Can Tel Aviv become a center for fashion?

Ofir Lev, organizer and former model, is keen to show that Israeli fashion is worthy of worldwide attention.

TLV fashion week 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
TLV fashion week 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
For Israeli fashionistas, last week’s inaugural Tel Aviv Fashion Week proved what they’ve known for years: Israeli fashion is creative, current and worthy of worldwide attention - and, hopefully, sales.

“I wanted to help my business and help my country,” said organizer Ofir Lev, deputy CEO of the Israel Textile and Fashion Association and a former model. “I wanted to show that there is fashion and creativity in Israel.”Lev drew on his extensive contacts abroad to bring together foreign fashion writers and Italian star designer Roberto Cavalli in Tel Aviv for the three-day fashion fest.While the Israeli fashion scene has been around for decades, starting with Lea Gottlieb and her Gottex swimwear empire, it has been many years since there was any kind of public fashion extravaganza.Lev says he’s already planning another Fashion Week for next April. He’s intent on getting Israeli-American Elie Tahari as well as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Italian designer Miuccia Prada and fashion luxury house Dolce & Gabbana on board. Everyone is just “two phone calls away,” Lev says.
The challenge is to get everyone to Israel, and the country’s reputation as a dangerous place - albeit undeserved - makes it an uphill fight.“We have to battle with a Wild West existence,” said designer Dorit Frankfurt, who heads a well-established Israeli label that exports overseas.For Sasson Kedem, a creator of artsy, architecturally styled pieces for women who also served as a mentor on the one season of “Project Runway Israel,” said Tel Aviv Fashion Week - referred to here as TLV FW, in Fashion TV style - was an opportunity to show the world that “we’re not just about bombs.”“We’re very clever,” Kedem said, referring to his fellow design colleagues. “But we are different because of this place. We have passion, and we have to grab our opportunities because no one can take our inspiration from us.”That’s the idea, says Kedem: Israel is not Paris, but Israeli designers excel at “translating the land.”“You see the Mediterranean in our clothing,” he said. “We do intimate clothing that offers the feel of our country.”