To everything — even your colors — there is a season


Spending five hours discussing your clothing, colors and style preferences may seem like a nightmare to some. But it’s all in a day’s work for Wendy Lehmann, a veteran professional image consultant from England who lends her passion for fashion to remaking your look in Israel. And while Pesach cleaning doesn’t usually mean editing your wardrobe, it’s as good a time as any to eliminate what doesn’t serve you. (Or at least contemplate it.)

Lehmann is the official representative of the United Kingdom’s leading image analysis company, the House of Colour, which recently opened its first branch in the Holy Land. Over the good part of a day, she shows clients how to create a personal brand. A recent immigrant from London to the Merkaz, in the central region of Israel, Lehmann caters to everyday individuals and groups as well as fashionistas, designers, celebs and public figures. Her clients are both men and women. 

Getting your “colors done” has never been a big business in Israel — until now. With infectious enthusiasm and flair, Lehmann runs the Israel branch of House of Colour as a one-woman operation from a new studio in B’nai Tzion, near Kfar Saba. For Lehmann, it’s a given that the color and style of what you wear can boost a mood, enhance natural looks and lend confidence to your style at work, home or play.

Her timing couldn’t be better. The country’s burgeoning fashion industry, which produces about $1 billion a year in exports, has won rave reviews. It generated significant media buzz over the first Tel Aviv Fashion Week in 25 years, held this past November. Representatives of leading fashion magazines from the United States and Europe, including Vogue, were in attendance. The guest of honor was designer Roberto Cavalli. He wasn’t the only name gaining recognition. Dodo Bar Or, Israel Ohayon, Tamar Primark and Mira Zwillinger were among the Israeli designers garnering media attention. 

All that was good news for Lehmann. And me. This past summer in Israel, I broke my leg in a hiking accident and ended up spending months recuperating. When I learned about the House of Colour’s new Israel’s operations, Lehmann and I were both game to guinea pig me and update my wardrobe beyond the trifecta I was eager to leave behind: wheelchair, crutches and cane. To delve into this British system, Lehmann suggested I bring along from Jerusalem a couple of pieces that I love and a few that I dislike. One more cardinal rule: no makeup.  

Once Lehmann positioned me in Israel’s House of Colour HQ, in front of a mirror in natural daylight, she instructed me to pull back my long hair and draped me in a white apron. I felt about as attractive as Lucy and Ethel when they bungled the chocolate assembly line. But instead of snatching up pralines, Lehmann armed herself with swatches of fabric in a wealth of colors. In seconds, she showed me how they seem to affect my naked complexion, lifting my appearance or draining it, making my eyes seem brighter or duller. The first step, which is the same for everyone, was to determine if my undertones were yellow or blue. It soon became apparent that Lehmann, whose undertones are yellow and who classifies herself as an “autumn,” knew exactly what she was doing. Her conclusion? Out of the four seasons, my undertones are blue. I am a “winter,” confirming a similar analysis I had done years prior in California. 

The House of Colour system, however, includes not only a prescription of the colors one should wear, but why and how. With that in mind, Lehmann then examined a wide spectrum, holding approximately 30 swatches next to my punim. Recording her findings in a chart I would take home, she ranked each color within my season, giving me easy-to-follow guidelines. “Wow” colors that work great from head to toe rank 100 percent. Those that lend themselves well to dresses and coats 75 percent. The best colors for tops are designated 50 percent and those for accessories 25 percent. My all-time best colors are rich, dark jewel tones: such as bordeaux, plum, deep green and navy, but I can also rock hot pink, every shade of gray, true white and barely-there icy pastels in pink, mint and faint blue. Relying on the top picks in my season could create what Lehmann calls a “capsule wardrobe” of minimal pieces in which every item works with every other. She also convinced me I could carry unusual colors I would have previously never considered for anything beyond a T-shirt, including a brilliant kelly green. Sold! 

Despite the popular opinion that everyone can wear black, in the House of Colour everyone actually cannot. Only winters can. And although we can all get away with more when we are young and dewy, it’s easy to see that over time, and for every season, black washes out complexions and makes the other seasons look too formal or stern. That’s one reason why Lehmann says she wishes she could make over Israel’s Charedi population. But there is good news, too. As Lehmann says, “The one color everyone can wear is true red.” 

In both individual and group sessions, Lehmann also offers personal style analysis, often in the company of other clients, in what becomes a riotously fun experiment in what looks wrong and what looks right. Group sessions are “demand led.” And Lehmann, who can easily entertain an audience, is clearly of the “more, the merrier” philosophy. 

As I did, each House of Colour client departs with plenty of tips for successful shopping and a style booklet, fashion guide and wallet full of color swatches to demystify the process when shopping. Makeup, scarves and other items are available online and from a handful of consultants working in the United States at houseofcolour.co.uk. The company also provides expert complimentary guides such as an electronic “what to wear” guide for every occasion. 

In addition to my colors, Lehmann made suggestions for my style of clothes, taking a look at my facial features, general proportions and preferences culled from a series of questions listed in the massive binder she referred to throughout the instructional part of our session. In the end, she deemed me a “natural romantic,” combining my love of natural fabrics and down-to-earth styles with my affinity for very feminine looks. She suggested I think of natural as the cap on my romantic pen, adding that I might best avoid sharp angles, on a jacket lapel, say, for unstructured softer edges instead. 

In the weeks since, I’ve turned to my House of Colour wallet of color swatches while shopping and experimented with Lehmann’s advice to edit my wardrobe. Besides drawing interest from fellow shoppers and shopkeepers, her tips have earned me heaps of positive feedback from the new combinations I’ve created from my wardrobe as well as the successful, though sometimes painful, letting go of things that just aren’t right. It’s a bit like letting chocolates pass you by on a conveyor belt. Sometimes the best answer is “No.” 

Five hours never passed so quickly.


When you go: 
Prices range from $130 for color analysis to $190 for personal style, with discounts for packages and groups. Discounts are available if people book both style and color consultation, and if they reserve as a group of three or more participants. Lehmann also offers personal shopping and wardrobe edits. For more information, call 011-972 (54) 427-2809 — within Israel, dial (054) 427-2809 — or e-mail wendy.lehmann@houseofcolour.com.

Image and Reality in L.A.


Critics say Los Angeles is all image. The city, they claim, presents an illusion to the world much like the movies Hollywood projects on its big screens. The myth goes that it’s a city of facades, with the favored tools are the editor’s airbrush or the plastic surgeon’s scalpel. There are no friendships here, only contacts and connections, they say.

After five years on “extended vacation” in Southern California, I have found these statements far more superficial than the city they decry. As a permanent resident of the tormented Middle East, my time here has left me in awe of the wide variety of religions, colors, languages and life philosophies that intermingle in Los Angeles. To be a minority is to be in the majority in Los Angeles, and despite its fragmented sprawl, coexistence is real, with each community adding to the flavor of the city.

That is not to say, however, there aren’t absurd aspects about life in Los Angeles. There is, for example, the infatuation with cars and the impossibly tangled web of freeways. When we bump into people, it is likely in the most literal sense — a fender bender on the 405.

It is little wonder that I learned one of Los Angeles’ more important lessons with the help of my car. Traveling alone on the 10 Freeway opened my eyes to the multitude of faces, languages, cuisines and cultures that run into each other here. Starting in Venice, stereotypical images of Los Angeles abound — from beach bums soaking in the sun to fitness fanatics pumping iron at Muscle Beach. Moving east, the Jewish neighborhood of the Pico corridor became a second home for me. On my way downtown, I stopped in Koreatown, historic Adams and eventually East Los Angeles, making friends in each community: each group diverse, each group proud, each group American.

I traveled this freeway and others often during my tenure here, visiting a variety of communities along the way. What I have learned here has given me a “Thomas Guide” of sorts to maneuver and navigate through our differences to arrive ultimately at our similarities.

Dorothy Parker once described Los Angeles as “72 suburbs in search of a city,” but I sometimes wonder how badly they really want to find it. The communities I passed on my drive down the 10 didn’t seem to be looking for it; they already appeared to be perfectly at home and at peace as Angelenos. On July 4, for instance, people from all over this city simply don’t appear interested to gather en masse at some civic center, but prefer neighborhood parades, local fireworks displays and backyard barbeques.

Despite this geographic disconnection, the people of Los Angeles are nonetheless remarkably united. They share the same debates about Kobe vs. Shaq, the same frustrations with the traffic, the same concerns about schools and public safety, the same appreciation for the amazing beauty and vibrant cultural life that Los Angeles has to offer. Most importantly, the diverse population of this city shares a truly laudable spirit of respect and tolerance for “the other.” There have been, of course, many tough times. However, friendships and relationships that transcend ethnicity and religion are the norm here. By and large, people relate to each other as individuals — not as groups, not as categories, not as stereotypes. As coming from the Middle East, where ethnic divisions have paralyzed us, I am in awe of the positive cross-cultural interaction between the people of Los Angeles.

It is easy to see the problems from the inside — social and economic inequality, tensions that sometimes bubble to the surface, the challenge of educating 750,000 children who collectively speak more than 80 languages. It would be easy to focus on the chaotic events that have marked my time here: the energy crisis, wildfires, earthquakes and the recall election.

Yet, for an outsider, Los Angeles is something of a miracle. At the end of the day, you see millions of people from every background imaginable living side by side, working together and forging a future under the bright California sun. In today’s world, where terrorism, prejudice and hatred widen the already existing gaps between peoples, this is an inspiration. As I return to my own homeland, I carry with me the hope and promise that Los Angeles offers to the future — a fitting going-away present from the city of dreams.


Ambassador Yuval Rotem served as consul general of Israel in Los Angeles from September 1999 to August 2004.

Yiddishkayt for Yiddle Ones


Hey parents… Uneasy about plopping your toddlers on the
sofa to watch a puffy purple dinosaur? Think they need more Jewish culture?

The founders of “OyBaby” say it’s never too early to start
teaching your kids — 6 months and up — about Yiddishkayt.

The “OyBaby” DVD/VHS and accompanying CD educates the babes
in basics like the Hebrew alphabet, colors and numbers, with a backdrop of
colorful music. The collection features Jewish classics like “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem,”
and “David Melech Yisrael” sung by vocalists Stephanie and Lisa Schneiderman
and Kim Palumbis. Loaded with Jewish rituals, the visual “OyBaby” has scenes of
a woman lighting Shabbat candles with a baby girl dutifully mimicking the act
of covering her eyes, and a recitation of “Hamotzi,” with the toddlers munching
on challah.

Just in time for Chanukah, the lovely trio sing the “Maoz Tzur”
with candles being lit and dreidel playing in the background.

“Growing up, our parents taught us to celebrate our Judaism,
and music was always a central part of that experience,” said Lisi Wolf, one of
the founders. “Now, as parents, we hope to do the same for our son. ‘OyBaby’
will be one of the first steps in his Jewish discovery, and we wish the same
for other Jewish babies around the world.”

For more information, visit

Be Your Own Interior Designer


The most important thing to remember in decorating your home is editing. (The same is true of organizing schedules and handbags). Decorating is not about acquisitions but rather about fine-tuning what we have, ruthlessly. Clutter is just that, and a nuisance to tidy and dust. Needless to say, the one design category where accumulating may be acceptable is when you live in an old farmhouse in Wales and you are unaffectedly doing “Sweet Disorder.”

Things

All you really need for great home design are a few great pieces. The selection of these pieces may vary. Look for a great painting or photographs, an amazing old piano, a serious piece of furniture or chandelier. You still must take care to mix these with some other pieces, but the overall viewpoint will be distinguished by the more designed items.

Colors

The best color that I have found for walls is named “Linen” on many paint lines. Use an off-white color to contrast slightly on the trim work and doors. If you want to go bolder, consider doing one wall in Rothko Orange or Georgian Rust and the other walls in a warm but neutral coffee shade. This way, the overall look is not overwhelming. Several paint lines are now offering small, reasonably priced “tester pots” that allow you to try the paint on the wall for color and quality.

Floors

When you are purchasing a few great pieces, do not forget to buy several area carpets in wool or silk. Traditional patterns with dark ground colors are the best, as they wear well, do not look dated and do not need a lot of cleaning. Wood floors are then the main flooring. Sisal or coir matting is also good as area carpets, and it can be replaced when needed.

Style

It is best to not cultivate nor indulge in any specific style. Waking up in a lime green bungalow or the mall’s version of French Country is just not okay. Well-designed pieces that you appreciate will naturally sit well together.

Experiment

Do not forget the shmatte! When you go to a fabric shop or showroom, take swatches of the fabrics that you like. Then, ask good questions about the pieces that you have chosen, to be sure that the fabrics will be suitable for specific rooms. For example: Is the fabric durable enough to upholster a sofa that is used by children and dogs when lounging? Will the fabric fade in a sunny window if I purchase it for drapery? What is inter-lining? I am looking for fabric to recover my dining room chairs. Do you have a fabric that is Shabbat-friendly; i.e. crowd and stain resistant? More to the point, fabric that is Uncle Manny-proof?

Theme

Just a quick note about children’s rooms: avoid an abundance of novelty and storybook prints that have a theme in mind. Avoid themes altogether.

Being a designer, I naturally want to style everything, and I confess to being overly concerned about my domain. Perhaps my daughter, like all children, will rebel against her mother’s sense of aesthetic control. I tease myself with the thought of her someday living in one room with naugahide seat cushions and plastic mini-blinds. She will be under-styled, unfussed, and, no doubt, altogether happy. And that’s the point: the real secret to designing is to help yourself feel at home.

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