Fashion statements

Religion and ethnicity are just two of the topics that will be discussed at the Cinematheque’s Movies, Fashion and Philosophy conference.

ruth dayan beduins 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ruth dayan beduins 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
According to Claudette Zorea, there is more to fashion than meets the eye – and she should know. Zorea is head of the fashion section of the Jewelry and Fashion Department of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. She is also one of the driving forces behind this week’s Movies, Fashion and Philosophy conference taking place at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
“There are lots of aspects to fashion,” says Zorea, “and we take a comprehensive approach to the field. That’s why we have three areas of specialization within the department: fashion, jewelry and accessories.”
The conference certainly aims to cover as many bases as possible. Over the three days – the event kicked off on Thursday – visitors to the Cinematheque will be able to enjoy a varied program, including exhibitions, a fashion show, presentations, documentary and non-documentary films, panel discussion, lectures and parties.
The conference, which is also sponsored by the Romain Gary French Cultural Center and the Goethe Institute, will play host to several topliners from abroad, including French fashion designer Maroussia Rebecq, Moroccan counterpart Amine Bendriouich and German fashion blogger and photographer Gunnar Hammerie. There will also be plenty of representatives of our own fashion community, at various panel discussions and lectures, including Zorea, jewelry and fashion department head Einat Leader, and other department personnel such as Josef Farkash and Prof. Vered Kaminski.
Zorea says she is aware that fashion and related areas can be taken at face value as something of little consequence, but she believes that the way we dress and style our own image not only says a lot about us as individuals but also reflects the society and cultures in which we live on various levels. “You can make do with just looking at the aesthetics,” or, indeed, at some of the off-the-wall stuff regularly paraded on the catwalks of Paris, London, New York and Milan. “Yes, fashion is a very complex field,” Zorea continues. “It can be very dramatic. It addresses the identity of the individual and, naturally, of society – and that also includes religion, politics and everything a society comprises. You ‘read’ the clothes, the subtext of what a person is wearing, and that gives you a lot of information.”
We seemed to be moving into the realm of the cerebral here which, possibly, is not an area that is consciously addressed by the ordinary man and woman on the street. “As I said, it’s an intricate issue,” says Zorea. “It’s a theoretical, intellectual, semiotic approach to the clothes, but I would not get too deeply into that because, at the end of the day, designers and clothes makers engage in images, and they are not people of words.”
However, words will naturally be expended in abundance during the conference. “There is this two-way experience of the visual non-seriousness and the euphoric craziness offered by the world of fashion and the full awareness of what all this means and implicates on a deeper level. We normally look into all those fragments and aspects, and this brings people together from all sorts of fields. That generates fascinating discussion and interaction, and that’s why we’re having the conference,” she says.
One fascinating aspect of fashion that may not always be deemed to be headline stuff is the subtleties of aesthetics among religious communities. “The veil, for example, has become a fashion item and a means of individual expression, too,” notes Leader. “You get all sorts of variations of size, color and texture of veils worn by Muslim women, for instance. And the same women may also wear all kinds of clothes with the veil that may be entirely Western and very modern. So there is room for expression in those areas as well.”
The conference program looks into numerous aspects of the world of fashion, some of which may take the casual clothes consumer by surprise. On Friday at noon, for example, Leader, Farkash, Bendriouich and Palestinian costume designer Hamada Atallah take part in a panel discussion entitled “Fashion and Religion.” The session looks at the nature of the relationship between the two spheres. 
Ethnic elements also come into the fray: “With immigration and colonization, clothing figured into the power imbalance between people of different religious backgrounds as a means of showing group identity,” reads the event brochure.
Leader believes it works both ways. “It’s interesting that in thispost-modern age, when there is so much emphasis on individualism, thatmaybe secular people are also looking for something that unites theminto a group. And they can do that through external signs and symbolsand through their appearance and the way they dress.”
Some of that will come through loud and clear in tandem with theFashion and Religion slot in a screening of the Israeli episode of theTous les habits du monde (Fashion and People)television series produced by the French ARTE television company. Theconference brochure describes the message the audience will get fromthe screening as “Show me what you wear, and I will tell you who youare.”
During the conference, an award will be presented to 93-year-old RuthDayan, ex-wife of late defense minister Moshe Dayan. A woman who hasdevoted many years to the field of women’s empowerment, Dayan runsMaskit, a fashion house that nurtures the talents of underprivilegedwomen and returns earnings directly to the women who work in it. Dayanis also the founder of the Jewish-Arab social group Brit Bnei Shem(Ibnaa Sam) and has worked on behalf of new immigrants, Beduin and forvarious women’s causes. A documentary about Maskit will also be shownat the conference.
For further information and tickets, call 565-4333 or go to