For many years and in many countries, the possession of a vacation house has been a symbol of affluence.
Well-to-do families would escape their urban dwellings on weekends and holidays to more quiet, picturesque surroundings.
This luxury, which was accorded to only the upper crust of society, allowed for a kind of disengagement from the stresses of everyday life. For New York City denizens, these getaways are often on the banks of the Hamptons in Long Island. For Parisians, a chateau in Marseille or Nice provides the muchneeded downtime. And for fashion designer Ilana Efrati, Tuscany is the perfect home away from home.
Though she now spends half of the year farming the land surrounding her renovated home, Efrati’s life didn’t always sound like the adventures of a Hemingway character. For years, she could be found daily at her Tel Aviv boutique. The youthful designer, who has a knack for remembering every garment she has ever sold to any one of her coterie of faithful clients, was chained at the ankle to her workplace. Her gift for turning fabrics into their most flattering form won her respect among Israel’s fashionistas. Her gusto and perseverance made her an undeniable member of the country’s fashion elite.
Unlike many of her peers, Efrati puts out a new collection every other month.
The lines are limited editions and are all produced in Tel Aviv, using natural fabrics imported from Milan. But all that started to take its toll on Efrati, she explained in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“My work is very intensive,” she says.
“I need to take breaks from it in order to keep my creativity flowing.”
Though she speaks of the pressures and stress of her chosen profession, Efrati radiates pure calm and sheer elegance.
In 2005, she decided to make a dramatic change not only in her daily routine but also in her outlook on life. She purchased an old house in Italy and began to slowly reinvent her routine. It took some time to settle into a rhythm, but once she had established her onemonth- here, one-month-there pattern, things fell naturally into place.
“These days I work month to month, person to person,” she explains of her move into a more intimate kind of business model.
Efrati’s store on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv is a more-than-meets-the-eye location.
Though the square footage is perhaps smaller than one would expect of such a sought-after label’s hub, the cozy environment is rife with creative activity.
Covering one wall is a large photo of a forest, which provides the designer with inspiration. This photo is part of a rotating cast of images that she uses to create a sense of worldly ambience within the four walls of her shop. The ground level display is of items from the latest collection, as well as a handful of sale items from previous lines.
Upstairs, she holds meetings with her clients during which she provides them with valuable styling advice.
“I believe strongly in the experience of clothes, not just the trends. And I believe that clothing is a means of communication with the world. I believe that if you buy well, you buy less,” she says. “I don’t want to sell pieces to replace; I want my pieces to add to my clients’ wardrobes.”
Truthfully, taste aside; the fabrics alone could win over any clothing lover. Across from her consultation station, an array of feather-light cashmere jackets hangs jauntily next to heavenly leather coats.
“I like to sit down with my customers and get to know them – their daily clothing needs and what they like and dislike when it comes to colors, fabrics and fit. From there, we can put together the right investments for the maximal closet.”
She recognizes that the price range of her collections limits the number of women who will buy from her. A jacket and pants set will cost around NIS 3,000, well above average for the local market. However, she believes that one quality item is worth 20 poorly made pieces.
“Buying quality pieces is so important, if you ask me. Most people spend the bulk of their clothing budget on outfits for special occasions that they only get to wear a few times. I think there is something inherently backward in that thinking.
I prefer to invest in my day-to-day clothes, to take pride in what I wear every day, not just at weddings,” she says.
In the corner of her upstairs haven is Efrati’s second passion. Set apart from her regular collections is the Travels in the Wardrobe collection. This line is built on the fantasy of voyages to faraway places and is part of a larger project to which she devotes much of her time. In recent months, her interest in trips has met her love of fashion history in an online forum. Her blog, which shares the name of the limited collection, takes small glances at the towns in Italy that she visits or specific textiles that catch her eye.
“My blog is about seeing fashion as a whole world. In it, I tell of journeys, some real and some imagined,” she beams.Ilana Efrati’s boutique is located at 266 Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. For more on Ilana Efrati, visit www.masaot.wordpress.com.