Mahatma Gandhi once said, “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and talents.”
Sitting at a long table, which serves as her desk on the first floor of a particularly sunlit office in Tel Aviv’s Rehov Schocken 32, Dorin Frankfurt expressed a similar sentiment. Frankfurt is one of the strongest designers on the Israeli retail market. Unlike all of her peers in the fashion world, she has opted to manufacture all of her garments and accessories in a factory in Tel Aviv, the only one of its kind. For more than two decades she has been at the forefront of a sea of local designers, a wellknown public figure and a proud representative of this country abroad. And it all started with what some would consider to be a failure.
“I never thought I would be a fashion designer,” she laughs. “I went to study graphic design. After the army I went to England, completely pumped to be the next genius of the graphic design world. There I discovered that I was average or below. All those British kids humiliated me. At the school where I was studying there was also a fashion design departstylement. It looked like the fashion people were having a great time. I had already paid for the year so I transferred to fashion. And then I realized that this was where I wanted to stay.”
Frankfurt is an engaging woman, strikingly beautiful and refined. In our hour together, she spoke of her family, her designs, the style of bygone politicians like David Ben-Gurion and the lack of such pizzazz in today’s leaders and the happiness she found in the fashion world.
“In what other profession do you have a constant exchange of ideas? In what other profession to you get to constantly look to the future?” she asked.
In the early ’80s, upon returning from a fruitful period in England, Frankfurt set about conquering the Israeli fashion world. Up to that point, she explained, women were very much reliant on old-fashioned ideas of clothing and style. “Anything that was small and from abroad was considered aristocratic. We were very much obsessed with things that came from Europe and America. I wouldn’t have had a career if it weren’t for my success in England. When we founded the company and we decided to do a limited edition for affordable prices… it was our dream.”
While Israeli women were searching stores for anything that looked European, European women were starting to take notice of Israeli design.
“The British women were attracted to the Middle Eastern touch that my
clothes had, which was very unusual,” she said. “I’m about beautifying.
That’s what interests me. Trends don’t matter. Clothes should stay with
you for a long time,” she says. “An article of clothing should be an
object that becomes part of who you are.”
At the time, a comfortable life in London was at Frankfurt’s fingertips.
She returned to Israel, to a more skeptical market, for the simple
reason that she wanted to succeed in the place where she was born.
In recent years, it has become blatantly clear that manufacturing
clothes in Asia or South America is much more economical than producing
locally. And while Frankfurt’s stubbornness in this area causes her
stress, she is not willing to compromise.
“My parents raised us on a dream of local industry and there is nothing more Israeli than my factory,” she says.
Frankfurt is an avid shopper, a hobby she finds essential in her trade.
“You have to know what’s out there. I love so many designers,” she said.
She quickly threw out a few of her favorite young clothiers, a list
that included Sasson Kedem, Shani Bar and Anna K. “You need to know and
like other people’s work. I love other people’s work. If you don’t know
what’s out there, you may think that you are inventing, but you’re just
an idiot that doesn’t know. To speak a new language, you need to know
what was said before you.”
As to the distinctive language of her own designs, Frankfurt knows
exactly what she is saying. “These clothes are designed for the Israeli
climate. It’s crazy that the coats I made for the Jerusalem winter are
being sold in Norway. That’s great for my ego, but there is a lot of
dissonance in that idea,” she said. “My designs speak Hebrew.”