It’s a sunny morning in Jaffa, and fashion designer Maya Negri stands radiant in the center of the sun-washed living room of the Kastiel residence on Hatzedef Street.
Behind her, the Mediterranean sparkles serenely. Negri, who is about to present her 24th clothing collection to a group of journalists and bloggers, wears a loose white pin-striped jumpsuit and a wide smile. She has a few surprises in store and is clearly excited to get the show under way.
The Spring/Summer 2016 line is comprised of several inner capsules that include basics, denims and evening wear, as well as a new initiative called ONE. As Negri greets her guests, two male models saunter past her towards the back room, letting us in on the big secret – Negri’s foray into genderneutral.
ONE, she explains, is a unisex line and a major development for her.
Negri is one of the most well-established Israeli women’s wear designers. For the past 12 years or so, she has carved out a particular aesthetic that is lush, tailored and specific to the local climate and customer.
Standing about a head taller than the women surrounding her, Negri explains her initial motivation to design.
“I design because of my proportions,” she explains. “That’s what got me started.
Tall women can’t find clothes. When I find something that is long on me, I’m thrilled.”
Beyond the look and dimensions, Negri’s label is infused with a message, one that arrives via her yoga practice.
“I started to design once I was already deep into yoga,” she says. “I decided to give a message of yoga practice in this collection; the models were shot in mid-practice. I believe that every piece I put out has its own seasoning, and those spices include a sense of self-confidence. Yoga gives me inner strength, and I want that to be part of every item I sell.”
In recent seasons, Negri has made a significant push into the international market, distributing her designs to nearly 70 retailers throughout the United States.
Her website, which includes a blog that she writes, has brought an additional flock of loyal customers into Negri’s fold.
Following her opening comments, she signals for the show to begin. The presentation is held as a mini-fashion show, with a small group of male and female models making rounds in the living room. Negri opens with the ONE line, which will be sold exclusively online. Among the women stands model and contemporary male dancer Yankalle Filtser, whom Negri refers to as a major inspiration in this endeavor.
“My dream is that men will wear the same clothes as women comfortably and with ease,” says Negri. “I drew on dance and sports in the ONE line. It’s stretchy, comfortable and movable.”
The line is comprised of six essential items in an array of colors (mainly white and black) and fabrics.
“When I buy clothes, I want to buy a few pieces but the right ones, and I want them to be with me for a long time,” she adds as the models file out.
The next selection is from Negri’s basics line. This, too, is rather new for the label.
The models group together in the doorway of the room, barefooted and clothed in soft cotton shirts and leggings.
“In my bedroom, I have a drawer of basics that I never throw away. They are pieces I picked up all over the place. I love them because they can be paired with some of the fancier pieces from my collections, like a leather skirt or slacks. The idea here is to give my customers as many solutions as possible in daily life,” she says.
Finally, Negri reveals the heart of the collection, which is a mix of evening wear and casuals. There is a smattering of monochromatics and a few pops of bright color, such as a poppy two-piece pantsuit and a bit of blue denim.
“I have tried using more color on and off over the years; but in the end, where I’m comfortable is here in the quiet places. I think there is a lot of power in quiet,” she says, pointing out a metallic gray sunpleated dress. “I made this collection using everyday fabrics.”
The denim element, which found its way into all three collections, has been handled with a great deal of grace. Negri has crafted several 1970s-inspired pieces, including a jumpsuit and oversized hoodie, using lightweight fabric.
“I think jeans are at their peak this year. I wanted to work with denim but wanted it to still have the refinement of my line,” she says.
Maya Negri’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection is available online and in stores. Prices run from NIS 250 for ONE pieces to NIS 1,200 for dresses. For more information, visit www.mayanegri.com.