Child's play

Israeli designers redress the children's clothing issue.

October 19, 2006 07:43
lulu fashion 88 298

lulu fashion 88 298. (photo credit: Courtesy )


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Vicki Israel and Shlomit Golan were exasperated. Both mothers of one-year-old girls, their schedules consisted of play dates and joint shopping trips to the mall. But rather than coming home loaded with bags of cute little clothes for their girls, the frustrated mothers came home empty-handed. No matter how many stores they went to, no matter how many outfits they tried on their daughters, they couldn't find anything they liked. "Everything had butterflies or patches or heavy embroidery," says Israel. "So one day we just decided to make their clothes ourselves." Golan took a sewing class and the mothers set to work designing, cutting and sewing adorable clothes for their girls from their homes in Tel Aviv. Their first designs were classic galabiyot, light and comfortable Sinai-style shanti dresses for girls and shirts for boys. As the girls grew up and began attending kindergarten, other mothers enviously eyed their one-of-a-kind outfits and inquired how they could get their hands on similar styles for their own daughters. To test their talents, Golan and Israel worked overtime for an entire month to produce enough merchandise for a public sale, and on the first day of the sale, held outside their daughters' kindergarten, all the clothes sold out within hours. Three years later and both pregnant again - this time with boys - Israel and Golan named their collection Lulu 4 Kids and started to sell to 14 stores in Israel and 14 stores in the United States. Last September, the ing nues finally opened a store of their own in Tel Aviv, catering to boys and girls from age 0-12. "Our style is very clean, simple and casual chic," says Israel. "But the most important thing is that the clothes are comfortable and fun - no difficult clasps or buttons. We want children to be able to dress and undress themselves." BUT GOLAN and Israel weren't the only dissatisfied parents with a plan. When Eti and Udi Zaig had their first child 12 years ago, there wasn't much available in the children's fashion arena. With absolutely no design education or experience, the husband and wife team set to work determined to create comfortable, casual clothes for kids. "We knew exactly what we wanted and how we wanted everything to look," says Eti, "so even though we have no official training, we succeeded because this is what we love to do." Calling their company Yalduti, the Zaigs now have 16 stores across Israel and are in the process of opening one in London. Their original store on Tel Aviv's Rehov Shenkin is a rainbow of colors and textures with books, toys and other children's essentials in addition to their vibrant line of clothes. "We don't do trends, we don't do black or use styles that are very tight," Eti says of their collection. "We want to keep the innocence and the nostalgia in children's clothing." Udi's job is to choose the textiles and materials and Eti does the design; their clear division of labor is what makes it possible for the couple to live and work together without ripping each other's heads off, they say. All their clothes are made in Israel because "we strongly believe in our principles," says Eti, explaining that they wanted everything to be "blue and white" "because even the smell of clothes is better in Israel." From crocheted ponchos and pretty skirts to T-shirts, sweatshirts and little jeans jackets, Yalduti has everything a little boy or girl needs for school, hanging out or even fancy birthday parties. "We love stripes and we love bright colors, but it all has to look nice; a child isn't supposed to look like a clown," says Eti. "So the colors don't all come in one shirt, but rather in the whole collection." Yalduti currently serves children from age 0-10, but now that the Zaigs' kids are getting older, they're contemplating expanding their line to fit pre-teens till age 16. ALL THE parents admit that their influence comes directly from the experts themselves - their own children. "We asked our daughters what they liked, what they wanted to wear, and through them we built our collection," says Danika Schwartz-Cohen of Shubalu, a studio shop in Rishpon that caters directly to the wild imaginations of little girls. With backgrounds in both fashion and design, Cohen and her partner Keren Bloom opened Shubalu this past May after "studying" their friends' children as well as their own and becoming enamored with the inspirational world of young girls. "We tried to enter their magical, fairy-tale world to design the clothes they dream of wearing," says Cohen. "Rather than popular trends, our inspirations were princesses, mermaids, Cinderella and Snow White." Where Yalduti and Lulu4Kids are casual cool, Cohen and Bloom are more extravagant, saying they wanted to outfit girls with clothes they would love to wear, rather than the unexciting clothes their parents pick out for them that sit in the back of their closet. So ruffles, bows and lots of pink adorn the Shubalu collection, which even has a "Mommy and Me" line of matching clothes for daughters who want to dress just like mom. The line has even taken off in Europe, where Shubalu exports to numerous stores all over Holland. Though their clothes aren't for everyday, the feminine embellishments indulge every little girl's imagination, says Cohen, so each and every one can leave the store "feeling like a princess." BUT FOR parents looking for the ultimate in frilly, fussy and fancy for their kids, look no further than Neveh Tzedek, the home of Burch V'Bnoteha, an old-fashioned tailor shop where everything is handmade on location. When Laura Burch made aliya seven years ago from Chicago with her Israeli husband, she was faced with the same problems that faced Israel, Golan and the Zaigs - a lack of quality, stylish clothing for her three young daughters. And like those resourceful parents, Burch took the matter into her own hands and Burch sewed everything from dresses, skirts and costumes to blankets, dolls and teddy bears, and after successfully selling some of her unique creations to local stores, she decided to open a store of her own. "Everything is classic and beautiful with an old-fashioned feel," Burch says of her collection and her store. "I don't like bright colors or geometric shapes. Everything is much softer and has a lot more character." Growing up, Burch's grandmother was a seamstress and her style today reflects the quiet, timeless styles of her childhood, with simple button down shirts and quaint slacks for boys and lacy and sparkly feminine dresses, skirts and shirts for girls. Her influence comes directly from children and her traditional but elegant original fashion sense. One of the stores' specialties is its constant supply of classic costumes like princesses, knights, pirates and clowns for kids to play and dress up even when it's not Purim. Now that she's expanded her customer base beyond her three daughters, Burch has hired seamstresses who help her make her creations right above her shop. Though she has no plans to expand at the moment, Burch prides herself on the magical feel of her truly authentic store. "When people come in they're really amazed because we have things they've never seen before," says Burch. "In here, they say, it doesn't even feel like you're in Israel." Whatever your style, parents can finally sleep easy knowing that they can outfit their kids and even have a little fun dressing them up and down just like the dolls they play with. Now, if only they could come up with a way to keep the clothes clean...

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