The photo roll on Alon Livne’s iPhone reads like Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Though Livne would never think to do such a thing, he could make a pretty penny selling his behind-the-scenes pictures to tabloid magazines. The 29-yearold rising star designer has worked with just about everyone, and not just once, from supermodels (Naomi Campbell), pop stars (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Iggy Azalea) and leading ladies (his design is currently featured in Hunger Games) to Israel’s most fabulous brides. Having conquered the fashion world in just a few short years, Livne has recently revamped his Tel Aviv store and is considering his next move.
Many may remember Livne from the single Israeli season of Project Runway, which he cleanly and definitively won.
“I was the conceited one,” says Livne.
“When I heard that there was going to be an Israeli season of the show I knew I had to do it. I also knew that they would be looking for characters, not just great designers. So I came as the winner.”
Livne’s path to fashion fame began thanks to a design savvy neighbor, whose read-through Vogues found their way into his eager hands.
“When I was growing up,” says a sweatpant and white T-shirt clad Livne over coffee at Café Dallal in Neveh Tzedek, just a hop-skip away from his new and improved studio/store. “The trend was glam. It was the Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss era. I loved that period. I loved the exaggeration, the overflowing creativity of that time.
Nowadays fashion is much more refined.”
For as long as he can remember, Livne sketched. Years before he ever attempted to approach actual fabric, he had a portfolio the size of a phone book.
“The first thing I sewed was a T-shirt.
I didn’t know anything about making clothes. I actually thought that to make a T-shirt you had to cut two T shapes and sew them together,” he laughs.
Looking at his insanely intricate designs, one can only imagine the learning curve Livne underwent in just under a decade.
On the day he applied to Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, he came with his sketches alone.
“People prepared for weeks for their interviews. They came with whole lines in tow. I didn’t do any of that,” he says.
The admissions officers told him on the spot that he was in. From Tel Aviv, Livne catapulted to an internship with Alexander McQueen in London.
When he auditioned for Project Runway, Livne had only just returned from Paris, where he was working for couture giant Roberto Cavalli. Whether the confidence he exhibited was genuine or an act, his persona and consistent success during the challenges on the show put off several of his opponents and many a viewer.
“I didn’t do Project Runway to become a reality star, I did it to receive exposure as an Israeli designer,” he says.
And exposure is what he got, in spades.
Shortly after the end of the season, Livne opened a store on Dizengoff Street. His gowns, which incorporate the beloved glam of his childhood into chic silhouettes, immediately caught the eyes of local celebrities such as Ninet Tayeb, Shiri Maimon and Dana International. “I was thinking ‘What next? I want more.’” From Tel Aviv Fashion Week, Livne took his Fall/Winter 2013 collection, otherwise known as The Black Collection, straight to New York Fashion Week. The first bite came from Project Runway judge Nina Garcia, then the editor of Elle magazine. The next bite was Beyoncé. A few months later Livne found himself backstage at a dress rehearsal for Beyoncé’s “Mrs. Carter Show,” in which she wore one of his designs.
Other designers who contributed looks for the performance include Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci.
“She came into the room wearing a bathrobe and asked if I wanted her to try on the dress for me. I thought that’s pretty much my life dream, but I just said ‘yes, please.’” Here, Livne grabs his phone to show a few photos he took strictly for alteration purposes. Even though he has designed for Beyoncé and many other celebrities since, he was visibly thrilled by the memory.
Today, Livne splits his time between Tel Aviv and New York City.
“I am constantly torn between living my career and living my life in my city,” he says.
“I have to be there, physically. If I hadn’t met Beyoncé and made the little alterations I made, the dress wouldn’t have been comfortable for her and she wouldn’t have worn it. Being there is such a big part of the work.”
To “live his career,” Livne would have to move to New York, where one-on-one meetings with his celebrity clients is possible. To “live his life,” he would have to forgo his jaunts to the US a bit and focus on his local business. Just as he was mentioning the bridal element of his work, an older woman made her way towards him.
“We were just at your shop,” she said with an air of familiarity. “My daughter is worried that the dress is too revealing.”
Without skipping a beat, Livne pulled out his infamous iPhone and pulled up a photo of a different bride, standing under the huppa in the same gown. He gestured for the bride-to-be, who was lingering a few meters away, to come over and very matter-of-factly told her that she had nothing to worry about.
“It’s not too much, trust me.”
In the short interchange it was clear that Livne treats every single customer, regardless of age or status, with the same unwavering attention.
“These days, I’m less interested in who will wear my designs and more interested in what I’m doing and how I’m doing it,” he says. “I feel I have a lot left to do. I’ve only just scratched the surface.” ■ For more information about Alon Livne, visit www.alonlivne.com.