Frau Blau 311.
(photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
Helena Blaunstein watched a customer leave her store on Rehov Hahashmal in Tel Aviv, having visited a coat she had been eyeing for some time. For unknown reasons, the client left Frau Blau empty handed. “She’s been in here to see that coat a bunch of times,” said the severe looking salesgirl. The two offered several possible reasons for the woman’s self-denial.
“I wish for everyone that in the New Year, we will let ourselves have the things we want,” said Blaunstein, as she watched the woman cross the street.
Blaunstein is half of a team that makes up the avant-garde label Frau Blau. The other half is Philip Blau, her husband and partner. They have been together for nine years and are the parents of a three-year-old girl. Frau Blau was established in 2002 as an off-the-cuff brand, dedicated to the bond between art and fashion. Although Philip was an integral part of the company from the beginning, he became an official partner only one year ago. In that time, the couple has found an easy split in responsibilities. “I do all the dirty work,” chuckled Helena. “I design, I choose materials, and I work on the new collection. Philip is the art director. He works on the catalog, on public relations and marketing. He’s the extrovert, I’m the introvert.”
Looking at Blaunstein, introvert is exactly the word that comes to mind. With her shock of dyed red hair and her geisha-style red lipstick, she exudes arty confidence.
As in their design, Blaunstein and Blau are eccentric, loud and silly in the best way. They will be the first to admit that their clothes are winking at you. Humor is a major element in Frau Blau’s existence. “When we started,” explained Blaunstein, “Philip was looking for a name that you would want to say, something catchy. He took my last name, shortened it, and added on the Frau, which means lady or Mrs. It sounded great. Then, we discovered that Frau Blau is actually a slang expression for a drunken woman in German. It made sense,” she laughed.
Blaunstein has been sewing since she can remember herself as a girl in Russia. “Growing up in the Soviet Union, we were always missing things. We had mandatory cooking and sewing classes. People did a lot of recycling with their clothes. Grandma’s dress became mom’s skirt, which became a pillowcase… I was also the most fashionable in my class.”
In 2007, Blaunstein and Blau won the Ministry of Culture and Sports’ design award for their groundbreaking printing method, trompe l’oeil. This system, which takes its name from the baroque painting technique, shows realistic images that appear three-dimensional on fabric. Blaunstein has employed this optical illusion to make a faux-suit T-shirt and tank tops with necklaces already included in the design.
Each Frau Blau collection tells a story. In 2010, they introduced the Aviatrix collection, inspired by the dashing Amelia Earhart. Drawing on British elegance, Blaunstein created coats and pants fit for the modern woman. For 2011, Blaunstein has turned her attention east, to Japan. Although Blau and Blaunstein have yet to visit the country, they feel deeply connected to the foreign aesthetics of the Japanese. “I’ve been watching a lot of anime films, doing research for this new line. I love the way that the Japanese culture feels so different to our own. It’s something we both connect to strongly,” she said. Spring 2011 will be full of wild color combinations, promised Blaunstein. “We are working on some light cotton dresses, linen pants and a new line of bags and shoes with Ellen Ruben, the accessories designer.”
At present, Frau Blau is part of an exchange project with the well-known
Russian designer Darya Razumikhina. The latter is currently in Israel,
selecting garments she will sell in her chic Moscow boutique. In the
near future, samples of Razumikhina’s neo-Russian collections will be on
sale at Frau Blau stores.
Their ever-expanding range has drawn in many devoted shoppers, both
locals and tourists. “German women love us. I think they see the name
and feel that they can connect to us. Our clients are incredibly loyal.
When I design, I think of them. Some of them have become friends of
ours. And I think a lot about myself… what I like to wear. I am the
ultimate Frau Blau,” said Blaunstein.
For more information about Frau Blau, visit www.fraublau.co.il.