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EYE CANDY: Israel Fashion Diary

Having just spent ten of the most transformative days of my life in one of the youngest and most culturally complex countries in the world, I opted to extend my birthright trip to Israel by another five days. As a fashion student, it seemed only natural that I chose to participate in Israel Outdoors’ Fashionating Israel program, where I learned that the country is host to a range of activities within the fashion industry that weave tradition and modernity into a harmonious tapestry.

My desire to contextualize Israeli fashion from an academic context was satiated almost immediately by our visit to the archives at Tel Aviv’s Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art. We explored the history of Israeli fashion through its traditional fabrics and styles, discussing everything from Bedouin embroidery techniques to the crucial versatility of denim and lightweight cargos, linens and bucket hats.

The two key takeaways of quintessential Israeli style were sandals and simplicity. Both of these concepts stemmed from the traditional aesthetics that we explored further through a visit to the college’s weaving room, where students learned to craft original fabrics for their creations on a loom.

When we left the city for the Negev to participate in a dance workshop, the instructors from a local Israeli dance troupe performed a piece inspired by the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factories near Dhaka, India. The plaza’s labor supplied merchandise for well-known labels such as H&M and Primark, sparking global outrage surrounding human rights violations committed by the fashion industry.

After discussing the ethical pitfalls of the fashion with a critical eye, we were introduced to Coco: Israeli’s first sustainable fashion collective. The company’s two female founders,Tsafra Perlmutter and Dalia Kapuza, created a unique business model which crowdsources designs from students and professionals alike, giving everyone a fair shot at pitching their ideas. Consumers vote on which products should be produced, helping to eliminate the excess production and wasted fabric that ravages the contemporary fast-fashion industry.

The next time we saw the sands of the deep desert we were led to the Bedouin tents in Lakia, where we received a course in traditional Bedouin embroidery from the leaders of The Association for the Improvement of Women’s Status. By teaching young Bedouin women these embroidery techniques and giving them a platform to sell their work, the association provides women with personal income as well as the education that they are typically denied. Through these endeavors the association gives Bedouin women them the ability to manage their own finances, use public transport, and live a life independent of their families.

In a gorgeous ancient port city just south of Tel Aviv called Jaffa, we paid a visit to Israel’s only Haute Couture fashion house, Maskit. Known for their iconic Desert Coat, the brand is home to an unconventional history that we learned about while getting an eyeful of the delicate embroidery and fine fabrics of the atelier.

While Maskit’s glamour was effortlessly impressive, the golden moment of the trip gleamed at me from the Yemenite Jewelry Workshop and Museum which we visited shortly after. We were treated to traditional Yemeni coffee as we perused the historic tools used to create the elaborate bracelets, rings, and accessories which were worn to transport as well as showcase one’s wealth. The intricately shaped gold filigree gleamed like none other in the world, and much of the jewelry was inlet with the precious Eilat stones native to Israel; I lost myself in the sweeping spirals and delicate indentations of the work.

Our final day was filled with fascinating seminars. The first was led by Maayan Keret, an Israeli model who has graced the pages of ELLE, Vogue, and Harpers Bazaar before abandoning the industry to form her own company in response to its wasteful practices and ethical injustices. Her company, Changing Model, aims to promote positive body image for women through lectures and workshops. In doing so, she gives the young women in Fashionating Israel the opportunity to discuss the sizeism, ageism, and racism perpetuated by the fashion industry.

A much lighter social media workshop was followed by a free-for-all photoshoot on the beach. Testing our improved Instagram skills while basking in our final Israeli sunset proved to be the perfect way to unwind from a week of adventure.

On our final day we were treated to a parting brunch with a view of the Israeli coast. Throughout just five days we had acknowledged a past steeped in as much travesty as history, and looked towards a future of action and responsibility; we had seen all the colors of Israel spooled out across the bustling city streets and the tranquil desert sands, and it was beautiful.

 

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