F?ting with fashion

Designer Yafit Riklin celebrates Israel's 60th on Rehov Sheinkin.

punks 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
punks 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Turning 60 is no small accomplishment, and this year, on top of the spectacular firework shows, the swirling logo, honorary art exhibitions and air stunt festivities, two young designers are celebrating Israel's birthday in a unique way - through fashion. "I decided to take something very old and mix it with something fresh and new that would speak to people here and abroad," says Yafit Riklin, a graphic designer whose leather accessories range from belts and bags to pet collars and watches. To recall the country's history while ensuring a modern edge, Riklin took her inspiration from the popular Breslov slogan Na Nah Nahma Nahman me'Uman, which has successfully been taken to the streets in recent years. The well-known mantra, which means Nahman from Uman, is based on four Hebrew letters of the name Nahman - the founder of the Breslov movement who is buried in Uman, Ukraine. It was first revealed by Rabbi Odesser, who found the phrase in one of his books as a young yeshiva student and used it for personal meditation. Today, the ubiquitous phrase shows up all over the place - from street graffiti to knitted kippot and T-shirts to bumper stickers. It brings Judaism to the street in a way that is unique to Israel. "I like this phenomenon, and I wanted to evoke its deeper spiritual and historical roots in this line of accessories for Israel's birthday," says Riklin, who sells her accessories in museum stores across the US and in fashion boutiques all over the country. Another reason she chose this phrase was the connection between the 60 years that Rabbi Odesser held onto this mysterious phrase before distributing it and the country's age. The slogan is also thought to bring good luck and fortune to those who say it, and its slow buildup of more and more letters is said to instill power in those who pronounce it. By translating these letters into English characters that spell, eventually, "I love Israel," and interspersing them with periods, Riklin also wanted to evoke the language of computers and the digital world that is so prominent in contemporary life. "The 'IL' is not just the beginning of I love, it also symbolizes Israel on the Internet, and the dots are supposed to recall the coded language of computers." Imprinted on leather belts, Star of David pins, T-shirts and dresses, Riklin's English slogan forms the basis of a collaborative project for Israel's 60th birthday with Tel Aviv fashion designer Hadar Fishbain, who owns the Katika store on Rehov Sheinkin. "My designs are different from what you typically see in the Israeli market," says Fishbain, adjusting the handmade fringe at the bottom of her pale blue dress imprinted with Riklin's design. "I don't like all the flashy patterns and flowers you see here." IN THE COZY Gan Hahashmal studio, where new clothing stores intermingle with dilapidated buildings, stylist Eve Luzi wraps a long leather belt around Avi Levy's arm and puts the finishing touches on Danielle Shacham's eye makeup for the fashion shoot. For Shacham, the 16-year-old model from Zichron Ya'acov who was chosen to model the dress, it's a cool item because it's funky and it can be worn alone or over a pair of jeans. Avi Levy, the 18-year-old male model who made aliya from New York a few years ago, likes the concept of "I love Israel" that isn't just a copy of the slogan printed on stuff for tourists. "You see so much copying in Israel, so it's nice to see original work," he says. For Fishbain, designing a piece of clothing is like making a sculpture, and she always works with viscose and Lycra because her basic premise as a fashion designer is the belief that chic and sexy can also be comfortable. "The fringe is what gives this dress its texture, but all of my work is versatile. It's one of my trademarks," says Fishbain. To reiterate her point, she pulls down a pair of red leggings beneath the bright red, fitted topless dress that she has worn for the shoot. "See, these leggings can go down or up, and they change the look of the dress completely." The concepts of versatility and durability that she adheres to are also important in eco-fashion because they allow women to change their look without having to buy new clothes. Fishbain has been designing clothing for women from teenagers to age 50 for the past eight years, and celebrating the country's 60th birthday by putting a pattern on her clothing was fun and an unusual project. "My designs are about simplicity. I don't normally put elaborate flowers and stripes all over the place, but this pattern is appealing because it speaks about popular culture and it makes the statement that although we have a lot of problems and war here, Israel also has its own distinct fashion culture." www.tifaarts.com