McQueen to Maskit: The mind behind the brand

Ella Manor speaks to Sharon Tal, former head designer for embroideries at Alexander Mcqueen and reviver of legendary Israeli brand Maskit.

Maskit  (photo credit: ELLA MANOR)
(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

“I wanted to create something that would be mine but also bigger than life: a fashion house representing Israeli heritage,” says Sharon, mother of two little girls, and returning resident from the USA. “I have experience from McQueen that not a lot of people in Israel have. I am able to teach the embroidery methods Maskit used to use in addition to other antique methods I learned to our seamstresses here in Israel.”
Maskit was founded in 1953, and was a government-run company selling luxury women’s wear incorporating Israel’s melting pot of ethnic styles. Founded by Ruth Dayan (the first wife of legendary Gen. Moshe Dayan) who started it first as a social welfare project through the Ministry of Labor to employ new immigrants, many of them experts in traditional handicrafts. The following year, she and couturier Fini Laintersdorf founded Maskit. From the 60s to the 80s, Maskit employed 2,000 people and ran 10 stores in Israel and one in New York. Some of the stores who stocked Maskit garments were Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth. The brand was highly successful due to its quality of garments and its added value as a true ethnically diverse israeli brand. When the brand was privatized in 1994 a decline began and it finally went bankrupt.Sharon, a graduate of Shenkar, came back to Israel not knowing what her next career move will be but ready for greatness. When she saw the nuptials of Kate Middleton and Prince William in April 2011 it inspired her in this new direction. Nir, her Husband, suggested she gives Ruth Dayan a call and meet with her and in that meeting they both knew that Sharon had represented what Maskit was all about and that she would be the one to revive it. It took a long time for the two women to research and reach out to former employees, find and archive vintage Maskit apparel and put everything together to reopen the brand. Maskit house in its new location sits inside a restored temple villa in a beautiful, serene area of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
A few months ago, I spontaneously accompanied Michal Rom, a talented architect and my mother in law, who got married in a Maskit dress and wanted to donate the dress back to Maskit to preserve and exhibit it in Fashion week. Maskit did just that this past March during Gindi Fashion week were the dress was back to life on the runway. That visit was my first encounter with the renewed fashion house. Sharon was very sweet when she gave us a tour of the place and suggested I try on one of Maskit’s best selling designs; the Egg coat, a poncho sand colored light coat, simple and so smart and elegant. I adored it, and was generally in awe by the garments, the atmosphere, Sharon’s energy and the sense that this brand and its new found owners were really something special. I met Sharon again behind the scenes during fashion week, where she was excited to celebrate Ruth Dayan’s 97th (!) birthday and when we decided to stay in touch for future collaborations. Wishing Maskit continued success in all its endeavors and to Sharon- you go girl!

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

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Illustration by Efrat de Botton