Finding a good roommate can be difficult. Though most people have experience sharing living space with family members or loved ones, somehow choosing another adult to sleep in the next room makes most of us nervous. Some 11 years ago, one young Tel Aviv woman struck gold. Her financial situation forced her to take an apartment with a friend. Little did she know that her couch buddy was about to become Israel’s top women’s-wear designer.
“I had this roommate, she was really beautiful,” said Yosef Perez over coffee and Pellegrino at Café Michal on Rehov Dizengoff, just a hop-skip away from his gorgeous store and studio. “I used to make clothes for her. She worked in an office with a bunch of other girls, and every time she wore something I made, they’d ask her where it was from. Within a week, I had opened a Zara in my apartment.”
During those first days dabbling with fabrics in his home, Perez was unaware of the whirlwind of success that was about to engulf him. A born go-getter, he has a charming nature and an inner confidence that had opened many doors in the past. When the opportunity presented itself to make a go of couture, he jumped at the chance.
In the 11 years since, Perez has marked himself time and again as the
voice to be heard in Israeli design. His clients are loyal,
fashion-forward women from all over Israel and abroad. “The best-dressed
Israelis I know, contrary to popular belief, aren’t from Tel Aviv.
They’re women from the periphery who love fashion, and they are
fabulous,” he beamed.
Perez’s makeshift styling sessions eventually found commercial
expression in a small store on Rehov Dizengoff. “People think that I had
it easy, but my success did not happen overnight. When I opened my
store, there was nothing here. Dizengoff was dead. There was one coffee
shop and tons of places up for rent,” he explained.
His store, called Yosef, was the beginning of an era that would turn
Dizengoff into a fancy strip mall. Glancing at the plethora of
boutiques, restaurants and chain stores, it was hard to imagine such a
In those first years, Perez’s avant-garde evening wear made quite a
splash on the local fashion scene. Though he was relatively
inexperienced, his clothes communicated a sophistication that demanded
attention. “I never really studied design. I took a short course in
tailoring, where I learned the techniques I needed. But after that, I
learned everything as I went along,” he said.
Movement has been a major theme in Perez’s life. While most of his peers
were studying fashion in Belgium, England and Germany, he was pursuing a
dance career in New York City. Having danced for choreographer Nir
Ben-Gal, Perez decided to try his luck in the Big Apple. “I remember,”
he laughed, “that first audition in New York. There were all these
professional dancers there, stretching. I mean, these guys warmed up by
putting their foot behind their head. And there I was, totally
inflexible. It was a three-day audition and they kept making cuts. In
the end they hired four people, and I was one of them.”
Looking at Perez’s most recent collection, an awe-inspiring array of
glorious prints, it is obvious that his time dancing was not for naught.
His clothes are designed to glide, float and caress the body, making
each woman truly look her best. Though he traded in the dance studio for
a veritable dress shop, his connection with the arts is ever-present.
His newest muse, Chen-Wei Lee, is a member of the Batsheva Dance
Anyone who is familiar with Perez’s work will note that the current
collection is a break from the norm. It is the first print collection he
has done in many years. “I started by designing prints, back in the
day,” he said, “but have really been sticking to solids lately.” The
feathers and fish bones that decorate his chic cuts are, in fact, hand
drawn. Propelled by the desire to create something truly unique for his
label, Perez paired up with costume designer Miki Avni to illustrate
one-of-a-kind fabrics. The production of these materials was done
entirely in Tel Aviv.
“This is the first time I’ve made my own fabric,” he said. “Adding that
element of creation made this collection the largest and most
complicated production I have ever done, but I absolutely love it. It
brings this amazing 3D element to the clothes.”
Another of his many talents is for interior design. After his two years
dancing in New York, he found himself back in Israel, selling furniture
for the prestigious Kastiel design house in South Tel Aviv. “At the
interview, there were all these people who had serious training in
And I just told them, ‘I’m the best one here.’ They hired me right away,” he said.
“I love home styling. My plans definitely include getting back to
interior design. It will be a great extension of the work I’m doing with
prints. The plan is to do lampshades, rugs and wallpaper. I’d love to
do a hotel room,” he said.
Also in the cards is a men’s collection, a task Perez has wanted to put
his talents to for many years. “It’s going to be a high end casual line,
produced in small groups,” he said. Perhaps this project will allow
Israeli men, like Yosef Perez himself, to stop buying most of their
clothes abroad and start sporting local labels. Yosef is located at
Rehov Dizengoff 213.