Israeli wedding dresses typically run the gamut from over-the-top ballroom showstoppers to gracefully minimalist renditions. While these three prominent Israeli designers showcase very different trends, they all appeal to the masses with their signature styles. From Victor Bellaish’s specialty boho-centric creations to Lihi Hod’s extra-romantic sheaths and Hila Gaon’s streamlined, modern garments, Israeli wedding design is inspired by the past and the present, by the local market and European craftsmanship — but, most significantly, by the brides themselves. With that said, expect some inventive and sassy designs (truly sabra). And take note, most Israeli wedding dress designers rent their dresses out per occasion (although there is always the option to buy, as is the custom in the United States and Europe).
“My mother recently handed over the dress she wore to my bar mitzvah,” Bellaish said. “Normally she doesn’t hold on to clothes, but this particular piece by Gottex [an Israeli label] is timeless, and I used it for inspiration in a recent collection.”
For Bellaish, the past is a distinctive influence on his body of work. Having cut his teeth for five years as head designer for the opulent Italian luxury brand Roberto Cavalli, Bellaish is an impeccable craftsman. But it’s his choice of fabrics (from one-of-a-kind, found tapestries in Jaffa’s flea market to dead stock from the 1970s) and cuts (flattering necklines, form-fitting silhouettes) that make him a standout when it comes to Israeli celebrities and others. It comes as no surprise that the 43-year-old designer clears his head with painting and sculpture — his creations feature artistic elements, the finishing touch being a hand wash of soap and water to each 100 percent silk garment. The result, whether it’s chiffon, satin or crepe, is a vintage, Old World look and feel, especially if it’s a hand-dyed piece.
With 1920s, 1930s and 1970s influences, Bellaish’s designs have a soft and feminine bohemian range marked by classic, refined details. And equally as imperative as a show-stopping dress, Bellaish establishes a solid relationship with each one of his clients, intentionally limiting the number to no more than 15 per month.
“I meet with each customer. I see her world,” he says. “It’s very important for me to acknowledge how she lives in her own skin — to see how she moves. My mission is to make her look gorgeous.”
$3,200 (purchase), $2,050-$2,600 (rent).
Maison Bellaish, 1a Shmuel Ben Hadia St., Tel Aviv-Jaffa. (03) 518-6466. maisonbellaish.com.
Hod’s career has a storybook beginning. After graduating in 2006 from Israel’s top fashion design school, Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Hod entered the prominent Italian competition ITS (International Talent Support), where she was later handpicked by one of the judges — the art director for Dior’s John Galliano. Hod was asked to intern at the Parisian design house, which she readily accepted. After six months of working for Galliano and Dior, she was offered a permanent design position. This time, the brazen Tel Aviv native decided to return to her roots.
French lace now stands as the principal fabric for her thoughtfully draped, over-the-top romantic wedding dresses. The 30-year-old opened her namesake studio exactly a year ago and already has a whistling-while-they-work team of patternmakers, seamstresses and assistants crafting as many as 30 garments a month.
“I wanted to be a small studio and produce a small amount of dresses,” Hod explained. “But word of mouth spread. I cap the maximum at 30 per month so that each dress gets the attention it deserves.”
Hod hails from a family of dressmakers; her great-grandfather was a tailor in the Soviet army, and her grandmother was also a seamstress. The high-fashion, well-to-do clientele drawn to Hod’s designs must sense the thoughtfulness and authenticity within her design process –– a distinct reason why she shot straight to success.
“All my inspiration comes from the brides. I take a very basic silhouette and then start designing,” she said. “I create the dress on her body.”
$2,900-$5,900 (rent and purchase).
Lihi Hod Tel Aviv, 22 Aboulafia St., Castiel Promenade, Tel Aviv-Jaffa. (03) 681-0606.
To visit Gaon’s wedding dress boutique is to fall in love with the whole dress-shopping experience. Her spacious, bilevel boutique in the heart of Tel Aviv is an art gallery-cum-fashion museum of meticulous architectural and fashion design: Brightly lit glass cabinets fit with glowing wedding dresses float from single beams adorning the side wall, each on display for clients to view and choose from. New designs are added to each collection, broadening the offerings and adding an element of surprise with each season. Gaon is a solid fan of the sheer layers upon layers prominent in the Victorian period, and it’s this element that creates the basis for her romantic shapes and proportions.
Offering an updated interpretation on vintage staples, Gaon chooses from precious appliqués, French lace, beading, embroidered silk and other subtle textures to accentuate each well-draped bodice, marking it with her signature simplicity.
“I keep my eyes open wide,” Gaon says. “I draw inspiration from anything and everything. But dance, theater and various cultural scenes play a big part in my thought process.”
Gaon’s latest collection channels a free and urban spirit, choosing a language that translates movement and special detailing while still remaining noble and sophisticated.
Hila Gaon, 21 Tchernichovsky St., Tel Aviv. (03) 525-2344. hilagaon.com.