Sabra Style: The allure of lace

Designer Yael Sibony taps into the enduring power of classic femininity.

lace 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
lace 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the store window on Rehov Dizengoff in Tel Aviv, a long, fitted cream-colored dress with a satin slip and a sheer lace overlay looks fit for a bride. But inside, a range of ready-to-wear pants and versatile tops hangs neatly on the racks. Delicate, fitted lace tops with long sashes can be tied in at least four different ways to change the way they look, and a pair of funky overalls can be worn as pants without the straps. "I remember you!" exclaims designer Yael Sibony as I enter her store. "You wanted a gray dress and I had run out, so you ended up buying the mauve." Indeed, her memory is flawless. But the most impressive thing about her recollection is that it was more than four years ago when I bought a dress from her to wear to a wedding. "I don't remember names," she says, "but I remember faces and I know exactly who wanted what and what color they wanted." Like many local fashion designers, the bubbly Sibony started out by selling her clothes in Dizengoff Center's upscale Designer Market on the weekends. "I was afraid to open my own business right away and take the risk, and selling there gave me an opportunity to meet the people who wear my clothing and get their feedback," she says. In December 2006, she opened her own store. Her line of lace tops and dresses comes in single colors with a large variety of different-colored silky liners, and they can be dressed up with a skirt and a pair of high heels or dressed down with a pair of jeans. In typical Israeli style, Sibony is wearing a long lace dress over a pair of jeans with a pair of large-soled shoes. The blend mixes classic, feminine lace with urban comfort and modernity. The best part about these designer, feminine clothes, which are great basic additions to any wardrobe, is the price. Most of the items range from NIS 60 to NIS 800, and Sibony says she can design wedding dresses for around NIS 1,200 - far less than what most designers charge. "The first wedding dress I ever made was for one of my eight sisters," says Sibony, who also has a brother. She spends a moment counting on two hands before she comes up with the final number of wedding dresses she has created for sisters. "It was four total," she says, laughing at my comment that her mother is a saint. "Since fifth grade, my dream has been to be a fashion designer," she says, brushing a long, brown curl off her face and smiling. Defined by delicate lace material and simple, classic lines that exude femininity and romance, Sibony says that she designs things she likes and doesn't focus on the changing trends of the fickle fashion world. Although the 40-year-old designer with a delightfully girlish giggle always wanted to make her own clothing, she got a relatively late start. After one failed attempt to enroll in the prestigious Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, she was at last accepted at 30. "I was very excited to get in, and I put everything into it," she says. For her final project, she entered a fashion design competition in Italy. "I missed the deadline, but I refused to give up. The secretary told me I'd have to send the materials at my own expense and I did." Chosen from 360 students to compete, she took fourth place for best ready-to-wear collection in 2001. "I like to use layers," she explains, pointing out a dress from her first collection in which each transparent piece gives the clothing a different look. "One was shiny and another had glitter. One was organza and another was lace. There were four or five altogether, and each one added something different." This multilayering gives Sibony's clothes a rich texture, but it also makes them more versatile. A sheer black lace can be worn with different colored body suits underneath to change its look entirely. The use of high-quality fabric and great attention to detail make her clothing extremely durable, and you won't see the same item on every woman in Israel because she makes a limited number of pieces. To illustrate her perfectionist nature, she points out that for one job interview when she was asked to make a pattern, she spent three and a half hours on it while the other job candidate took an hour and a half. "The owner called me a few days later to hire me and told me that my pattern was absolutely perfect." Today, this same perfectionism applies to every piece of clothing that bears her name. Ensuring the quality of both the fabric and the seams is part of the reason for Sibony's success. Each year, clients return to buy new pieces from her latest collections, which maintain her love affair with lace and classic lines but incorporate new twists. "I spend a lot more on my material than many other designers, but quality is important to me. If you pay a lot for clothing, you expect it to last and retain its shape and color," says Sibony, adjusting the straps on a short black dress with a lace bodice and a satin bottom for the young woman trying it on. One of the advantages of having a store is that clients can have things tailored for them without paying a huge amount for it. "People who want unique clothing that isn't too expensive can have things from the collection slightly altered to fit them. This dress, for example, can be taken up for this client but let out for another," she says, asking the young woman if the length is suitable and suggesting the addition of a small piece of lace across the low-cut chest. Yet, being in the store all day is difficult because she has to balance her time between designing new collections in her studio and being available to clients. "My big dream is to open a two-level store that has a homey atmosphere with clothing on one level and the design studio on the other. That way, people can always come to me and make adjustments on the spot." Until then, Sibony's clothing is available in the Tel Aviv store and clients can have alterations made to suit their taste. "I design clothes to be simple, classic and useful," says Sibony. "I describe my work as more artistic than fashion because I don't do things that are going to go out of style next year."