Holy Fashion: Not-so-secular style

Fashion expert Ella Manor speaks to Iris Friedman, creator of 'La Tante,' a brand that has taken the orthodox community by storm.

 La Tante (photo credit: ELLA MANOR)
La Tante
(photo credit: ELLA MANOR)
Holy Fashion, a weekly column, follows fashion photographer Ella Manor as she explores new trends and icons within the fashion and culture of Israel
Fashion apparel brand La Tante ("aunt," in French) is a young label focusing on high end vintage finds from around the world. Its creator, Iris Friedman, facilitates her lifestyle of traveling the world to bring to Israel her unique collections, focusing on modest, eclectic dresses and accessories. Each month Iris travels to select and curate a new collection based on different inspiration stories each time.
When did you create La Tante?
In the beginning it was more of a process, I didn't start it up as a showroom, it started from items I collected for personal use while traveling abroad. Then I started hosting small private sales in my home for friends and relatives which evolved into building the showroom and creating the brand due to high demand. Actually today we are celebrating three years for La Tante!
Goodness, I didn't know that- congratulations!
Can you believe its been three years? And we’ve been working together from the start.
That’s amazing, I remember I  was still in New York when you created the label and you would tell me over the phone about the dream and excitement of starting it with the future being unknown. I remember you featured some of my personal fashion work on the label’s Facebook page for inspiration. Let’s share with our readers- What was your purpose when creating the brand?
To be a curator of fashion, and to combine three of my favorite things - design, travel and collecting. To create a combination of my lifestyle of traveling the world with my flair for fashion and sales.
So you didn't plan on the major clientele to be religious Jewish women?
I wasn't planning on it no, it spontaneously evolved as a result of the quality and design of the outfits which is relatively modest, with a lot of the dresses being long, some having buttons one can button up and some having long sleeves as well.
Another reason why La Tante works so well for orthodox Jewish women is because they usually have to wear an undershirt and an undergarment skirt beneath their wardrobe to preserve their chest and legs not being exposed and they don’t like doing that because it makes their outfit cumbersome and with La Tante’s dresses they don't have to do that, its a one stop shop in that regard.
So its a unique look for them, and its also very functional.
Its what’s called the doss chic- The look of the  long dress with long sleeves.
Is that an Israeli fashion expression?
Yes, the funny thing is about this look is that its considered really cool and offbeat in other countries to wear those kinds of dresses, but in Israel it immediately gets the religious tag on it. Before you lived in Manhattan you guys were in Williamsburg right?
So when you saw those hipster girls wearing those dresses in Brooklyn you didn't think they looked religious.
Of course not, yes I see you’re point, and that is funny, its part of the cultural connotations one gets from living in Israel. How would you define the orthodox Jewish woman as a fashion consumer?
The typical Jewish religious women goes to a lot of events and she wants to stand out and look unique. Because she has a lot of events, and doesn't have a variety (in terms of the fashion designers) to purchase dresses from, she’s very excited about the fact that La Tante dresses are one of a kind, with a new collection arriving each month and no chance of someone else in the synagogue wearing the same thing!
On a more personal note, I find my clients to be very loyal and honorable, full of values which to me symbolize the good old fashioned Israel from the past.
So in that respect, the clients and the dresses have something in common with the dresses being vintage finds holding past stories and values.
Yes! that’s a beautiful analogy
Thanks dear. Tell me, do your clients shop during the holidays?
No. Actually they shop all throughout the year, as they have many events like shabat hatan and Irusin. I also keep in touch with my clients personally, here, as we speak one client is writing to me saying a miracle has happened to her and she is getting married, if I can recommend vintage wedding gowns for her and that she’ll be seeing me soon to purchase dresses for the other wedding events.
Do you also have non religious shoppers?
Of course, In terms of the non religious clients I would define them as fashionistas who like the dress code of the show 'Mad Men' and vintage style.
Tell me a little bit about the showroom?
The showroom is a quint little place located on in our building in Jaffa which is located right on next to the renewed Jaffa Port overlooking the beach sea. Today after three years with la Tante there are thoughts of expanding to a store but from the feedback I get from clients, they really like the showroom and the private meeting we have there, and they prefer the flexibility I give them with hours, as I adjust the opening of the showroom according to their convenience.
That does sound like a perk. How would you define the style of imagery we create for La Tante?
I aim for each collection to embody a different travel experience, I collect inspirations from my travel and then when I select pieces for a collection I try to keep those within that scope of ideas. Then you so remarkably help me understand the story we are telling visually and create a world in which to insert the collection and give the apparel life and even mortality with the images you create as they are timeless to me. Its also a growing process for our friendship, I feel that it grows with the brand and with it the imagery takes on new layers of time and experiences we share together.
Awww… I feel the same. I know we both like using boutique hotels as locations for fashion productions .
That’s very true
But it seems to me as if it works very well specifically for La Tante- do you agree and if so why do you think that is?
I couldn't agree more, I think that since part of the story behind the brand is a travel and lifestyle story, using boutique hotels completes the story harmoniously, especially since we choose a different hotel to for the story we are telling each time like we did with Hotel Berdichevsky and Brown TLV.
You also spend a lot of time staying in hotels on your travels to collect the dresses
Exactly, which make hotels another home for me which adds another dimension to our shooting the collections in hotels to complete a full circle.
No one knows better than me you are almost always out of the country in some exotic location, leaving me here green with jealousy! (laughing).
Soon my dear we will finally go together as planned.
Waiting for it! Do your dress collections have anything in common?
I think it creates a portrait of who I am because every time I curate a collection, it is a gathering of experiences I went through, landscapes I saw, I think it mirrors my personality and my life in some way. People tell me its also no coincidence that these clients happen to come to me, we probably have some connection.  
What’s next for La Tante?
A few things- one is that I’ve started working on a line of dresses I design and are being manufactured here in Israel.
Yes, also we are working on creating head pieces for religious and nonreligious clients and thirdly a new evening dress collection is coming really soon (i’m flying out today actually).
Of course.
And we’ll be shooting it soon!
Looking forward to it
Can you believe its been three years?
That’s amazing, I remember I  was still in New York when you created the label and you would tell me over the phone about the excitement of starting it and the future being so unknown. I remember you featured some of my fashion work on the label’s Facebook page for inspiration.
La Tante sells to its loyal customers via a private showroom located in Jaffa between the beautiful flea market and the up and coming Jaffa Port. Absolutely worth a visit.
To schedule an appointment and check out the place call 054 430 0873

The writer/photographer is a multimedia artist, fashion photographer and trendsetter.

For more inspiration visit www.ellamanor.com

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Illustration by Efrat de Botton