The hot ticket in town last week was the local debut of Israel’s burgeoning fashion industry at Downtown L.A. Fashion Week.
Nearly 900 guests — many of them local Israelis — jammed into The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Little Tokyo on Oct. 14 to catch a glimpse of some top Israeli designers’ spring 2010 collections, courtesy of the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. The overflow crowd far exceeded expectations, according to a consulate representative.
Dubbed Mode Israel L.A., this was a two-tiered effort by the consulate to promote the “beautiful face of Israel,” in the words of Consul General Jacob Dayan, and to help Israeli designers break into the American market, advancing the country’s “Wear Israel” campaign.
Eight designers participated: Bracha Bar-On is a 21-year veteran of the industry who recently launched a fashion and accessories label, SquareOne. Street-wear designer Sugar Daddy and former model-turned-designer Bet-ka, both stepped onto the Israeli fashion scene about three years ago. Kedem Sasson is Israel’s leading high-end plus-size designer. Shai Shalom, a well-known private-label designer, whose Tel Aviv studio sells all handmade, special-order items, has created fashions for TV shows, theater and cultural events in Israel. Keren Naftali trained in Paris and interned with Issey Miyake. Yosef Peretz was named the best young Israeli fashion designer in 2002. And Alembika is a fashion house that strives to be “a home where women feel their wishes and concerns have been listened to.”
A handful of Israeli accessory designers also took part in Fashion Week at a separate jewelry exposition at The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills on Oct. 15. Many of their pieces were on display at MOCA in glass cases and worn by the models during the show.
A monochromatic palette of blacks, grays and whites dominated, with leggings and sheer fabrics a popular staple of several lines.
Sasson’s richly textured oversized coats and dresses hung in slouchy folds over the models’ lanky bodies; Bar-On’s casual collection was characterized by simple, clean lines and layers of light fabrics; the urban style of Sugar Daddy included frayed edges, layers, prints, metal-studded leggings and racer-back tops; Naftali displayed elegant soft-folding fabrics in creams and beiges, as well as shimmering splashes of bronze and gold; Alembika’s comfy line of long jersey dresses in black-and-white stripes and loose, flowing tops and bottoms embodied the designers’ philosophy of ease and simplicity; Bet-ka combined unusual textures and experimented with structure; Yosef’s evening wear collection was sexy with soft ruffles, sheer fabrics, metallics and velvets and Shalom, the only designer to include menswear in his spring line, showcased sleek European-style suits and one minimalist black undergarment, as well as, for the women, short, pleated dresses with puffy sleeves and sequined floral short-shorts paired with an asymmetrical one-sleeved sheer blouse.
Only three of the eight Israeli designers came to the event — among them Bet-ka (former model Betty Eldad’s nickname). She said she’d had less than three months to prepare for the show and decided to experiment with denim for the first time. One piece, not on display in Los Angeles, was “terror-inspired”: news footage of Hezbollah sparked a design for a jacket.
Eldad also was taken by the turnout. “It’s heartwarming that whenever something comes from Israel, people turn out in masses,” she said backstage after the show.
The high-fashion Israeli pop rock band Terry Poison kicked off the evening with an animated, colorful performance — band members were dressed in blue sequins, full-body unitards, wigs and stilettos — and Israeli former model and television producer Noa Tishby emceed. American supermodel and entrepreneur Kathy Ireland, dressed in a coral pink satin gown, sat next to Dayan in the front row.
Shahar Azani, who serves as consul for media, culture and public diplomacy, said the L.A. consulate has long wanted to organize an Israeli fashion show and finally joined agendas with Israel’s Economic Mission to approach L.A. Fashion Week.
“Fashion designers in Israel have always been on their own, for the most part,” said Azani as attendees streamed past him on their way to the after-party in Hollywood that featured Terry Poison. “They have never received much support from the Israeli government, and I think they were pleasantly surprised to receive such an offer from our consulate. I mean, when does the consulate do fashion?”
Mode Israel L.A. is the first such effort by any Israeli consulate in the United States. “You are all part of history tonight,” Dayan told the audience. Keep your eyes open for next year.
Photos by Peter Halmagyi.