Shenkar's class of '05: Absolutely fabulous

Shenkar graduates show the future of Israeli design.

The show presented by Shenkar College's class of 2005 was different from those of previous years, when the venue was either the Tel Aviv Cinerama or the Shenkar campus. This time, students prevailed upon the faculty to allow them to show their creations at the dilapidated Alhambra Theater in Jaffa, where the floors are no longer carpeted, exposing bare, uneven, gravel-like concrete and the seats have been uprooted. The students wanted to contrast their new designs with signs of urban decay. But this was not the only innovation. Anyone who has ever been to a fashion show or watched Fashion TV, knows full well that the speed with which models swish by allows for an overall impression but not much attention to detail. Very often, the garment up close is altogether different from what is seen in a fleeting glimpse. IT WAS important to the Shenkar graduates that audience members were able to get a good look at their designs: to see the colors and touch the fabrics. Their solution was to create a video of each student's designs, which was showed as a model paraded one garment from each collection on stage. It was not so long ago that fashion shows had a mistress or master of ceremonies who introduced each item, along with informed patter about cut, detailing, fabrics and tonings. A fashion show at that time was not just a feast for the eyes, but an educational experience. Taking such a legacy as their cue, Shenkar students decided to display their collections throughout the upper floors of the theater, giving members of the audience the opportunity to see each garment from every angle, to explore the feel of the fabric and to chat with the young designers. It was an effective ploy. Most of the graduates stood close enough to their collections to be within earshot, but not so close as to be conspicuous. They received many compliments, but not too many job offers. But they were not disheartened. Only an hour or so earlier, they had heard Etti Rotter, co-director of the trendy Israeli clothing chain Castro, which sponsors the annual Shenkar showing, declare that 16 of her company's leading designers were Shenkar graduates, and that Shenkar had helped Castro not only to become Israel's leading brand name, but also to go global. They knew that some of them were destined to find themselves in Castro's employ. One of those who is not likely to go in that direction is Adi Eliav, whose minimalism and marvelous architectural lines indicated that her future lies in couture. She said that she would not allow commercial considerations to intrude on her fashion integrity. Limore Bender, who created some whimsical men's wear, said she was in no hurry to get a job. "I want to completely absorb what I've learned in the last four years." Tal Caspi was one of the few who actually has a job. She was hand-picked a year ago by designer Dorin Frankfurt, and a glimpse at her semi-classic concepts that are so much in line with Frankfurt's own design signature, makes the choice self explanatory. Frankfurt, who attended the show, had only good things to say about it. "It was fabulous," she enthused. "Absolutely fabulous!" Fashion students can afford to be somewhat more avant-garde than well-established designers, so we saw lots of flamboyance, characterized by the return of the the embroidered bolero, the empire line dress, gigot sleeves and frock coats. There was a dose of classic couture, punctuated with punk-chic, grunge, a little ethnic inspiration and hippie revivalism. Hot pants for both men and women were shorter than ever, and there were few hard and fast rules about anything. Pants ran the gamut, from baggies to stovepipe. Hemlines spanned the entire spectrum. There were a lot of wide romantic skirts, crinolines, layered looks, trains and even a bustle. Elizabethan influences blended with inspiration from the sports field; and there were some intriguing embroideries and appliques. The chunky knitwear was inviting and the lack of conventionality refreshing. So was much of the workmanship. The wealth of imagination was dazzling.