Artsetters Alex Chinasi and Lee Rotenberg.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Is Tel Aviv the next art capital of the world? Founders of new art and fashion website ArtSetters.com would convince you that it is. Originally, Alex Schinasi and Lee Rotenberg moved to Tel Aviv to work in unrelated fields. They both planned on staying only a short stint in the city. However it wasn’t long before they fell in love with the 24-hour lifestyle, and especially the creative art scene.
Alex and Lee discovered a plethora of cutting edge designers whose work wasn’t being noticed outside of the city, and decided to create a platform where they could sell and promote their designs. The pair discovered this was not just a problem for designers in Tel Aviv, but for designers everywhere and the website quickly expanded to eighteen different cities worldwide.
The launch of their much anticipated website was set at the trendy Brown Hotel
. It was a scene you might expect from such an event: flamboyant designers huddled together discussing creative ideas and sipping on champagne while an old school projector flashed fashionable photographs of designers onto a rustic concrete wall. The mix of boutique and chic amidst an urban jungle of grunginess represented the vibe of Tel Avivian style perfectly—sometimes elegant, sometimes a little confusing, but always undoubtedly cool. This is a great concept. Was there a moment you knew ArtSetters was an idea that could really take off?
There was an incident, a sort of “fashion emergency” when word had spread about a pair of handmade wooden sunglasses being made by designers in Moscow. They became so popular we were receiving calls from people all over the world who wanted to get their hands on these glasses. But they couldn’t, as they don’t speak Russian. We managed to open up a channel to the wider audience, giving buyers access to this cool content. We are proud of the fact people can now get these glasses from Moscow at a lesser price than another pair of generic glasses you might purchase at your local sunglasses store down the street. So do you see yourself as fashion angels, connecting the world to designers that otherwise would be inaccessible to them?
Alex: (She laughs) I wouldn’t say in those words. But when I moved here, originally to produce a movie, I was so overwhelmed by the creative scene in Tel Aviv I really felt there was a need to promote it.
Lee: Yes, our initial goal was to elevate the artists in Tel Aviv to an international scene. What’s great about what we have started is it’s not just helping up-and-coming designers, it also offers customers a high quality product that is relatively inexpensive, as the talent is still emerging. And have your goals changed throughout your journey?
We discovered this was not just a problem in Tel Aviv but worldwide. From designers in from Casablanca and Istanbul to places like London and Paris, there are creative people everywhere who need an outlet to showcase their work to people who have no way of accessing the content.So how do you find and pick these designers in different cites?
Alex: We have what we call ambassadors, who are people hot on the creative scene in different cities that act on behalf of ArtSetters. These people encounter artists on a daily basis. They just point us to the names they believe are the next big thing. We are very picky with who we choose as an ambassador. It has become a kind of exclusive community.
Lee: It has sort of evolved into a whole concept of ‘becoming an ArtSetter’. These creative people want to be part of this community. Our ambassadors are not just in the creative circles, they are driving the scene. They need to be the epitome of what it is to be cool in these cities.
Your pop up shop is fun. What’s the idea behind it?
We wanted to launch with a visual representation of what is online. Our shop is a mix of work by different designers from Tel Aviv. We used cardboard boxes to give the store a sense that it is fleeting. Trends are constantly changing and we evolve with them.
How come you didn’t choose to showcase pieces from other cites in the shop?
It was important to us to represent Tel Aviv as it is the city that gave birth to ArtSetters. You represent such a diverse mix of cities, from Beirut to Brooklyn; do you notice different trends emerging from these places?
Alex: Absolutely each city has its own trend. There are obvious commonalities too, but it’s amazing to see the diversity that different cities inspire. Brooklyn and Berlin are similar while Beirut is completely different. Designs that come from Beirut are much more high end and luxury while Brooklyn is edgier and more out there. How would you summarize the style in Tel Aviv?
Lee: There is definitely a hipster trend in Tel Aviv but what is amazing is the diversity of the fashion here.
Alex: Yes, you can see luxury mixed with more casual components. The city is very laid back and that is apparent in the style.
Visit their site at www.artsetters.com. The pop up store is open until November 20 at Brown Hotel.