At Tel Aviv Fashion Week: Celeb-Beloved Designers, Young Talents, and Diverse Runways

Liana Satenstein
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At Tel Aviv Fashion Week: Celeb-Beloved Designers, Young Talents, and Diverse Runways

Maskit, Shahar Avnet, and Okem are labels to watch from Israel.

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Maskit Fall 2019
Photo: Courtesy of Gil Hayun

Though you don’t hear about it much, Tel Aviv has a rich fashion history—some of which was on display at the city’s just-wrapped fashion week. The international swimwear giant Gottex is here, and its former creative director, Gideon Oberson, opened the shows with his own eponymous collection. Another storied name to know is Maskit. Sharon Tal, one of two creative directors at the 65-year-old brand, did a stint as head of embroidery at Alexander McQueen, and her artful handiwork was evident in Maskit’s Fall lineup, which featured robe coats and loose, mannish suits.

Slowly but surely, a new generation of Israeli labels is finding its way onto international red carpets. Shahar Avnet, who enlisted professional dancers to wear frothy tulle dresses at her fashion week show, had a Beyoncé moment last fall, and there’s quite a backstory of how it came to be. Ofri Cohen, a kibbutz nurse by day and an Instagram influencer by night (handle: @spotlighttime), sent a photo of one of Avnet’s dresses to Beyoncé’s stylist via DM, and a few months later Queen B wore it on tour. Another popular name on the celebrity circuit is Alon Livne. Though he’s based in New York, he shows here in Israel, where he has a booming bridal business. Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga have worn his dresses.

The large youth presence at this Tel Aviv fashion week was thanks to a lottery project that provides funds to designers so they can produce their collections. Two standouts included Aner5777 by Aner Shevah and Okem by Sara Anshin and Eran Tzemach. Shevah reworks menswear, creating skort-like khaki bottoms and floppy hats and beanies. Okem takes inspiration from Israeli street style for its workwear-influenced high-waisted pants and loose jumpsuits. These designers might have big futures ahead of them. Menswear designer Hed Mayner, who won the lottery two years ago, is an LVMH Prize semifinalist this year.

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Okem Fall 2019
Photo: Courtesy of Okem

Another impressive part of Tel Aviv fashion week was its diversity. Over half of the 20 shows were street cast and included models of many sizes, ages, and races. “I believe that in the fashion industry there can’t be only one type of model,” said Motty Reif, who produces Tel Aviv’s show week. “I have been working 33 years and I have been listening to women all my life saying, ‘This is beautiful, but it isn’t for me.’ The fashion industry has a responsibility to change that. Imagine if fashion labels used models parallel to their clients?”

One label employing Reif’s philosophy is Retema by Rotem Levitan, one of Israel’s only plus-size labels. Levitan held open castings, and booked her customers and friends to walk her runway. She credited Netta Barzilai, the recent Eurovision winner, for propelling the country’s plus-size movement forward. (Barzilai walked the Bananhot show in a yellow swimsuit.) And a gay couple appeared on the runway at Shenkar, along with their son. It was a protest of sorts against a local politician who had recently spoken out against same-sex families.

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Shenkar Fall 2019
Photo: Courtesy of Avi Valdman

Off the runways, the highlight of the week was Tali Kushnir, who showed a rack of clothes at the showroom of Comme il Faut. Kushnir is self-taught and works with fabrics that are designed for the bedding and cheese industries. Sounds weird, but her boyish, safari-inspired pieces looked good.

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Tali Kushnir Fall 2019
Photo: Courtesy of Dudi Hasson
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