Growing up in Philadelphia, the following conversation was considered a sure ticket to coolness: “I love that shirt. Where did you get it?” asks the interested party.

“Oh, this? I bought it last time I was in Israel,” says the very chic world traveler.

In fact, any article of clothing purchased abroad was considered a status symbol in the 1990s American suburb. These days, with online sites selling just about everything that can be sold from anywhere to anywhere, the novelty of shopping on the road less traveled has worn off slightly. However, there is still a certain something about wearing a dress that no one has ever seen before. And in the fashion world, originality is of allimportant.

“I was in New York a while back,” explains Yael Kochman, co-founder of the Israeli fashion website IL Couture. “I took only IL Couture clothes with me, so I had a lot of our designers’ pieces. One night I was at an event with models and local designers and I got stopped almost every step to ask where my look was from.”

Kochman divulged that her show-stopping look was a combination of items by three of the hand-picked brands available on IL Couture: a dress by Sister M, tights by Gal Stern and shoes by Lucca.

Kochman and partner Netta Stavinsky founded IL Couture in 2011. Their vision was to provide a platform from which independent Israeli designers could branch out into the international retail market. Stavinsky hailed from the world of big business, while Kochman cut her professional teeth as a call-center specialist. Both devout style lovers, Kochman and Stavinsky set out to find and promote the unique voices they were noticing up all over Israel. Over the course of several months, they met with local designers in studios and stores to get a sense of how each craftsperson worked.

“Because of the way our business functions, it’s really important to us that the designers are nice to work with,” says Kochman. “With online retail, everything has to be super-precise. The photos have to be high quality; the size descriptions have to be on point. Basically, we have to make up for not having that hands-on shopping experience with a lot of detail.”

What sets IL Couture apart from other online retailers is the personal touch. Beyond creating the interface for interested shoppers, IL Couture offers styling services, as well as a 24-hour phone line for customers’ questions. “We want to be very open with our customers,” says Kochman. “That means allowing them to communicate fully with us.”

“We have a personal relationship with every designer on the site. We have to be able to call them at any hour and say, ‘We have an order that we need right away’ and know that they’ll do their best to make it happen,” adds Stavinsky. “We didn’t turn to the big names because, frankly, they don’t need this platform. It was vital for us to find the up-and-coming names in the business, so we went to fashion week and to the final shows of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Now we have 20 designers that we work with, but we hope to expand in the near future.”

At present, IL Couture offers women’s clothing, shoes and accessories. All these products, in the eyes of IL’s founders, offer a unique perspective on Israeli culture.

“I believe that fashion can be a great way for people to get to know Israeli society,” says Stavinsky. “All our designers take their inspiration from daily life, from the street and from urban materials.

Their output is their translation of what is going on in Israel today.”

The website puts a strong emphasis on casualwear, a focus chosen to reflect the Israeli styling sensibility.

Although the site is very new, Kochman and Stavinsky have already thought out the next steps in the evolution of their business. With client bases in Europe, America, Canada and Australia, the founders have begun to get a sense of where the demand lies.

“We’re planning to open IL Couture for men, kids and maternity, along with our custom- made women’s wear line,” says Kochman. “We started the site when I was on maternity leave, so I have a soft spot for maternity clothing.”

In addition, Kochman and Stavinsky have already begun planning an exclusive IL Couture brand. Though they are reluctant to share specific names of the designers who will breathe life into this vision, the two assure that the IL brand would offer something for everyone, in particular those in need of basics.

“We would like our brand to fill in the general collection on the site,” says Stavinsky.

Overall, Kochman and Stavinsky like to sit back and enjoy the service they have created.

“People buy things from the gut,” says Stavinsky. “They need to feel moved by an item in order to want it.” 

To find out more about IL Couture, visit www.ilcouture.com.

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