Style Junkie: An uncommon collection

Hard-edged and mostly black-and-white, Rachel Cohen’s clothes and accessories reek of European luxury.

Rachel Cohen (photo credit: Tehila Nizri)
Rachel Cohen
(photo credit: Tehila Nizri)
On any given day that you walk into the CommonRaven store in Jaffa, you might catch a few Italian words being bandied about by the employees. “I’m trying to keep my Italian intact,” smiles designer Rachel Cohen, “but it’s really hard.”
Though Cohen has set up shop in Israel, the language she learned during her stay in Italy remains on the tip of her tongue. After studying at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan, she set out to further understand the European fashion industry. Recently back from an apprenticeship with Jill Sanders in London, Cohen opened the doors to her minimalist establishment a few months ago. Her label, CommonRaven, reeks of luxury and bears an aesthetic statement far beyond Cohen’s 28 years.
The inaugural CommonRaven collection consists of clothing and accessories.
Drawing on the namesake of her label, Cohen is often pulled toward black fabrics. Her black nail polish hints at the hard edge that is a defining characteristic of the CommonRaven label. In line with Cohen’s neo-gothic design sensibility, the color palette dips deeply into blacks and whites, with a few carefully chosen color tangents.
Though “tribal” may not be the first word that comes to mind when taking in the CommonRaven clothing, it was a major inspiration for Cohen during her creative process. “I went to Zambia to shop for material before I started,” she explains. “I loved the natural colors – the terra cotta and stone.”
Of the few colors that managed to make their way onto Cohen’s clothing rack is a deep burnt orange, which found its expression in a chic short-sleeved dress with an exposed lower back.
“When I came back, I brought a few prints with me. But on the whole, I took what I saw in Africa and translated it. The cut-outs are definitely part of the African inspiration,” she says.
The cut-out is a clear theme in Cohen’s designs.
“I’m a cutter,” says Cohen as she picks up a long, tight-fitting white dress with a keyhole opening at the lower belly. “When I began designing this collection, I knew that I wanted to work with cut-outs. In all the clothes, the cut-outs accentuate the body and where the bones are. In one dress, I made openings to show the clavicles; in another, to show off the spinal column.”
Another element that gives Common- Raven clothing an extra edge is the attention to zippers and buttons.
Embellishing her gorgeous leather jackets and vests are small extra bits that bring a personal touch to the rock ’n’ roll exterior Cohen has created. Most of the zippers are adorned with small brass pieces that take their shape from bones such as the mandible or jawbone.
These charms whisper the back story of the Common-Raven store.
Years ago, Cohen’s family owned a metal recycling plant in Jaffa. Eventually the company relocated to Rishon Lezion, leaving their building vacant.
Looking around Cohen’s clean, quiet space, it is difficult to imagine the clanking ruckus of metal work – the Common-Raven store now stands on the site of the former factory.
“All the brass I work with comes from my family’s factory and is then covered in silver or gold,” explains Cohen.
These pieces can also be found in the CommonRaven accessory line, which features leather belts with small golden bones and matching wrist cuffs.
At present, Cohen is putting the finishing touches on her next collection, which will be released in the coming months. Each garment is made no more than 12 times and reaches the racks throughout the season depending on demand. “Because I’m new, I’m paying a lot of attention to what works and what doesn’t. I’m doing trial and error with the market,” she says.
At the same time as she irons and steams her new designs, she is struggling with another fashion dilemma.
With her autumn wedding on the horizon, she has joined the flock of women hunting for a white gown.
“It’s a crazy industry,” she says. “I’ve been to a bunch of stores, and I think in the end I’m just going to make something for myself.”
Though she is wary about expanding Common-Raven to include bridal gowns, Cohen says that several of her dresses have already been worn for that purpose. And, like many of her contemporaries, planning her own wedding dress may be one step closer to outfitting other women for theirs.
While Cohen is new on the scene, she has no qualms about placing her label within the range of well-established international designers. Her prices range from NIS 500 for shirts to more than NIS 2,000 for leather jackets.
Already her clothing has been seen on concert stages, in the pages of fashion magazines and on the websites of Israel’s top fashionistas.
“We sent an e-mail to Madonna,” reveals Cohen. “I can definitely see her wearing these clothes.”
Though there is no confirmation as to whether the pop diva made it to Jaffa to shop, Common-Raven is clearly destined for the stars.
CommonRaven is located at 19 Beit Eshel Street in Jaffa. For more information, visit