For the first time since 2019, Tel Aviv Fashion Week was live and in person with 26 designer shows, 15 emerging brands in the showroom, a first-ever guest designer from the Arab world and some 20,000 spectators who sat alongside the runway over the course of four days.
In 2021, during the pandemic, models came down the catwalk to empty seats and TV cameras to bring new fashion to Israeli screens, and in 2020, the event was canceled entirely three days before showtime, but was shared on social media. This year models said they were happy to be back with the people.
“I feel glad we had the option to really make it happen, glad to be here and I got a really good energy from the other side,” said model Lee Rokah.
Rokah has been in the industry for seven years and represented Bananhot swimwear for three. The company is headed by celebrity models and fashion entrepreneurs Neta Alchimister and Noa Beny. Rokah says she likes wearing their suits because they are “perfect for her body” – and that’s exactly what the brand is aiming for.
In a pre-show interview with Alchimister, she said Bananhot’s motto is that any woman can find the size she needs – from extra-extra small to extra-extra large.
“We provide solutions for whoever walks in, and that’s what satisfies me the most,” Alchimister said.
The collection shared on the runway has been in the works for an entire year and was presented by 30 young women in front of a large electronic display showing a beachy paradise. Women paraded down the runway in bikinis as well as one-pieces and some sported new beach accessories like sarongs and sandals. When asked what was new for the crew, Alchimister said the line is expanding.
“From a company that solely designed bikinis, today we are providing all the necessities a woman needs to fully accessorize herself at the beach from head to toe, and you’ll see that on the runway.”
Alchimister pressed on with a message of inspiration saying the brand started eight years ago and has since become a major success, adding that everyone is capable of making his or her aspirations come true.
“We’re here and we’re alive. Follow your dreams, believe it and it’ll happen,” Alchimister said.
The Bananhot show had one item that made it stand out from the rest – the addition of NFT art. Working together with international sensation Talia Zoref, the fashion illustrator created original artworks that were printed across select bathing suits and debuted for the first time on the runway. The NFTs have been minted and purchased by the Bananhot brand. The proceeds will go to an Israeli organization that helps support single mothers.
“It’s been so long since the last Fashion Week and I’m excited to take part in it. For the last 10 years, [I’ve been] sketching models backstage. It’s fun to do all that and work with a lot of different brands like Chanel and Dior – so that’s a fun part of my path,” Zoref said. “I’ve produced digital art and mixed media in the past. This [the NFTs] allows us digital creators to finally be able to claim ownership of our art and also be able to sell it as an original piece.”
Getting a seat at the Wednesday 2 p.m. Bananhot show was competitive, but other designer shows like Alon Livné’s were equally as packed out. The top Israeli designer presented a line of cotton-candy colored dresses and two-piece sets for both men and women. The garments popped with pinks, purples, baby blues, yellows and were matched with cream or tan colored pants and blazers.
The designer started his career at the Roberto Cavalli and Alexander McQueen fashion houses and later came to dress artists like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and social media queen Kim Kardashian. Livné has also participated in New York Fashion Week.
One shared characteristic among this year’s designers is their youth. According to Tel Aviv Fashion Week CEO, film producer and entrepreneur Motty Reif, 60% of the designers selected for this year’s extravaganza are young designers and 30% of all the models had to be atypical, such as plus-sized and over the age of the typical model. For Reif, Fashion Week should celebrate diversity and give everyone an opportunity.
“We had more than 25 transsexuals, women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, and women with disabilities – it’s a dream come true for me,” Reif said. “Every girl can find herself [on the runway] – her size, her height and her gender.”
Reif has been in the fashion industry for 37 years and says this was the first time in history Israeli producers worked with an Arab designer from abroad who actually brought their pieces to the runway. Dr. Mona al Mansouri of the United Arab Emirates created a slew of designs, which she came up with in 48 hours. She sent the images to Dubai and then used the help of this year’s Fashion Week partner Kornit (a digital manufacturing company) to print the images on the clothes as part of her debut three-piece collection.
“It was a historic day. It was the first time a designer from an Arabic country arrived in Israel. She cried. It was …beyond,” Reif said, failing to find words.
Other designers also took advantage of Kornit’s super-fast inkjet printers to customize their garments. CEO Ronen Samuel said that after 20 years of business, he and his company are realizing they can revolutionize the fashion industry in terms of shortening production time for designers and reducing waste. Each piece made with Kornit’s machines use the exact amount of fabric needed and not a thread more. Samuel told the Jerusalem Post that he was thrilled his message came through after overhearing designers and guests discuss sustainability throughout the week.
“What we do is to introduce them [designers] to our tech and for the first time in their life, they stand next to the machine and can see the process – sketch the image and see it printed on the material that they chose in a few minutes. It’s cut and sewn on the same day,” Samuel said. “Many designers are now in contact with Kornit and their customers. We are changing the way they produce and design.”
Samuel said Kornit is also putting together an international event in England mid-May called “Kornit Fashion Week London.”
Aside from the runway itself, Fashion Week supports emerging designers and opened a showroom in the Comme Il Faut shop at Tel Aviv Port. There were 15 Israeli designers showing off and selling their everyday looks, party outfits, African-inspired dresses and even Greek-themed gold costume jewelry. One designer with the brand “we_ukraine” even sold Ukrainian flag-inspired T-shirts with proceeds going to support Ukrainians.
Spectators who came for one Fashion Week show told The Jerusalem Post they are already planning to buy tickets to multiple events so they can participate all week in next year’s show.