Meredith Price Levitt

This year's graduates of Haifa's Neri Bloomfield School of Design exhibited their first collections in Tel Aviv.

yellow fashion 88 248 (photo credit: Hertzi Shapira, courtesy)
yellow fashion 88 248
(photo credit: Hertzi Shapira, courtesy)

The excitement in Tel Aviv's Hangar 11 waspalpable. The nervous buzz of friends and family members echoed abovethe quiet whispers of journalists, bloggers and photographers. By thetime the much-anticipated fashion show began on the evening of July 14,the crowd could hardly contain themselves.

RanShabani, the new director of the fashion design department at the NeriBloomfield School of Design in Haifa, gave a brief introduction. Heexplained that the graduating class of 2009 chose to exhibit theirfirst collections in Tel Aviv for two reasons: to participate in thecity's centennial celebrations and to show their deep connection andaffinity to the center of the country's fashion world.

The first in the lineup were the top students in lower classes,which included an impressive array of creativity. "I encourage thestudents to push themselves to their absolute limits and take chances,"Shabani later explained in a phone interview. "This is the time whenthey can be innovative and have the guts to experiment. Sometimes thatmeans making mistakes, but it's better to do it as a student than outin the real world."

The young and energetic new director, who took over in December2007, speaks from experience. He spent nine years in New York as afashion designer working with some of the most famous fashion houses inthe world - including Lord and Taylor, Perry Ellis and Geoffrey Beene -before returning two years ago. "Much of the innovation in fashiondesign comes from textiles, so one of my only rules with the studentsis that they are not allowed to use fabric that already has a print,"he says emphatically. "If they want a print, they have to design andprint it themselves."

This philosophical principle was crystal clear onthe runway. The students used everything from antique embroidery tocrocheted carpets in their designs. Another strong leitmotif in many ofthe collections was the ability to connect and combine unusualmaterials in the clothing, such as plastic, copper, plastic and glass.

"It was the first time we ever did the show in Tel Aviv and itwas a huge success," Shabani said. "I'm very proud of all of thestudents, especially the graduates who worked so hard to produceincredible collections with individual signatures."

My top picks for creativity, innovation, and beauty are the following five:

Reut Zorea

Entitled "Circus," this stunning first collection was inspiredby the freak-show posters used to advertise the traveling circuses thatwere incredibly popular during the 1920s. She came up with the conceptduring her research and was attracted to the idea of a clothing linethat would be both flattering and unique. "I really like unusualthings, and this theme allowed me to pull materials from mygrandparents, the flea market and second-hand clothing shops."

Although the embroidery work in some of the pieces was alreadymade, Zorea did the sewing herself. She also hand made the tights andall of the accessories, including the hats and jewelry. One corset inthe show combined an antique piece of embroidered flowers with sturdystriped material ordinarily used for furniture. A brightyellow-and-black overcoat was made from an old carpet and the beltaround one dress was originally for drapes. "It was a long process tocome up with the ideas and then search for the right materials, sew itand come up with the right combinations."

Zorea admires the crazy combinations and theatrical ideas ofLaCroix and hopes to continue making outlandish but elegant eveningwear. "Once I had my ideas together and I found the materials, the restwent smoothly. It was time consuming because I'm a perfectionist, so Iwanted to do everything myself down to the last stitch. In the end, thefinished collection was worth it."

Heli Edri

For as long as she can remember, Heli Edri wanted to be afashion designer. She comes from a long line of seamstresses. Hermother, grandmother and great-grandmother all made clothing for theirchildren. She is the first, however, to make a career out of it.Despite having her first baby during the third year, she returnedalmost immediately to classes so she could graduate on time with herclassmates.

"It was the hardest thing I ever did because I had to leave mybaby with my mom and my aunt all the time, but I got over it and I'mreally happy that I was able to persevere and finish."

Inspired by Moroccan architecture, her colorful collection ofleather and fabric dresses combines colorful basics with intricatepatterns, both printed and cutouts. Layers of vivid leather solids andprints have wild shapes that give the entire collection a futuristic,extraterrestrial look. "I like the combination of simple andsophisticated when it comes to clothing, and I always make things thatlook a bit out of this world," she says. "I've been told before that itlooks like I'm making clothes for aliens."

Some of her inspiration for this collection came from ManishArora, an Indian designer best known for his psychedelic colors andkitsch motifs, who uses a combination of embroidery, appliqué andbeading in his work. "I really like the way he thinks and howopen-minded he is about possibilities for clothing. I got a lot ofreally good responses from architecture students who liked the lines soI was pleased about that."

In the future, Edri would like to try her hand at moreprêt-à-porter and sell her lines to designer stores. "My real dream isto one day create my own line."

Tal Ben-Binyamin

Originally from Kiryat Tivon, Tal Ben-Binyamin grew up in anartistic family. Her grandparents owned the first clothing store in thetown and she has fond memories of her grandmother telling her storiesabout taking the bus to Tel Aviv once a week to look for new designs inthe 1950s. In her collection, entitled "The Light at the End of theTunnel," the inspiration from origami is clear. Largely using black"sky" (a shiny synthetic material) and chiffon, each dress had adifferent dramatic connected by a similar design language.

"The biggest challenge for me with fashion designis finding the balance between making art and designing something thatwill look good on the body. I like unusual textures, and I wanted tocreate dresses that would feel great on."

Attractedto the astonishing effects of paper cutting and folding, Ben-Binyaminwanted to create that same magic with clothing. "I really admire TaliKursh and Yuval Caspin, two Israeli fashion designers and mentors whohelped me all along the way," she says. "I believe that clothing hasthe power to change how you feel. When you look good on the outside,you feel better on the inside."

Ori Shaikovitz

Ori Shaikovitz got into fashion design by mistake. "I didn'tknow what I wanted to study but I was making crocheted hats, so Idecided to take a course at the Neri Bloomfield School of Design inHaifa," he explains. "After that, they persuaded me to stay."

Although it was an arduous road with at least one failure alongthe way, Shaikovitz spent the last year on an amazing personal journey.Rather than follow the traditional path, he chose to come up with a setof rules for himself that he would have to follow to make thecollection. His first presentation - clothing made out of food - didnot pass muster with the professors. Nevertheless, he persevered anddecided to use his skills with a computer program for pattern making."It took a lot of effort and discipline to do this right, but in theend I did it my way."

The vibrant blue, green and yellow solids broken up withred-and-white stripes that make up his first collection "from the endto the beginning" are largely the result of his self-imposedguidelines. "I chose the colors based on what I wear and I used onecolor because I restricted myself to solids," he says. "At first, Iwanted to do something big and extravagant, but then I realized thatbig and extravagant things are difficult to change so I stuck withsimplicity."

Shaikovitzdoes not see his future career as a fashion designer but he willprobably end up using his creativity. "I don't know what I'm going todo yet, but I do know I want to make the world a better place. I'mlooking for a way to do that now."

Marina Roitman-Koushan

The influence of theater and dance are clear in MarinaRoitman-Koushan's dramatic, colorful collection. The combination ofdelicate silk material accented by tough leather belts symbolizes therelationship between masculine and feminine.

"This was a very emotional, symbolic process for me," sheexplains. "I found out I was pregnant while I was working on it, and Ithink the idea of two things becoming one - like a man and woman whotogether create a harmonious new life - is omnipresent."

Another important aspect of this clothing comes from herbackground in theater and dance. Heavily influenced by how a piece ofclothing looks when the body moves, Roitman-Koushan's pieces changedrastically with movement. The large sleeves are actually connected tothe center of the dress and jacket so that when the arms are raised,they form two large circles. "My background is in theater and dance andyou can see that some of my inspiration came from this world."