(photo credit: Courtesy)
When I think of leather pants, I think of models and the freaky musicians of KISS. Generally speaking, the stigma attached to wearing leather clothing, outside of jackets, belts and shoes is an offbeat one. A woman in leather is a punk, a rocker or a motorcyclist. Looking at designer Mika Bashan, none of these stereotypes come to mind. Bashan is the owner of a clothing and accessories store in Kikar Hamedina in North Tel Aviv that specializes in leather pieces. Her aesthetic statement, though spoken in leather, is one of refinement and class.
When we met, Bashan was clad in a two-piece, light-gray leather suit with a soft-looking white Y-shirt under her jacket. She is pretty, with sharply chopped bangs and luminous eyes. For nearly two decades, Bashan has designed and sold leather to the Israeli woman, quite a feat in a hot climate, she said.
“I use a lot of light-weight leathers,” she explained as she plucked a camel-colored blazer from the racks. “As soon as I started to design I went straight to leather. When I started this business, there was one factory in Israel that made leather garments. I wanted to show people that I could do things differently.”
Nowadays Bashan is well known for her unique prints, cuts and colors. Though she does not advise it, one can purchase an entire outfit of gold leather including pants, vest and jacket. “I have my staple prints, the ones that I do every season like polka dots, leopard and Scottish tartan. But I’m always looking for new prints. This season I did a paisley, which I love,” she said. “And I invest in the lining of all my pieces, which are original prints on silk. They add some humor to the clothes. It’s important to me that these clothes don’t take themselves too seriously.”
Naturally, all this handcrafting comes with a price, in this case, a reasonably high one. However, Bashan understands her customers and their buying habits. “I don’t expect my clients to buy a new item every day. Buying a good leather jacket is a longterm investment. These things never go out of style,” she said. She is very aware of trends in the fashion industry. “I’ll come right out and say it,” she declared, “trends are very important to me. This past year, aviation-inspired fashion became very popular. I’ve always loved aviation, so it happened to work out for me. But I always stay open to trends.”
Her pieces run from NIS 3,000 and up.
Bashan was thrilled to point out that she carries plus sizes. “I have up to a size 54 here,” she said. She went on to explain that there is no ideal body type for her clothing. One of her greatest joys in designing for plus-size women is opening these customers’ eyes to clothing options they thought were out of their realm. “Anyone can wear these clothes. And a beautiful leather jacket can look amazing on a full-figured woman.”
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Keeping her head above water during the summer months in Israel is
challenging, said Bashan. “Maintaining this store, in this location,
during the hot months isn’t easy. But I have my customers, with whom I
have developed personal relationships. I love meeting people I’m very
social. And seeing a woman leave my store with something she really
loves warms my heart. That’s what keeps me going during the hard
As she finished her sentence, an elderly woman peeked into the store to
wish Bashan a happy holiday. Nineteen years in the upper-crust
neighborhood has won Bashan a clear place in the community. Not 10
minutes later, another woman was steered by in a wheelchair. Bashan
literally jumped out of her chair to give the visitor a kiss. On further
inspection, one could clearly distinguish Bashan’s designs on both the
wheelchair user and her companion. “She’s a gorgeous woman,” said
Bashan. “She just suffered a major stroke and now she’s back. She’s been
my customer for years, as have her daughter and granddaughter.”
Though there is considerable demand for her goods both outside Tel Aviv
and abroad, Bashan has no plans to sell her products anywhere outside
the four walls of her store. Her website, which features many photos of
her muse and No. 1 model, her daughter, serves only as an online look
book. So, at least for the time being, to get a hold of Bashan’s
designs, one must travel to the somewhat forgotten former center of
town, Kikar Hamedina. To see Mika Bashan designs, visit www.mikabashan.com.
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