Like many pairs of siblings, my sister and I used to fantasize about going into business together. At different points, we had a prospective dance company, an accounting agency and were international businesswomen. Somewhere along the way, our career paths split, propelling each of us into her own field. Sitting with Raya Mitrani over coffee in south Tel Aviv, my thoughts drifted back to childhood dreams of working side by side with my big sister.
Raya, 35, is half of the creative team behind emerging fashion label Sister M, the other half being her sibling Meital, 37.
The two women founded Sister M five years ago as a platform for their collective design ambitions.
Today, Sister M garments can be found in more than 25 stores throughout the country, as well as online. Their collections boast the kind of effortlessly chic frocks that have become Tel Aviv’s No. 1 fashion staple, as well as an ever-developing line of handmade accessories. Recently, Sister M added a bridal section to the line. The label has been featured in many a magazine and received special recognition during the 2012 Gindi Fashion Week Upcoming Designers’ showing.
On the day I met with Raya, Meital was at home with a cold. The mother of two, she decided to sacrifice a day of work for the greater good.
“It’s strange being here without her,” says Raya. “We really complete each other.”
The Mitrani sisters were exposed to fashion from a young age. Their mother studied design and made sure to impart a love of color and classic cuts to her daughters.
“We always had scraps of fabric around the house,” Raya recalls. “The first garment I ever made was an outfit for one of my Barbies. I must have been four or five years old at the time.”
Raya is an exuberant woman, with cropped curly hair and a disarming attitude.
She is recently married and lives just around the corner from the studio/store.
Though she claims to “only open her eyes after her second cup of coffee,” Raya seemed wide awake while explaining her family’s path to fashion fame. Her brown eyes, accented by 1960s-esque green eyeliner, shone brightly as she considered the carefully laidout fabric swatches on her drawing table.
As young adults, Raya and Meital went separate ways. The former attended Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art while the latter studied at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
“During my studies, Shenkar sent me to work for Canadian fashion house Le Chateau. At the time, Meital was in New York City, studying at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology]. In 2006, we were both back in Israel and decided to make a few items together. We were invited to take part in the first T Market, for which we created a few ready-made shirts and reconstructed dresses. Everything sold on the first day,” Raya recounts.
In the following four years, bolstered by the clear openness of the market to their designs, Raya and Meital hunkered down to hone their design language.
“The truth is that I don’t like talking about the clothes.” says Raya. “I want the things we make to speak for themselves, but I have been told that meeting us does complete the picture.”
Sister M’s summer collection, which first hit the racks just a couple of weeks ago, was inspired by oases.
“Every year, when summer comes, we think about what the summer means to us.
We love heat and the sun. We love the desert with its quiet, the heat, the nothingness and the expanses. We started to talk about what it would mean to be stuck in the desert and eventually came to the idea of the oasis, which is its own little piece of heaven,” explains Raya. “We did a lot of research about how oases look and what’s in them, where they exist around the globe.”
What the sisters landed on was a bold color scheme, centered on blues, reds, yellows and greens. As with their previous collections, there are a lot of patterns and color blocks welded into flowing dresses.
“This collection has an ethnic edge to it because we created it here, and so it is connected to this place and the people who live here. We updated the ethnic looks with modern silhouettes,” she says.
Nearly all the fabrics in this collection are natural. The sisters tirelessly searched for the right cottons, linens and silks to bring their vision to life, importing most of the bolts of fabric from Central Europe.
The majority of the looks come in one size, which is approximately equivalent to a size 40.
“A lot of women of different shapes, ages and sizes can wear our pieces. And if they aren’t perfect, we do alterations so that they will be,” Raya assures. “Our customers range from age 19 to 80.”
The collection will be released over several weeks and then tweaked as the season progresses. Sister M likes to keep things small, sewing no more than 15 of each look. Favorite silhouettes can be found season after season but will be modified every few months to ensure the feeling of exclusivity.
While the operation is up and running smoothly, Sister M promises to keep its customers on their toes.
“We want to constantly renew ourselves for our customers, to see ourselves in a new light and to stretch the boundaries of our language,” says Raya. Sister M is located at 79 Salame Street in Tel Aviv. Sister M pieces can be found at Razili stores around the country. For more information about the label, visit www.sisterm.co.il.