For close to a decade, I have advocated the importance of Israeli fashion to find its well deserved place in the global fashion arena. Working with fashion icons such as Motty Reif (creator of Tel Aviv Fashion Week), Aviad Arik Herman, Eyal Asouline, Matan Shaked, Maya Negri and Inbal Dror. Each one a brilliant example of viewing Israel through a creative lens. Allowing the world to translate Israel as a land of creativity as opposed to a land of political extremities.
The Israel museum of art located in Jerusalem exhibited a curated assortment of designs of the past 100 years, spanning from 19th-century till today called “Fashion Statements: Decoding Israeli Dress.”
Through a display of clothing, fashion sketches, films, and fashion photography, the exhibition illustrated the broad scope of fashion in Israel. Stemming from its deepest historical roots of a mix of Middle Eastern/Asian influences to contemporary collections. Forming a visual dialogue about deep traditions and modernity within the country's past, present and future.
A stroll through the gallery brought viewers close to curved rows of dressed mannequins, a visual timeline of Israeli fashion that displays the roots and influences of the designers who have shaped the way Israeli women (and some men) dress.
This Jerusalem exhibit “mirrors the tapestry of Israeli society,” said head curator Daisy Raccah-Djivre.
Efrat Assaf-Shapira and her team of curators worked for the last two years researching and gathering pieces from individual collections, mostly local designers to properly represent all aspects of design for the country.
“It created the question of whether Israeli fashion even exists”, said Assaf-Shapira.
“Is there such a concept?” she asked.
Given that Israel is only 70 years old, it's growth in areas of art, culture, design and cuisine has been nothing short of a miracle.
Highlights of the exhibit include a couture styled dress by Gideon Oberson, a longstanding designer who began his career with Gottex Swimwear. The iconic desert coat of Fini Leitersdorf for the Maskit label, Israel’s first designer brand, is truly a desert theme statement.
Iconic moments shown in the video include one hard-to-find shot of Jackie Onassis dressed in a full-length Beged or coat. Plus wildly popular ad campaigns teaming American supermodels with Gottex swimwear.
That current era was exhibited in the final hall, where 14 carefully chosen designers represented with their most iconic works in terms of fabrics, shapes and cuts, demonstrating where the industry has arrived today.
Sasson Kedem, the designer behind the Kedem Sasson label are among superstars as Alber Elbaz, who headed the French design house of Lanvin along with Alon Livne, who started out in wedding dress design and moved onto the celebrity stage by dressing Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. I have had the honor of being dressed by both these gentleman.
The philosophy of decoding Fashion is not a new concept. Understanding a garment has its roots in the Torah. I just started learning Zera Shimshon by rabbi Shimshon Chiam Nachmani of the 18th century (Italy). Reading about Joseph's coat and its ramifications or it's great powers. What was the code of the colorful coat?
Yaakov loved Joseph more than his other children because of his wisdom. His knowledge of Torah was enormous and above his father's expectations. Proving that his marriage to Rachel, his mother was not subject to suspicion of intent. It meant that marrying Rachel was not only permissible but the right thing to do. According to the Sefer "this may explain why Yaakov made a special coat. It wasn't that he wanted to honor him or to treat him better than his brothers. Yaakov gave Joseph the striped coat so that the world would notice it and acquire its purpose."
The gemarah points out that Torah scholars should wear special head coverings (Rashi/Shabbos 77a). Yaakov wanted this coat to be a visual sign of his son's Torah knowledge and his parents correct decision to marry.
The point being that the coat was misinterpreted as an act of jealousy and favoritism when it actually was a coat of validity.
Decoding Israel's 70 years of fashion can be a coat of survival and determination to be recognized for it's talent. Much like Joseph's technicolor dream coat, the entire country's existence is misinterpreted with acts of antisemitism and cruelty when it is actually a coat of validity as a Jewish state and homeland.
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Tobi Rubinstein is a retired fashion and marketing executive of 35 years who currently produces runway and lifestyle events for NYFW, specializing in Israel’s leading artists and designers. She is the founder of The House of Faith N Fashion, fusing culture and Torah. Tobi was a fashion collaboration and guest expert for ABC, Geraldo Rivera, Huffington Post, Lifetime, NBC, Bravo, and Arise. She hosted her own radio and reality TV series. Tobi is a mother, wife, dog owner, and shoe lover.