Fashion & Beauty: Highlighting the hottest local Israeli designers


Some of the top names in fashion today are Jewish: Donna Karan, Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors. And that’s just the Ks on what is a long list of designers who have shaped the American fashion industry since its beginnings in the textile factories of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other urban centers. Jewish immigrants started out as tailors and factory workers and parlayed their skills into opportunities to climb the social ladder. “Jewish immigrants had another advantage — a talent for reinventing themselves and a sensitivity to image,” wrote Johanna Neuman in a brief history of Jews in fashion, “From Ghetto to Glamour.”

In this issue, we take a look at a new breed of Jewish immigrants — Israelis — who are making their mark on American fashion. From Gypsy05’s flowing, eco-conscious line of casual wear to Tal Sheyn’s high glamour evening gowns, and from YMI’s figure-hugging jeans for young women to Dina Bar-El’s luxurious dresses, these four SoCal designers are continuing the legacy of Jews who have translated their own personal aesthetics and passionate self-expression into fashion we can all appreciate and enjoy.

Israeli designers works on display in Milan


An exhibition showcasing the work of 45 Israeli designers will be featured at the International Furniture Salon trade fair in Milan.

Called “Promisedesign 2011—New Design from Israel,” the exhibition, which runs through April 17, features more than 65 innovative design projects ranging from furniture to light fixtures to technological products to automobile parts.

Curators Vanni Pasca and Ely Rozenberg said the aim was to “present the multiple faces of design in Israel,” a reality they said had been dubbed “the best-kept secret in the world of design.”

After Milan, the exhibit will be shown in other European countries, including France. The curators said its display in June will mark the first time an Israeli design exhibit is shown in Paris.

Get ready to sing . . . Hatikvah!


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May Days!

There are a lot of holidays this month, and your school or synagogue probably has special activities for them. We’ve listed them below … but we’ve taken out the vowels. See if you can fill in the blanks and then match the holiday to the date we celebrate it on. Scroll down and see if you have the right answers.

1) L_G b’_M_R
2) M_M_R__L D_Y
3) M_TH_R’S D_Y
4) R_SH CH_D_SH _Y_R
5) Y_M H_SH__H
a) May 1
b) May 5
c) May 11
d) May 23
e) May 26

A Time to Celebrate

Israel turns 60 on May 14. Which, of course, means it is party time! On May 18, Los Angeles is having an all-day bash in the park. From 10 a.m.-10 p.m. at Woodley Park (between Burbank and Victory boulevards) in Encino, hear music, watch a fashion show, enjoy tons of food, play games, enjoy rides, buy Israeli products and wish the Jewish state a happy birthday.

The Jewish Journal will be there with our friend, Anne Marie Balia Asner, author of the Matzah Ball Books series, including “Shmutzy Girl” and “Noshy Boy.” Anne Marie will be signing her latest book, “Klutzy Boy,” so be sure to stop by our Readers Lounge and take a break from the heat. Yom Hooledet Sameach Yisrael!

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Recycling on the fashion runway


Ever since the nonprofit organization Earth Pledge teamed up with Barney’s in 2005 during New York’s renowned fashion week to demonstrate that sustainable fashion and style can coexist, eco-fashion activists have been quipping that “green is the new black.” Almost overnight, environmentally conscious designs shed their reputation of looking like burlap sacks made for hippies and were transformed into stylish, chic and fashionable clothes.

On the New York runway, Richie Rich’s striking yellow-and-pink skirt, made out of corn fiber, was topped off with a flashy silver bustier made from recycled polyester. And Linda Loudermilk’s luxury eco line has an express goal of giving eco-glamour “a fabulous look and a slammin’ attitude that stops traffic and shouts the message: Eco can be edgy, loud, fun, playful, feminine (or not) and hyper-cool.”

Levi’s recently released a line of “green” jeans made from 100 percent organic cotton and fashion icons such as Oscar de la Renta and Proenza Schouler hail the use of sustainable materials. Even celebrities are taking part in the growing global trend; Bono launched a new line of eco-fashion titled “Edun.”

New, organic raw materials that are both sustainable and grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or insecticides are more widely available too. Far beyond just organic cotton and hemp, contemporary eco-fashion designers can now choose between bamboo, soy and corn fibers, cottagora, eco-fleece, organic wool, linen, silk, tencel and ecospun — to name just a few. Eco-friendly, low-impact dyes and responsible manufacturing processes (employing people in good working conditions with fair wages close to home) are also part of the “reuse, recycle and renew” philosophy that define eco-fashion, according to the Sustainable Technology Education Project (STEP).

The widespread international movement has not escaped fashion designers in Israel, more and more of who are starting to incorporate eco-friendly principles into their own creative, unique styles.

But there have been bumps in the road. Organic fabrics are almost impossible to find in Israel and have to be imported at great expense. But for some young Israeli designers, this is an opportunity rather than a detriment. Instead of bringing in costly fabrics from abroad, they look for ways to use inexpensive materials that already exist at home.

For Irit Vilensky, the fabric of choice is plastic. By recycling the ubiquitous plastic bags that litter Israeli beaches and parks, she makes an uber-chic, colorful line of accessories called: Satik.

“I wanted to create something beautiful out of what everyone already has at home, so I decided to make things out of plastic bags,” she said.

Each one-of-a-kind bracelet, wallet and purse is handmade, and Vilensky says that the concept of using noxious non-biodegradable plastic bags, already banned in many countries due to their widespread damage to the environment, serves two purposes: to reuse waste and to rid the world’s landfills of a few more plastic bags.

Elanit Neutra was heavily influenced by environmental concerns in Toronto, where she studied film production. Two years ago she began using the inner tubes of black rubber tires to make her stylish, soft leather-like accessories.

“I have always been a collector, taking things from the street to make new things, and when I saw the tires, I decided to try and make something nice from the raw material,” she said.

Although the process of finding material and cleaning the rubber is long and difficult, Neutra said part of what makes her work original is that she maintains the texture and any imperfections.

“Each piece is handmade, and I spend a lot of time looking for the right composition and shaping the rubber into something elegant,” Neutra said.

Gili Ben-Ami makes brightly colored necklaces by stringing together car fuses, and Ayala Froindlich recycles comic books, inflatable pool floats and even encyclopedias to make her eco-friendly handbags. Artist Ossi Yalon paints new scenes on vintage clothing in order to refurbish the old.

“Today’s society, especially women, is obsessed with buying new clothing all the time and throwing everything away,” she said. “I am trying to point out that the same therapeutic endeavor can be accomplished by recycling the old and rejuvenating it.”

Recycled plastic bottles filled with colored water are crushed into funky toothbrush holders, mugs and vases in Doron Sar-Shalom’s designs for the home, and Zohar Yarom puts leftover sofa fabric samples to good use in her unique handbags.

“Each bag is reversible and designed to last for many years,” she said. “Part of the unique thinking in Israel requires reinventing ourselves and using what we have available, because importing is not as good for the environment, and materials from abroad are more expensive.”

Despite the greater challenges that pro-environmentalists face in Israel, such as the Israeli government’s lackadaisical interest in efforts to be more environmentally friendly in the fashion industry, some stores are still finding ways to create eco-fashion.

Cotton is an eco-friendly clothing chain in Israel founded in 1992 that now has 12 branches across the country. It is owned by fashion designer Galit Broyde and her husband Erez Moded, and Broyde designs all of Cotton’s stylish and comfortable clothing out of organic materials that are easy to clean and durable. The company adheres to environmentally friendly local production, sells reusable shopping bags, and tries to promote education in Israel.

“For us, green fashion is not a trend; it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that we always did at home, but we started to do more in Cotton in recent years,” Broyde said. “We do everything we can, but no one is ever 100 percent green. For that, we’d all have to go back to caves.”

According to Nirit Sternberg, the owner of Le’ela, a design store that sells exclusively Israeli creations, the number of designers exhibiting eco-friendly work in the store has seen a tremendous increase in recent years — so much so that she was able to put on an eco-design exhibit with more than 35 creators this February. Nevertheless, she points out that it’s still not as popular in Israel as one might expect: “Eco-fashion is still just beginning here. The awareness is not there yet.”

British immigrant and organic baby clothing designer Sohpie O’Hana agrees. She started her own line, called Tinok Yarok (green baby), about a year ago, after searching futilely in Israel for eco-friendly baby clothing.

Floating fashions are totally tubular


Forget cotton, Lycra and leather. Israeli balloon twister Ori Livney has a new material that could put a real bounce in your gown: rubber.

“The air is the expensive part,” says Ori Livney, grinning from behind a pile of colorful rubber balloons. “But it’s not as complicated as it sounds. I can make just about any regular dress out of balloons. The challenge is to make it a perfect custom fit.”

Two years ago, after a six-month internship at Balloon Utopia in San Diego, Livney created his first balloon fashion dress for the annual Millennium Jam Balloon Convention in Belgium. Since then, his repertoire of stylish balloon dresses has greatly improved.

Last year Livney created a theme dress using the colors of the Israeli flag at a fashion event in Beijing. He was even able to twist in a row of small Stars of David that were suspended from the bottom half of the balloon skirt with un-inflated balloons, weighting the dress’ bottom edge with water-filled balloons to add that extra spring.

In order to make sure the dress fits perfectly, Livney first measures the model and then builds the dress on a mannequin, inflating the balloons one at a time with a digital machine that allows him to control the size and length of each balloon with great precision.

Livney says the possibilities for balloon dresses are endless. If it’s to make a big splash at an event, it could be flattering and elegant. If it’s for a costume party, Livney says he can interweave fantastic creatures into the dress itself. As an example, he points to a picture of a fiery red balloon dress called ‘The Dragon Within’ that has a golden dragon head and tail woven into the background of the dress. The wild-looking dragon completely encircles the red dress, its ferocious head resting on the model’s shoulder like a favorite pet snake.

“Wearing a balloon dress certainly makes a statement. When you walk into a room dressed entirely in balloons, people take a second look. It says a lot to wear such an unusual outfit.” At a recent fashion event, Livney created a stunning white balloon dress with a delicate silver inlay fit for a bride.

“That specific dress was sexy and tight, which makes it very flattering on the body,” Livney said.

But if you’re thinking of a custom-fit balloon dress for your next bat mitzvah, prom or wedding, there is one more caveat. Although twisting long balloons into simple shapes can be done very quickly, Livney says it takes hours to make a dress — especially if it involves complicated patterns — and the air has to be fresh. Of course, there is always the danger of the balloons popping, too, although Livney says the dresses, if fitted properly, are extremely robust.

“You can sit down, but make sure it’s on a soft cushion and not on a cactus.” Non-smoking events are definitely safer.

“I’m available for private events anywhere in the world,” Livney adds with another big smile. “My air is in great shape.”

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