Meet the French-born olah promoting Israeli fashion

Sophie Rebibo Rozenbaum was becoming an Israeli fashion ambassador, but then came COVID. Next, she started offering fashion tours in Jerusalem.

 Sophie Rebibo Rozenbaum, 51 From Paris to Jerusalem, 1991; to Mevo Beitar, 2013 (photo credit: Amit Stern)
Sophie Rebibo Rozenbaum, 51 From Paris to Jerusalem, 1991; to Mevo Beitar, 2013
(photo credit: Amit Stern)

Sophie Rebibo was born and raised in Paris to a French mother and a Moroccan father. Her French upbringing was to be pivotal in her decision to become an image coach and styling consultant.

Sophie received a traditional Jewish education and visited Israel a couple of times as a child. The summer after her first year of university, she came on an organized student program to discover more about the country. 

Richard Rozenbaum, a young Parisian immigrant fresh out of the army and about to start university himself, was hired by the Jewish Agency to lead this group. 

The two fell in love, and Sophie traveled as often as possible to Israel to see him during her next three years of studies. When she graduated with a degree in economics in 1991, she made aliyah and married Richard in 1993. 

“We have three wonderful children born here, all 100 percent Israeli,” she says.

She perfected her Hebrew with a year in mechina (preparatory program) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and then embarked on an 18-year career at a hi-tech company. 

“I started in the sales department and at the end I managed it,” she says. The company was bought and sold, and finally she decided to leave when “the atmosphere was not the same.”

What next?

Bringing French design to Israel, promoting Israeli fashion to the French community

“For French people, fashion is in your DNA,” Sophie says. To finance her university studies she always worked at jobs in the industry, whether in shops or anything connected to fashion in Paris. 

“It always spoke to me,” she says. “So in a very simple way, I found myself going in that direction when I left hi-tech, first as a personal stylist with private clients.” 

When she and her family moved from Jerusalem to Moshav Mevo Beitar in 2013, she opened a little store, “like a French Parisian loft but only with Israeli designers.”

“I love to promote Israeli fashion wherever I can, especially near the French community,” she says.

SOPHIE WAS becoming a sort of fashion ambassador – but then came corona, and she could no longer do personal shopping or consultations

“Zoom is okay, but I like the interaction with people. So I started to think what to do.”

Small independent clothing shops that didn’t have online sales started to send her items to model and post on her own social media channels as a way of spurring purchases at a time when they couldn’t be open for business.

“It was a win-win,” Sophie says. She helped these small business owners stay afloat and, at the same time, remained a relevant face in the field of fashion. 

With the skies closed, her next idea was to offer fashion tours in Jerusalem as a form of local escapism for Israeli residents. Her goal was to present a light, fun way to experience the city.

“A connection between fashion and Jerusalem is the last thing you’d think of, and I wanted people to discover it in this way. I worked already with quite a lot of shops in Jerusalem, and they really liked this idea,” she says.

“A connection between fashion and Jerusalem is the last thing you’d think of, and I wanted people to discover it in this way. I worked already with quite a lot of shops in Jerusalem, and they really liked this idea.”

Sophie Rebibo Rozenbaum

“My first fashion tour was last Sukkot. I posted about it one Saturday night, and the same night I closed my first group with 10 people. I was shocked that people answered so quickly.”

Her tours, given in a choice of French, Hebrew or English, gained momentum and women started coming from all over Israel. Once the skies opened again, she began attracting tourists as well, mostly middle-aged and older women.

As the tours gained popularity, the Jerusalem Municipality’s tourism office contacted her and asked her to be one of its suppliers. Not long afterward, Sophie heard from Galit Gottfried, who is in charge of digital marketing and communications at the Museum for Islamic Art. 

“She said that they are having an exhibition about paisley prints and asked me to do work together,” Sophie says. “The exhibition is just wonderful and gave me something cultural that I can have in my tours.”

In July, she began adding the museum to her Thursday itinerary, billing “The Ultimate Jerusalem Experience of Culture and Fashion” as a different way to start your weekend in Jerusalem.

After viewing the exhibition, she takes her groups to the center of town for refreshments and a short styling lesson. Then she leads them on a walk to a few shops that feature a range of styles and prices. 

She points out that Jerusalem fashion retailers understand that their inventory needs to appeal to a widely diverse clientele of religious and secular Jews and Arabs.

“One woman will choose a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, and another will choose a dress for Shabbat, in the same shop. The owners can’t cater to just one population and that’s very nice,” Sophie says.

“I help my clients choose and build outfits with a European look, and I give it a French touch. In the European style, you can dress modestly without any connection to religion,” she points out.

“I’m not religious but that’s the way I dress. That’s why I think what I am doing is quite unique. My clients can also be religious women who appreciate this style.”

Sophie doesn’t deal with trends. “The French style is timeless,” she explains. “My personal styling and image coaching help women find the right way to dress to feel better about themselves. It’s a way to give confidence to women to express their personality without saying a word.”

She says she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to combine her French and Israeli sensibilities in a career she’s passionate about.

Her husband has accomplished something similar. 

“He designs vertical gardens. This idea started in France, and he adapted it to the Israeli climate,” she says.

“We both do something that has aesthetic aspects, he with landscaping and me with fashion. Both of these things make people feel better and make the world look better.”■

Sophie Rebibo Rozenbaum, 51 From Paris to Jerusalem, 1991; to Mevo Beitar, 2013