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If they were ever out, they are certainly back in fashion now. And although today's hi-tech leather bags are so far removed from their ungainly predecessors that one would hardly guess the two have anything in common, one thing remains unchanged: They still serve the same function - to carry something. It may be cellphones and palm pilots instead of water and wine, but no matter what the fashion icons claim, the base material is exactly the same (plus or minus a few chemical treatments and tanning processes). And it is precisely this flexibility that attracted artist and designer Limor Galili to leather.
"For many years, I worked with tough materials, like wood, metal and plastic, but they don't have the same versatility as leather, and the versatility is exciting because it creates endless possibilities," says Galili as she carefully takes one of her winter collection handbags from a display in the Reading Center in Tel Aviv.
Chosen from among hundreds of applicants to participate in the Designed in Israel 2007 exhibit, Galili's bags are innovative and stylish - a combination reached through special folding techniques and unique, artistic patterns. "Each bag is hand folded, and they are created from different types of leather," says Galili. "I keep the editions very limited, and I enjoy challenging the limits with my designs."
The interior of each bag is made from strong, rigid leather, then covered with a layer of soft leather to give its exterior design depth and sturdiness.
Galili says that one of the challenges she most enjoys is finding a harmonious balance between geometric shapes and the chosen colors and textures of the leather. "Each bag looks like it could have been printed, but when you look carefully, you see that everything is leather, even the cut-out circles and wave patterns."
A freelance designer and artist since 1993, Galili graduated from the Art Academy of Ramat Hasharon in 1991. Raised in Herzliya, she makes her home in Ramat Hasharon and until about two years ago, designed gifts and promotional items for companies, restaurants and private individuals. "I have created more than 300 unique products for companies, but I have always loved bags and shoes and wanted to start making my own one day."
This winter's collection is largely composed of charcoal, coffee, tan, gray, and pink, but Galili says she also uses a lot of pastels in her work and varies the bags' colors according to the season.
"I run into a lot of technical difficulties when I make new bags, but I never give up on the vision I have in my head, no matter how complicated it is," says Galili, pointing out a complex weaving of multi-colored, short leather straps that form an intricate design at the bottom of one bag. In this case, Galili points out, it was difficult to find ways to properly attach the straps to the exterior of the bag without compromising the shape she wanted. Eventually, both the pattern and the shape met her expectations.
"Leather gives you a tremendous amount of freedom and the beauty of the leather itself is my inspiration," Galili explains, a full head of tight, blonde curls adding to her girlish demeanor. "I like to smell it, feel it, fold it, touch it, and work with it."
In fact, on frequent trips to Italy to choose leather for a new collection, Galili says she spends a lot of time holding different leather, and often envisions the next bag as she shops. "It's like I open my eyes and see a picture of the bag I must create. It's a need I can't argue with."
But beyond the primal urge to make art, Galili says she also listens to her inner voice as a woman and considers current fashion trends. "It's important that a handbag be beautiful, fashionable and practical, and I mean what I write on each of my tags: looking good makes you feel unique."
Of course, looking good comes with a price. Galili's handbags are expensive (between NIS 1,540 and NIS 2,500), but she says that the price is actually lower than it should be because "I sew love into every bag I make, and I want as many women as possible to enjoy them."
Limor Galili's handbags are available in luxury stores around the country.
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