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Mik An Mor Designs.(Photo by: Courtesy)
Thinking bag
The highlight of December’s fashion week in Tel Aviv came from a lesser-known accessories label Mik An Mor.
At the tail end of 2012, as Tel Aviv’s fashionable elite flocked to the luxurious tents of Gindi Fashion Week, a host of designers geared up to put their best foot forward in what was an unprecedented event on the local calendar. Most of the visionaries invited to take part bore big names such as Dorin Frankfurt and Sasson Kedem. And while each fashion show thrilled in its own way, the highlight of December’s fashion week came from a lesser-known label, invited to spruce up David Sassoon’s chic display with some much-needed accessories.

The designers of the emerging leather label Mik An Mor were over the moon about the chance to take part in such a big event. Though their target audience is female, contributing to Sassoon’s metrosexual looks proved to be a worthwhile endeavor. For the most part, the contribution made by Shirel Inglese, Anat Dahari Ophir and Moran Agaki to Sassoon’s suits consisted of sturdy leather totes, inspiring trendy local gentlemen to think bag.

Working out of an airy storefront/work space on Shabazi Street in Neveh Tzedek, Mik An Mor blends tribal influences with urban lines. Agaki, Ophir and partner Miki Steinberg, who is currently on leave in Barcelona, founded the label in 2007. The three met as students at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. After Steinberg’s departure, Mik An Mor brought in Inglese, a first step in broadening their design family. Family is an important part of Mik An Mor’s business, as all three designers are married, and two are mothers of young children.

Mik An Mor functions as a kind of creative collective. Each designer is free to brainstorm, experiment and produce her own ideas. There are rare disputes about specific items, creating an overall sense of harmony.

“Working here is a lot like being in school, where everything is open. There is a strong sense of community here, which is what drew me to work with this label,” says Inglese.

“We would like to establish a type of fashion house here in Israel,” says Ophir, “one that would draw on the talents of a number of local designers.”

The women of Mik An Mor each hail from a different part of the world. Agaki was born and raised in Iran and immigrated to Israel with her family after the revolution. Steinberg’s family is part Native American and part Italian. Inglese was raised mostly in Italy. Ophir’s roots lie in Yemen, where her family thrived as leather craftsmen, a fact she uncovered during her studies at Bezalel.

“We are a microcosm of the diversity of this country,” says Ophir. “Our pieces aren’t something you would find in an archeological dig. Our aesthetic, which we call ‘updated tribal,’ draws from all of our pasts while remaining truly Israeli. And though we import our leathers from Italy, all the work on our pieces is done here in Israel.”

“We aim to reinvent tribal themes,” adds Agaki. “We don’t limit ourselves to one place or one tribe, for that matter, but we are certainly drawn to Eastern and African elements.”

Their bags include upgraded totes, clutches and a handful of impressive backpacks. Each design suits different needs and is produced as a limited edition.

Last season, Mik An Mor expanded its repertoire to include a line of jewelry. The pieces offer a dramatic edge to the label’s practical handbags, featuring dangling earrings and fringed leather necklaces woven together with delicate silver chains.

“The jewelry is like the little sister to the handbags. So far, the response has been very positive, I think because of the unusual combination of materials. When you think of jewelry, most people immediately think of metals,” says Inglese. “Leather jewelry is a kind of niche that we are developing.”

For Mik An Mor, the next step is to incorporate clothing into their daily activities.

“I’ve already started working on a line of leather vests,” says Agaki, pointing to a long rack of brown and gray leather pieces. “The fun thing about this work is that every day is different. Some days I come here and just cut strands of leather. Other days, I work on someone else’s designs,” says Ophir.

“Some of our best pieces have come out of the most banal days. Like this necklace,” says Agaki, holding up a large frayed neckpiece made of hundreds of small pieces of brown leather. “I came in and just cut these pieces for hours, and in the end it turned into something beautiful.”

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