While much of the world sees Israel as a site of conflict and constant fear, this hardly is the way the population of the city of Tel Aviv sees itself. Becoming increasingly well known for its nightlife, cuisine and art, Tel Aviv is attempting to take its place as a burgeoning fashion capital. And thanks to producer Motty Reif, who originated Tel Aviv Fashion Week in 2011, it actually is starting to work.
At the second Tel Aviv Fashion Week, journalists from Milan, Hong Kong, Berlin, Paris and, yes, Los Angeles, are watching interesting new trends done with an alternative spin on the black, shiny, mirrored runway at what is now Gindi Tel Aviv Fashion Week. General Director Reif teamed this time with Gindi, one of the biggest construction companies in Israel, and the three-day, show-packed affair is all taking place on the construction site of new mall right in the center of Tel Aviv. Look one way, and models are decked out in black, white and gold creations -- minis and full length. Look the other way, it's hard hats with drills surrounded by dust.
Like many things in Israel, it's extreme contrasts, and Israelis tend to love extremes. Even in the looks turning up to observe the show -- Tel Aviv is a city full of fashion editors, stylists, models and actresses -- and the people-watching off the runway is nearly as interesting as what's on it. It's odd and exciting to see that Tel Aviv already is embracing the spring 2013 looks from Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and the European runways: There are lots of black and white (color seems to be gone), head scarves and wraps, round sunglasses, black and gold -- and either short, short '60s looks or long '70s ones. Once again: Contrast. Extremes. The short and the long of it.
The opening-night gala on Sunday included a visit by the divine Spanish actress Rossy di Palma, known for her flamboyant turns in many Pedro Almodovar movies. She flew in just for opening night at the behest of very well-known Milanese art director Marcelo Burlon, who came to town and collaborated with Reif and Israeli art director Assaf Ziv to bring a distinctly European element to Tel Aviv Fashion week. The Gindi tent actually was better decked out than New York's Bryant Park. A large lounge room done up in black and gold includes a bar and sushi stands and many pillowed couches. The press room is all black, much like the way most everyone's dressed. (Fashion people from all over the world are the same in the end.) And the runway is laid out much like one in New York, Paris or Milan, complete with art-directed video and pounding music. It's very impressive to see a young country, only on its second-ever fashion week, come so far.
Gindi hired Zvi to create a video advertisement/opening for every show: male and female models marching onto the construction site in fabulous clothes, armed with drills and blasters and protective (but chic) eyewear. Much like Mercedes Benz is to New York Fashion Week, Gindi is now to Tel Aviv Fashion Week. Let's hope the world gets the message: Israel is on the fashion map and big enterprise is behind it.
Sunday night's "Icon" show featured celebrities like Noa Tishby, who actually lives in L.A. and produced In Treatment for HBO (based on the Israeli original), each wearing looks by different Israeli designers. It didn't hurt that Bar Refaeli, the ex of Leo DiCaprio, was the last one out on the runway. Monday saw shows by Shai Shalom (bright menswear separates), Raziela (metallics and peplums and sheers), Sample (young designers doing Calvin Klein like pared-down looks in black or white, also with peplums and sheer fabrics), Sasson Kedem (who designs voluminous Commes des Garcons-like shapes that sell all over the world; locals refer to them as "Tilda Swinton clothes") and Tovale, a Tel Aviv designer who fancifully applies flowers on everything, especially shoes. Word is, when Prada did flower-strewn shoes, they "borrowed" the idea from Tovale.
These designer names might not mean much outside of Israel, but we have a feeling they will soon. It's a relief to think Israel might finally come to be associated with something cultural and uplifting like fashion. It deserves it, and the world should take notice.