Grapevine February 24, 2019: Strange coincidence

Israeli fashion creativity remains strong, and a bevy of Israeli designers, most of them Shenkar graduates have done well for themselves in Paris, Milan, New York and Los Angeles.

Picture of Karl Lagerfield (photo credit: Courtesy)
Picture of Karl Lagerfield
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Coincidence is one of those fascinating studies that provokes many theories, but seldom a truly satisfactory explanation. Last week on the day that Paris mourned the death of international fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, in Tel Aviv fashion show maestro and former model Moti Reif was holding a press conference prior to the seventh annual Tel Aviv Fashion Week, which he initiated.
It’s no secret that Israel’s fashion industry – with the exception of Castro, which appears to be flourishing – is in the doldrums, unable to compete with the prices of cheap labor countries, though several Israeli fashion firms turn to such countries for production of Israeli designs.
Israeli fashion creativity remains strong, and a bevy of Israeli designers, most of them Shenkar graduates have done well for themselves in Paris, Milan, New York and Los Angeles.
Despite some of the negative reviews that TLV Fashion Week received in 2018 and 2017, Reif is determined to keep Israeli fashion in the public eye, and has enlisted the sponsorship of the Economy and Industry Ministry.
To be honest, despite Reif’s talent and enthusiasm, the TLV Fashion Week cannot compare with the Israel Fashion Weeks held in the 1970s and 1980s when the glittering Gottex productions and the elegant Beged Or collections – plus many other well known brands – brought hundreds of buyers and fashion writers to Israel.
Leah Gottlieb, the cofounder and key designer at Gottex, is no longer living, nor is Leslie Fulop who founded Beged Or. Curiously both were Hungarian immigrants.
Gottlieb was a Holocaust survivor and Fulop escaped from Hungary during the war and later fought in Israel’s War of Independence.
When Beged Or fell on hard times Fulop’s son Guy Fulop began producing exquisite leatherwear under his own label, but became disillusioned with Israel and moved to Milan, where he quickly developed an enviable reputation.
There are still excellent designers in Israel, but they are living in a different world with different norms, and the old glamour and passion that dominated a previous era are fading out.
Among the last of the Mohicans of that other era is Gideon Oberson, who after 56 years as one of Israel’s leading designers and guru of good taste, is bowing out of the profession – albeit not entirely. He may continue to design sexy swimwear, for which he was famous as Leah Gottlieb’s nemesis and chief rival.
Oberson has already closed his Tel Aviv studio, but his creations will be on view, possibly for the last time, at this year’s TLV Fashion Week. The opening gala will be a tribute to him and Reif is busy rounding up current and former models who have modeled Oberson’s designs over the years.
Reif likes to delve into fashion nostalgia, and did so two years ago with a 60th anniversary tribute to Gottex, proving that good vintage always remains in fashion.
The same can definitely be said of Oberson, whose classic couture wear – with the possible exception of hem lengths – will never go out of style. Likewise, his swimwear with its interesting geometric cuts will remain eternally sexy.
In a recent interview with Haaretz, Oberson said that he was bowing out at the right time because today’s fashion is so ugly. But he was optimistic that this is only a passing phase and not a lasting phenomenon.
In the past, TLV Fashion Week was held at the Tahana in Jaffa and at the Gindi TLV Fashion Mall. This year it’s moving to Hangar 11 on the Port of Tel Aviv, and will be held from March 10-13 with 22 fashion firms participating, including those that produce jewelry and accessories.
There will also be a showing of designs by Shenkar students and graduates.
Fashion shows used to be a frustrating experience for people who did not have svelte figures and were either too short or too tall for the garments being paraded.
Just as he is fond of nostalgia, Reif is also fond of proving that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and that not everyone likes skinny models who are all bone and no flesh. Some 60 models will be participating in the various shows, and they will be of varying heights, ages, physiques and complexions, so that spectators will be able to imagine themselves in some of the items that they see on the runways.
Apropos Lagerfeld, on the day that he died, among the many models who paid tribute to him was Israel’s own Bar Refaeli, who posted an Instagram photo of the two of them together.
APPARENTLY, BREAKING agreements is par for the course for Benny Gantz in his present role as a political leader.
In addition to backtracking on a signed agreement with Gesher’s Orly Levy-Abecassis, he also backed out of addressing the Jerusalem-based annual Leadership Mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. This was after making disparaging remarks about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu improving his English while Gantz was in the foxholes. Perhaps he was ducking expected criticism following the rotten tomatoes that he received on social media.
Given the crisis situation between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, especially Americans, Gantz should have braved any anticipated onslaught and spoken to the American leadership. Instead of canceling he could have asked to move his session to a later time.
These two character lapses on Gantz’s part should serve as a warning to Yair Lapid. But by now, it might be too late.
ISRAELIS AND Palestinians cooperate on many levels. It doesnt necessarily mean normalization, but if the two-state solution ever eventuates, it will mean that many Palestinians will be well-prepared to contribute in different ways to their country’s success and stability.
Last Wednesday, Kan’s main newscast showed how Palestinian farmers are producing top quality fruit based on Israeli technological know-how. Earlier the same day, an initiative aimed at advancing economic opportunities in the West Bank was launched in Jerusalem with the active participation and support of both Israeli and Palestinian business leaders. The project, known as the “Judea Samaria Regional Development Financing Initiative” (RDFI) aims to integrate economic planning as well as to advance joint entrepreneurship between Israeli and Palestinian residents of the West Bank.
Leading the initiative is the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JSC), an organization founded on such a partnership by an Israeli, Avi Zimmerman, and a Palestinian, Ashraf Jabari.
“We are working on taking down borders, and both Israelis and Palestinians need to take part in this,” said Jabari, a businessman and community leader from Hebron. “We need to breach this wall. We must first create good links and good relationships not just in the West Bank but all over Israel so we can achieve our desired goal.”
Participants noted that such barriers and walls exist as a result of political realities on the ground which inter alia include the anti-normalization policies of the Palestinian Authority and mobility restrictions from Israel’s security policy in the West Bank. Through the RDFI, the JSC is attempting to help businesses in the West Bank break through or circumvent such obstacles. In its efforts to attain this goal, JSC has started a process to map out prospective partnerships and opportunities in various sectors in the West Bank.
“The JSC initiated – in partnership with US Israel Education Association (USIEA) – the Israeli Palestinian International Economic Forum that will promote business opportunities for all of the residents in the region,” said Zimmerman. “The process that we launch today begins with developing an inventory of projects in the fields of tech, industry, tourism, environment, energy and infrastructure.”
“In tandem with that process, we are building the financial tools to be able to develop investments that will go towards those projects with two separate models: one is a short-term standard investment fund with a focus on enterprise and the second is a long-term bond bank model with a focus on infrastructure investment,” Zimmerman explained.
The financial tools and models will help with finding the best ways in which both populations of the West Bank can open up doors and mutually take part in Israel’s continued economic development, he continued. “We are taking Israeli-Palestinian business-to-business relationships to the next level with a strategic view to the future of the region. We’re creating the frameworks necessary to incentivize business investment, which will serve both populations.”
The RDFI initiative was welcomed by Economy Minister Eli Cohen, who said: “The State of Israel is a country of innovation and technology. There is a term we use called, ‘Tikkun Olam,’ which means ‘repairing the world.’ We are trying to make the world a better place, and we use technology to make Israel a better place. I congratulate all those who took part in organizing this important meeting here. Its fruits will be reaped in the economy through joint action.”
USIEA and its executive director, Heather Johnston made it clear that they are motivated to ensure that many such fruits will be reaped. “In partnering with the JSC, we are doing what we can to help Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank seize upon existing opportunities to build a promising and sustainable economic future,” said Johnston.
USIEA has played a leading role in informing members of Congress and officials in the White House of JSC’s projects. The USIEA has also succeeded in forging relationships between US and Israeli officials as well as in bringing US congressional delegations to experience Israel and the West Bank firsthand. More recently, USIEA arranged for US Ambassador David Friedman to visit the West Bank and Palestinian and Israeli businesses in the region.
Friedman and former Israel ambassador to the US Michael Oren also spoke at the conference.
ANYONE PLANNING to spend the first half of June in New York should bear in mind that the annual Jerusalem Post Conference at the Marriott Hotel is taking place on Sunday, June 16. But before that, Ron Dermer, Israels American born-and-raised ambassador to the United States, will be the keynote speaker at CAMERA’s annual gala on Sunday, June 2 at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers in New York City.
Dermer’s tenure will probably come to an end soon after Israel’s Knesset elections, so this will be one of the last opportunities to hear him while he’s still in the US.