Not just for the ladies

Maison Rouge founder Alla Eisenberg believes that a man should feel good in what he's wearing.

mens fashion 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
mens fashion 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
From night creams to tooth whitening strips, the world of beauty products is firmly rooted in the concept of defying age. For young designer Alla Eisenberg, the same principle applies to clothing for men. "Our generation is waiting longer and longer to reach maturity," she says, taking a seat on one of the black bar stools in her new store on Kikar Masaryk in central Tel Aviv. "We don't want to turn into adults and accept all the responsibility that comes with it, but neither can we remain teenagers forever. I wanted to design clothing for men that reflects the fragile balance between not forgetting the dreams and individuality of youth but at the same time having a successful career and applying knowledge from life's experience." This philosophy translates into finely crafted suits, vests and button-down collared shirts with stylish panache. You won't find the same tired lines of classic Hugo Boss collections in these tailored threads and electric blue leather suspenders. Eisenberg's approach to men's fashion has been described as avant garde because it bends the rules of classic professional attire for men. Her off-the-beaten-path suit jackets are slightly shorter than is customary. Delicate stitching, pocket sizes and trouser cuts also lend the Maison Rouge brand a younger, more European look. "It's very important for me to work with high quality fabrics and maintain a high standard of work," she says. "I pay a lot of attention to the inside seams that no one even sees because I believe that a man should feel good in what he's wearing." To illustrate the point, she pulls a pair of navy blue tailored pants off the rack and shows me the material inside, which is carefully stitched to be as comfortable as possible with a clean finish. EISENBERG ADMIRES international designers like Hedi Sliman, a successful young French clothing designer who revolutionized the new men's line for Dior by combining sharp tailored items with funky chic pieces. She also cites Raf Simons as a strong influence on her work. Simons, a Belgian designer, is known for combining strongly cut classic menswear with baggy items heavily influenced by street wear. "People call my clothing avant garde because they are not accustomed to seeing this type of fashionable tailored clothing," says Eisenberg. Unsure of how this new niche would be accepted despite the need for dressy men's apparel in many contemporary jobs, she opened her first store last summer with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. "I am designing for a specific clientele and I wasn't certain that there was enough desire for this here in Tel Aviv, but after nine months, the brand has proven its success." Aside from the price, which is lower than what you will find at Prada and Armani in Kikar Hamedina, Eisenberg says she also offers clients customization. If a man needs a shirt tailored for narrower shoulders and a wider waist, he can be accommodated. This, she says, is a rare freedom that large companies importing clothing from abroad cannot offer their customers. "When I started here, people said, 'Who needs menswear in Israel?' But now, the men I had in mind have begun arriving. I also have many grooms who want a special look for their wedding," she says. As the name implies, Maison Rouge is not bashful about the strong influence of red. For Eisenberg, it's a paradoxical color that combines romance and aggression. It also reflects her roots. Born in Ukraine, she immigrated with her parents at 14. "Red will always be associated with Russia," she says. "Not just because of the communist regime but also landmarks like Red Square." THE DOMINANT colors of red, white and black that she uses in her logo and clothing lines are also illustrated in the store that she designed herself. Once you step beyond the tall glass doors, the interior makes an immediate impression. The floor is made of black wooden slats. On the white walls, a collage photograph of cobblestone streets, a Parisian rooftop with red chimneys and a wall of cubes hangs above a bright red staircase that leads up to a loft studio. "That's the work of a French artist who combines images from Paris," she says as I admire the photograph. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for the store." A graduate of Shenkar who now teaches a tailoring class once a week, Eisenberg learned the art of men's tailoring in the country best known for its men's fashion: Italy. After a two-year internship with the well-known Katumenta studio in Tel Aviv, she moved to Milan with her husband for three years. "I studied in a lot of ateliers and men are definitely the center of the fashion world in Milan so it was a great place to learn," she says. "Some of the studios let me work and in others I only watched. It was an incredible experience to see the old masters there at work. They work slowly and methodically but every single item they make is perfect according to rigid standards of quality." In Milan, she started to design and make her own line of men's clothing and upon her return, she continued her work. Today, she sells in Antwerp and Tel Aviv and hopes to eventually expand further and begin making her own line of shoes and accessories. "Israel is a vacuum and if you're not connected to the rest of the world, it's easy to lose your way," she says, running a hand through her closely cropped platinum blonde hair. A wide smile crosses her face as she relays her biggest compliments. "I am always really happy when men from abroad come here and buy clothing. I recently had an American who is here for three months come in and buy three suits and now every time he has visitors, he brings them here to shop too," she gushes. "It's always so thrilling to hear that they appreciate my work." Eisenberg says her clients typically range in age from 25 to 45 and her prices, while not cheap, are inexpensive compared to her production costs (knitwear ranges from NIS 350 to NIS 450; tailored shirts are around NIS 650; vests run from NIS 580 to NIS 600; trousers are NIS 650 to NIS 800; suits average about NIS 2,800). On her Web site, Eisenberg writes about the inspiration she feels from youth culture in her work. Her claim is that by looking at the way youth dare and dream, we can rediscover ourselves. Through understanding the connection we feel to our own past dreams, we can accept who we are: grown-up individuals.