Vivid vestments

"It's important to me that my clothes leave space for my clients to add their own spices to the dish," says designer Raya Salingre.

fashion 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
fashion 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It's all about color. As you enter Raya Salingre's shop, Tiltan, on Rehov Barzilai in Tel Aviv's Gan Hahashmal neighborhood it seems to be raining with drops of color. Vivid patterns and eye-catching designs hang neatly from the racks. "I think and feel in colors," says Salingre, dressed in a pair of casual white pants and a pastel-pink top. "They're inside of me." To illustrate the point, she borrows my notepad to write down a Hebrew play on words that describes her fashion philosophy. Essentially, each letter of the last word starts the next and it translates as "color does everything." After an inspirational trip to New York, Salingre, who studied graphic design and used to specialize in the creation of ice cream wrappers, decided that it was time for a change of profession. She enrolled at Shenkar and got a degree in pattern making and began designing clothing in the early 1990s. For three years, she sold her clothes in stores around the country but soon realized that she wanted more freedom and independence. In 1993, she opened her first store in Kadima. Two and a half years ago, she found this location to house her flagship Tel Aviv shop. "When I saw this place - it was a former electronics store and there was absolutely nothing here. My husband thought I was crazy and said no one ever came here, but I had an instinct that it was where I should be," she says. The instinct turned out to be a good one as Gan Hahashmal is now a flourishing neighborhood chock full of clothing designers, shoe shops and the latest high-end accessories from the country's most talented designers. The bright vitality of Salingre's designs is accentuated by the white wooden ceiling and floor of the cozy store that she renovated. "I think of this place as my kitchen. I bring the ingredients and each of my clients comes in to choose her own spices and make something with a unique taste suited to her," she says. Leaving room for individuality is an essential part of her fashion. "I don't like clothes that you put on and then nobody sees you. It's important to me that my clothes leave space for my clients to add their own spices to the dish, and I never stop renewing." She designs two new collections for the spring and autumn, but throughout the year she is constantly bringing in new pieces to add to what already exists in her lines for women, boys, girls and babies. The children's fashions are dressier and best suited for special occasions, while the women's line is more casual and includes items that can be worn to work in the morning and then out in the evening. "I am very interested in patterns and versatile clothes that consider length, ties that can be loosened and fabrics that can be reversed," she says, holding up a colorful dress for girls with a button-on collar that can be worn on two different sides or taken off completely. As the little girl grows, the dress can become a tunic to be worn with tights so that it lasts longer. Not intended for twiggy supermodels, she describes her women's clothing as "anchored in reality" and suitable for today's modern Israeli woman. When you look carefully at the paisley prints, brightly-colored polka dot patterns and pastel flowers, it's clear that an enormous amount of time is spent on the small details - from tiny graphics and unusual buttons to pockets that can be removed or reversed. "Because my clothing requires a lot of work and is not cheap, it's important that you can wear it in a variety of ways to make it look different each time," she says. One example is a stretchy cotton belt with three bands of color that can be folded to show either all three colors or only one at a time, but the same is true for many of her shirts and dresses that have loose ties and flexible cuts. This winter, her collection includes a wide array of patterns that blend smoked shades with vivid colors to create a multidimensional, layered look. The front of a garment may be vibrant, while the back incorporates grays, browns and dark blues. She has a wide array of long, solid-colored tunics that can be worn either as sweaters over jeans or as dresses with tights. You'll find plenty of soft knits, oversized coats and classic pants in tweed, black and brown patterns. Salingre says her free-spirited and daring fashion attracts customers who like vivid color and appreciate unusual graphic designs. "I'm addicted to my work. For me, it's therapeutic," she says. Nevertheless, she manages to juggle working with being a wife and the mother of four children. "I always tell my kids that if you do something that is your own and truly shows your individuality, no one can ever duplicate it." In a final analogy, she compares the artistic creativity of designing clothes with inventing a language. "I am producing something unique, and if someone buys it then she understands the language I created and it speaks to her."