Israeli Clothing Brands And Fashion Designers
“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to go shopping”, Gertrude Stein wrote. One thing many of us like to do when taking a vacation is treating ourselves to something we’ve thought about purchasing for a while - something unusual, something we can’t buy easily at home, something original. And usually that ‘gift’ to ourselves is an item of clothing - something that will last, something unique, and something we can show off once we get home.
Now whilst it’s true that when you say ‘fashion’ you immediately think of cities like Paris, Milan, New York and London, there are many other countries that are coming up in the ranks in the fashion stakes and one of them is Israel. If you’re coming on vacation here, chances are you’ll be in one of the two biggest cities - Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - and the good news is that in both places there are endless shopping opportunities.
Israeli Fashion Designers Who’ve Taken the World by Storm
Some of the popular Israeli clothing brands that are easy to find you’ll find in the big chains - Golf, Castro, Mango, Fox and Next. They sell all kinds of apparel that’s perfect for casual days at the beach and evenings in more fancy restaurants. They’re all quite reasonably priced and a good way to get bang for your buck. But if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind pieces, then where do you search?
Today we’re going to look at some of the Israeli fashion designers who’ve taken the world by storm in recent years, and the kind of creations they’ve come up with. These popular Israeli clothing brands aren’t limited to one country either - some of these talented and ultra-driven designers are now New York-based, with flagship boutique stores in the US and around the world. In the infamous words of Anna Wintour, ‘You either know fashion or you don’t.” So let’s get to know it…
Dorin Frankfurt. Designed and Produced Locally
Dorin Frankfurt is surely one of Israel’s leading fashion designers who has been making women’s apparel since 1983. Operating in the heart of Tel Aviv (both her factory and stores are based there), she produces limited edition designer clothes at affordable prices and for many Israeli women is the ‘High Priestess’ of style.
Working with Margit Segal (who is still her partner today), Frankfurt insists that the operation remains in Israel and has resisted attempts to have work outsourced to the Far East. She employs many skilled local women and looks upon her business as a responsibility to others as well as a money-making venture.
Dorin Frankfurt designs pieces that are incredibly elegant but also sustainable - she believes that clothes should be made to last in your wardrobe and keep you happy for years - she is no fan of the cheap, ‘throw-away’ culture. Moving away from European-style, her garments have what she calls an ‘Israeli style’ and her first jeans and vintage collections were actually named ‘austerity” (since, in the 1980s, Israel was experiencing a terrible recession).
In 1995, she launched a menswear line and over the years she has designed outfits for the theatre and ballet. Recently, she has been joined in the business by her daughter Kianne, who graduated from the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design and is now in charge of the accessories division - bags, shoes, jewellery, etc.
Dorin Frankfurt’s flagship store in Tel Aviv is an institution and her clothes are collected into the wardrobes of dedicated followers not just in Israel but also in England, Norway, New Zealand, the USA and South Africa. Mother and daughter still believe in her original aim - to create quality Israeli fashion items produced locally, rather than outsource to cheap-labour markets abroad.
Dorin Frankfurt, 164 Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv. Tel: 054-5925553.
Dorin Frankfurt. Photo from Dorin Frankfurt Facebook page
Maskit. Hints of McQueen and Elbaz
Launched back in 1954, Maskit has a fascinating history. Dreamed up by Ruth Dayan (daughter of the legendary Israeli General, Moshe Dayan) her aim was to create luxury but contemporary clothing. Her secret? To embroider the garments with traditional techniques that hailed from countries such as Syria, Tunisia, Hungary, Yemen and Bulgaria.
Her enterprise created many jobs for local women at a time when Israel was in its infancy and the economy was struggling, but the brand was so successful it was soon being worn by stars of the era, including Audrey Hepburn, who made Maskit’s ‘Desert Coat’ famous.
Eventually, the designs were being sold at New York’s top department stores (Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf) and collaborations with Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Christian Dior followed, alongside the opening of a flagship store in Manhattan. The company closed in 1994 but was relaunched in 2014 when Sharon Tal came on board.
Tal’s experience at Alexander McQueen (she was head of the embroidery) and her internship with legendary designer Alber Elbaz has made her an invaluable part of the modern company. Maskit’s style is definitely still ‘desert chic’ - the colours are exotic and the fabrics natural - and their boast that their brand has as much history as Israel is surely true.
Maskit, 48 Hei Beiyar Street (Kikar Hamedina), Tel Aviv. Tel: 03-688 4004
Maskit outfit. Photo from Maskit Design Facebook page
Mews. Not Just a Label
If black is the new black, then you can’t go wrong by making a trip to Mews. Founded in 2014, by Gal Shenfeld, this line’s unique selling point is in the colour - practically every garment is black. And, let’s face it, how can you go wrong with black - you can match it with anything, it never goes out of style and it’s the best shade to wear if you’re looking for a slimming effect.
Based in Tel Aviv, this luxury women’s wear company is made up of classic garments, the fabrics all of the highest quality. They focus on movement and texture and their logo - ‘Not Just a Label’ - couldn’t be more apt. Shenfeld’s vision is to make clothes in a minimalist design, using cutting-edge materials and techniques.
Located in the beautiful Neve Tzedek neighbourhood, close to the famous Shabazi Street (a must-visit for anyone who likes boutique clothing stores), their cotton sleeveless jumpsuits, crepe knot bow one shoulder midi skirt dresses and exquisite, meticulously designed eveningwear are what you’ll get when you buy from Mews. And, just like Maskit and Doron Frankfurt, everything you purchase will have been designed and made in Tel Aviv.
Mews, 12 Tachkemoni St, Tel Aviv. Tel: 052 677 3733.
Mews showroom, Tel Aviv. Photo from Mews InstagramDoron Ashkenazi. Classic Tailoring with Attention to Detail
When it comes to Israeli men’s clothing brands, you can’t leave out Doron Ashkenazi, one of Israel's most celebrated designers when it comes to male fashion. Raised in Israel, he began his career at the Accademia di Bella Arti di Firenze, where he studied design and pattern making. On returning to Tel Aviv, he decided to start his own line, and in 1989 the company was launched, at their store on the trendy Shenkin Street.
His emphasis has always been on classic tailoring techniques that pay tremendous attention to detail. In that respect, his designs are quite timeless, even though he does often use bold colours. His suits are loved by men across Israel and the wedding clothes he designs for grooms are gorgeous.
At his store, you’ll see Italian design fused with Mediterranean-style streetwear, which creates a unique look. Whether you want casual or glamorous, his linen creations always turn heads. Even better, in recent years, Doron Ashkenazi has turned to recycling garments, in an attempt to rescue surplus material and be more socially responsible.
His creations included a denim-style jacket made out of grey reflected fabric, flecked with all kinds of colours. If you had to sum up his style, it’s all about capturing the aesthetic of urban Tel Aviv. As he always said ‘It’s about creating a unique product.’
Doron Ashkenazi, 187 Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv. Tel: 02 527-2679
Doron Ashkenazi - Menswear. Photo from Doron Ashkenazi Facebook page
Shahar Avnet. A Mix of Fashion and Art
Shahar Avnet studied at the prestigious Shenkar College of Engineering and Design and after graduating, in 2016, was thrust into the spotlight, when a project of hers was represented at Graduate Fashion Week in London. Her creations are a heady mix of fashion and art, and she uses a range of techniques, including collage, drawing and embroidery in the dresses she designs.
Avnet is a particular fan of tulle (soft silk cotton) and this was showcased by Beyonce, who wore one of her pieces on her world tour with Jay Z - nude-toned and long-trained… for sure her clothes are bold, fearless and designed for the independent woman. You also have seen her work if you’re a fan of Eurovision - the hit “Toy” was performed by Netta Barzilai, who won a multi-coloured kimono designed by her.
Shahar Avnet is based in Tel Aviv and her couture is full of feminine silhouettes, intricate embellishments and all kinds of unusual details. And as she once commented, in Vogue” “The Beatles taught me that ‘all you need is love…my garments carry the label ‘love yourself’.
Shahar Avnet, Kibbutz Galuyot Road 45, Tel Aviv. Tel: 052-881-1084
Shahar Avnet dresses at Design Museum Holon, Israel. Photo from Shahar Avnet Studio page
Galia Lahav. Designing for the Stars
When it comes to Israeli clothing brands popular in the US, you’ve got to mention Galia Lahav, who has made a real name for herself designing couture, in particular bridal wear. She established her own fashion company in Tel Aviv in 1984 but it was only after 20 years that she branched out internationally.
Today, women like Jennifer Lopez, Bar Rafaeli and Priyanka Chopra wear her luxury creations, but it’s Beyonce who catapulted her into the limelight when she chose Lahav to design a dress for the renewing of vows and wedding. Lahav’s bridal wear is romantic, sensual, figure-flattering and puts its emphasis on comfort.
Her dresses also have delicate embroidery, plunging backlines and dramatic trains. If you look at Beyonce’s dress, it was an off-the-shoulder creation, featuring chantilly lace, Swarovski crystals and pearls decorating the bodice. The price tag was estimated to be around $12,000 but - hey - the bride clearly thought it was worth it.
Lahav also hit the headlines when she designed dresses for Venus Williams (in her role as Maid of Honour), six other bridesmaids and the bride’s mother, at the star-studded wedding of her sister Serena. The dresses, all of which were shades of nude, had different designs, ranging from plunging necklines to a more demure look. The result? Spectacular. Lahav also designs collections in evening wear, shoes and dresses and is a regular participant at New York Bridal Fashion Week.
Galia Lahav, Herzl Street 9, Tel Aviv. Tel: 03 527-3075
Wedding dress by Galia Lahav House of Couture. Photo from Galia Lahav Designs
Nili Lotan. Designs for the Modern, Urban Woman
Nili Lotan was born in Israel and is now based in New York. Like Avnet, she graduated from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design but quickly moved to Manhattan, since she saw it as the epicentre of the fashion world. She worked with top fashion houses including Liz Claiborne and Ralph Lauren.
In 2003, she launched her own label, aiming to produce luxurious yet timeless pieces for women and 3 years later, she opened a shop above her atelier, in Tribeca. Putting in just $20,000, after two months she had made $250,000! Lotan was and still is a rule-breaker - she doesn’t believe in designing for the season. In fact, at first, she began her business by selling six basic pieces - two jackets, one top and three pairs of trousers, all made with Italian fabric.
As she went from strength to strength, she expanded her range and now designs jeans, handbags and belts. This year, she expects to generate $100 million in revenue. Nili Lotan designs are definitely for the modern urban woman - they are sophisticated yet simple.
She believes in clothes being comfortable, as well as chic and she loves natural colours - black, light blue and peach. Today you will see actresses and models like Julianna Moore, Jennifer Anniston, Cindy Crawford, Gigi Hadid and Rihanna wearing her dresses. As Lotan remarks, a wardrobe comprised of elegant pieces will serve you for years to come.
Nili Lotan, 188 Duane St, New York, NY 10013. Tel: +1 212-219-8794
A leather jacket by Nili Lotan. Photo from Nili Lotan Facebook page
ATA. Modest, Simple and Functional
Last, but not least, we come to ATA. This is not an individual but an Israeli clothing brand, but we have to include it here because of its long and interesting history. The first company in the country to manufacture and design textiles, it was created in 1934 and ran until the mid-80s, when it closed down. However, in 2016 it was re-established as a brand and is currently based in Tel Aviv.
ATA was founded by Erich Moller, whose family had come from Czechoslovakia, because of ideological conviction. He bought land on which to construct a factory and ATA came to stand for ‘Ariga Totzeret Artzenu’ (‘Textiles from Our Land’). Unsurprisingly, many of the workers came from kibbutzim and for many years employees and management earned similar salaries.
ATA made its mark after World War II, by producing practical clothes that Israelis could buy with ration coupons. These included uniforms, shirts, trousers and the tembel hat (a national symbol of Israel, worn by committed zionists). ATA was known for its quality, and being committed to modesty, simplicity and functionality. After being closed for over 20 years, it was reestablished in 2016 and today works on the principle that clothes are meant to serve people, as well as offering a glimpse into our lives and cultures.
ATA, Kikar HaBima 3, Tel Aviv. Tel: 03 962-7270
ATA clothing brand, Israel. Photo from ATA Facebook page