Touting textiles

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 was palpable. The nervous buzz of friends and family members echoed above the quiet whispers of journalists, bloggers and photographers. By the time the much-anticipated fashion show began on the evening of July 14, the crowd could hardly contain themselves. Ran Shabani, the new director of the fashion design department at the Neri Bloomfield School of Design in Haifa, gave a brief introduction. He explained that the graduating class of 2009 chose to exhibit their first collections in Tel Aviv for two reasons: to participate in the city's centennial celebrations and to show their deep connection and affinity 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 the students to push themselves to their absolute limits and take chances," Shabani later explained in a phone interview. "This is the time when they can be innovative and have the guts to experiment. Sometimes that means making mistakes, but it's better to do it as a student than out in the real world." The young and energetic new director, who took over in December 2007, speaks from experience. He spent nine years in New York as a fashion designer working with some of the most famous fashion houses in the world - including Lord and Taylor, Perry Ellis and Geoffrey Beene - before returning two years ago. "Much of the innovation in fashion design comes from textiles, so one of my only rules with the students is 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 and print it themselves." This philosophical principle was crystal clear on the runway. The students used everything from antique embroidery to crocheted carpets in their designs. Another strong leitmotif in many of the collections was the ability to connect and combine unusual materials in the clothing, such as plastic, copper, plastic and glass. "It was the first time we ever did the show in Tel Aviv and it was a huge success," Shabani said. "I'm very proud of all of the students, especially the graduates who worked so hard to produce incredible 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 inspired by the freak-show posters used to advertise the traveling circuses that were incredibly popular during the 1920s. She came up with the concept during her research and was attracted to the idea of a clothing line that would be both flattering and unique. "I really like unusual things, and this theme allowed me to pull materials from my grandparents, the flea market and second-hand clothing shops." Although the embroidery work in some of the pieces was already made, Zorea did the sewing herself. She also hand made the tights and all of the accessories, including the hats and jewelry. One corset in the show combined an antique piece of embroidered flowers with sturdy striped material ordinarily used for furniture. A bright yellow-and-black overcoat was made from an old carpet and the belt around one dress was originally for drapes. "It was a long process to come up with the ideas and then search for the right materials, sew it and come up with the right combinations." Zorea admires the crazy combinations and theatrical ideas of LaCroix and hopes to continue making outlandish but elegant evening wear. "Once I had my ideas together and I found the materials, the rest went smoothly. It was time consuming because I'm a perfectionist, so I wanted to do everything myself down to the last stitch. In the end, the finished collection was worth it." Heli Edri For as long as she can remember, Heli Edri wanted to be a fashion designer. She comes from a long line of seamstresses. Her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all made clothing for their children. She is the first, however, to make a career out of it. Despite having her first baby during the third year, she returned almost immediately to classes so she could graduate on time with her classmates. "It was the hardest thing I ever did because I had to leave my baby with my mom and my aunt all the time, but I got over it and I'm really happy that I was able to persevere and finish." Inspired by Moroccan architecture, her colorful collection of leather and fabric dresses combines colorful basics with intricate patterns, both printed and cutouts. Layers of vivid leather solids and prints have wild shapes that give the entire collection a futuristic, extraterrestrial look. "I like the combination of simple and sophisticated when it comes to clothing, and I always make things that look a bit out of this world," she says. "I've been told before that it looks like I'm making clothes for aliens." Some of her inspiration for this collection came from Manish Arora, an Indian designer best known for his psychedelic colors and kitsch motifs, who uses a combination of embroidery, appliqué and beading in his work. "I really like the way he thinks and how open-minded he is about possibilities for clothing. I got a lot of really good responses from architecture students who liked the lines so I was pleased about that." In the future, Edri would like to try her hand at more prêt-à-porter and sell her lines to designer stores. "My real dream is to one day create my own line." Tal Ben-Binyamin Originally from Kiryat Tivon, Tal Ben-Binyamin grew up in an artistic family. Her grandparents owned the first clothing store in the town and she has fond memories of her grandmother telling her stories about taking the bus to Tel Aviv once a week to look for new designs in the 1950s. In her collection, entitled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," the inspiration from origami is clear. Largely using black "sky" (a shiny synthetic material) and chiffon, each dress had a different dramatic connected by a similar design language. "The biggest challenge for me with fashion design is finding the balance between making art and designing something that will look good on the body. I like unusual textures, and I wanted to create dresses that would feel great on." Attracted to the astonishing effects of paper cutting and folding, Ben-Binyamin wanted to create that same magic with clothing. "I really admire Tali Kursh and Yuval Caspin, two Israeli fashion designers and mentors who helped me all along the way," she says. "I believe that clothing has the 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't know what I wanted to study but I was making crocheted hats, so I decided to take a course at the Neri Bloomfield School of Design in Haifa," he explains. "After that, they persuaded me to stay." Although it was an arduous road with at least one failure along the way, Shaikovitz spent the last year on an amazing personal journey. Rather than follow the traditional path, he chose to come up with a set of rules for himself that he would have to follow to make the collection. His first presentation - clothing made out of food - did not pass muster with the professors. Nevertheless, he persevered and decided 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 the end I did it my way." The vibrant blue, green and yellow solids broken up with red-and-white stripes that make up his first collection "from the end to the beginning" are largely the result of his self-imposed guidelines. "I chose the colors based on what I wear and I used one color because I restricted myself to solids," he says. "At first, I wanted to do something big and extravagant, but then I realized that big and extravagant things are difficult to change so I stuck with simplicity." Shaikovitz does not see his future career as a fashion designer but he will probably end up using his creativity. "I don't know what I'm going to do yet, but I do know I want to make the world a better place. I'm looking for a way to do that now." Marina Roitman-Koushan The influence of theater and dance are clear in Marina Roitman-Koushan's dramatic, colorful collection. The combination of delicate silk material accented by tough leather belts symbolizes the relationship between masculine and feminine. "This was a very emotional, symbolic process for me," she explains. "I found out I was pregnant while I was working on it, and I think the idea of two things becoming one - like a man and woman who together create a harmonious new life - is omnipresent." Another important aspect of this clothing comes from her background in theater and dance. Heavily influenced by how a piece of clothing looks when the body moves, Roitman-Koushan's pieces change drastically with movement. The large sleeves are actually connected to the 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 and you can see that some of my inspiration came from this world."