asking for something back,” Peleg says, agreeing with Reismann. “To create something new is enough to open their minds and hearts.”
Much like a melting pot for culture, Reismann defines the industry in Israel as a “slow fashion movement” where, similar to slow cooking, everything is made in small batches, by hand, and with great attention to craft and detail. The recipe? It’s a mix of traditional embroidery taught by Jewish grandmothers, with the manipulation of fabrics from the Arabic, Bedouin and Ethiopian populations, merged with a contemporary style that reflects the free spirit, imagination and independent thinking of those who reside in Tel Aviv.
Nir Goeta, co-owner of the shop Hannah (Lilienblum Street 19, Tel Aviv), is motivated by this mix and focuses his work on traditional tailoring from Europe, fit to Israeli comfort and minimalism. Even his studio, set in a Bauhaus building that undisputedly represents the foundational architecture of Tel Aviv, inspires his work.
Reismann, too, pioneers a business that represents the intersection of the city and its character. “I feel that it brings my spirit higher doing something for my people,” she says, proud that her work supports the local fashion industry and tells Israel’s story.
After having them fill out a style questionnaire, visitors are taken on a customized tour of Tel Aviv, where Reismann winds through hidden alleyways and the studios of some of the 69 burgeoning designers with whom she works. “It’s not just a shopping tour or a styling tour,” she tells JNS. “It’s good to bring a garment back home and discuss it over Friday-night dinner, but even if you don’t, you go home as an ambassador for Israel with an even bigger treasure—the stories of the people.”
As she explains, each designer has a narrative; each has a “personality, message and passion, and is fighting to survive. It gives clients a glimpse of life in Tel Aviv.”
Although much of her clientele—primarily, American Jewish women—has been to Israel prior to her tours, Reismann gets to show them an Israel they’ve never seen. “You have to go off the beaten track to truly understand the rhythm of this country,” she insists.
Her message is one of “the liveliness of the Israeli people, telling unique stories of their dynamic country, creating together and reshaping [their] country through the fashion industry.”
It is an empowering message, especially for Reismann, whose grandmother was able to survive Auschwitz because she could tailor clothes. It is a message not only of exploration of the human fabric of Israel, but of the Jewish people and the evolution of their homeland.