Jewish Journal


February 20, 2013

An Israeli flair for fashion


Fashion designs by Ronen Chen

Fashion designs by Ronen Chen

With a staggering array of fashions from everyone and everywhere to choose from, why should American women buy clothes made by Israeli designers?

To support the Jewish state, sure. But more likely for the quality, the flattering fit, the colors, the size range and the reasonable prices, say several of those who work in the business.

One is Tali Kogan, whose downtown Chicago showroom, Tel Aviv Couture, features fashions and accessories by a wide range of Israeli designers.

Kogan is an Israeli native who originally worked in real estate after moving to Chicago but switched careers after a designer friend suggested that she offer fashion-conscious Chicago women something they hadn’t been exposed to much before — Israeli fashions. 

The business took off quickly, and now Kogan visits Israel every few months to identify new designers for the trunk shows, fashion shows and shopping events she produces. She also sells online at Telavivcouture.com.

Several attributes make Israeli designs different, she said. “The country is very warm, and a lot of the clothes are very body-conscious, yet very comfortable. The styles are a little bit more drapey and the fabrics are very soft, and because of that, they can complement many different body shapes. You don’t have to be a supermodel to wear them,” she said.

Many of the designers she features are graduates of the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design, a famed institution based in Ramat Gan. “The education they get there is extraordinary, and the beauty of Israel inspires these amazing young kids to create unique designs,” Kogan said. “My clients go crazy over these designs,” she said, adding that more than half are neither Israeli nor Jewish. “They just love this stuff.”

One reason: The clothing is versatile. “As a modern working woman, I understand that clothing has to work for so many different life needs and be easy to travel with,” she said.

In California, meanwhile, Ruti Zisser sells fashions from her native land out of three Ruti Boutiques — in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Santa Monica — and plans to open two more this year, said sales associate Darcy Fowkes.

Zisser, who scouts designers in Israel, “looks for a specific look,” Fowkes said. “Her look is clean lines, and comfort is one of her primary goals, both in fit and fabric.”

Clients also look for quality, she said, and find it in Israeli clothes. “The fabric is of higher quality than you can find in most department stores” because most of the material comes from Japan and Italy instead of cheaper wares from China, Fowkes said.

“There are higher-quality colors, too. Israelis have a way with color,” she said, citing a popular T-shirt “of the richest brown, a deep gorgeous color with a little mahogany. Customers who bought that shirt seven years ago will come back for another one. The colors are so contemporary, with an earthy feel.”

Fowkes also cited the wide range of sizes Israeli designers use, “zero all the way up to 24. (Zisser’s) ability to service the population is amazing,” she said.

What customers really come for, though, Fowkes said, is the unusual quality of work done by Israeli designers. “They do a good job of combining fabrics in a way that is artistic that you don’t usually see” with designers from other countries, she said. “It’s reaching deeper into that concept and doing it very successfully.”

One of the Jewish state’s best-known designers is Ronen Chen, who, since the 1990s, has been selling fashions to women throughout Israel and Europe but is still relatively new to the United States. In this country, he sells through an e-commerce site, RonenChen.com.

May Sofi of Stylehouse PR, which represents Chen in the United States, said he seeks to enhance his profile here, and it seems to be working. American women like the versatility and draping of his fashions, she said.

Chen recently released his spring/summer 2013 collection, which includes four thematic groups: Metropolis for spring, consisting of clothes that feature art-deco and geometric lines; Savannah for early summer, described as giving “a nod to African grasslands (and bringing) together elements of both the forest and desert”; Ocean Blue group for summer, with light fabrics in Chen’s signature asymmetrical draping in various shades of blue evoking sea and sky; and Time Out for late summer, “dreamy getaway wear” that looks airy and fresh for the hottest days of the year.

Chen “is known for the fit of his clothing,” Sofi said. “Every woman says it’s like he came into her closet and fitted the clothes just for her. It’s all about draping, celebrating the female form by making clothing that is comfortable and flattering without being too revealing.”

Spring and summer designs are colorful, Sofi said; Chen’s fall collections feature rich, dark browns and navy blues in keeping with the season.

“But his signature thing is the draping and the fit,” Sofi said. “He does a lot of asymmetrical designs inspired by geography and architecture. That’s what got him into fashion design in the first place.”

So, now, when you see those knockout Israeli women prancing down the street in their flowing, flattering outfits, you’ll know where you can get some, too. 

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