Some Israeli Fashion History

Israeli fashion expert Nurit Bat-Yaar, author of the book “Israel Fashion Art 1948-2008”
(“שיכרון עיצובים – אמנות האופנה בישראל”) has really inspired me to find out more about the history of Israeli fashion and how it came to be what it is today (and why!) Here are some things that have been uncovered…


A 1967 Lea Gottlieb design for "Gottex". Photo (by Ben Lam) from "Israel Fashion Art 1948-2008" album-book by Nurit Bat-Yaar.


First, I wanted to mention a blog post by Keren Ben-Horin, an Israeli-born fashion student with a degree at Shenkar School of Engineering and Design who is now studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and specifically focusing on the history of specific companies like Gottex as part of her degree. Ben-Horin interviewed Bat-Yaar for On Pins and Needles, the blog written by students getting their Masters in History, Theory, and Museum Practice at FIT.

Now, some background on Nurit Bat-Yaar.  Bat-Yaar had no idea that a short run as a model would lead her to writing about the world of fashion but when she entered the style world, she knew she had found her calling.  Bat-Yaar was first a model of Maskit’s multicultural designs, which led her to meet the right people, who discovered she had a knack for fashion writing.

Bat-Yaar is the former fashion editor of Israel’s most widely circulated daily newspaper “Yedioth Ahronoth.” For 26 years, she had the opportunity to discover new budding designers in Israel and give them a springboard to show their work.

Before her 26-year stint, Bat-Yaar introduced Israeli readers to American fashion as a reporter for the “Maariv” daily newspaper where she wrote about NY’s leading designers for 5 years.

Bat-Yaar  has reported from Europe and US Fashion Weeks about the latest international trends and has interviewed the world’s leading designers.  She’s had a regular fashion spot in cable TV lifestyle programs.  She participated in a documentary about the history of beauty in Israel and was a guest judge on Israel’s Project Runway. She was the curator of the exhibition “Glimpses of Glamour- Fashion Photography in the Mirror of a Century” which opened in the “Israel Museum of Photography” at Tel-Hai. No big surprise there, after all, Bat-Yaar studied fashion illustration under Riki Ben-Ari who illustrated Suzy Menkes fashion reports in the British Times and The Evening Standard. She also graduated with a degree in art and philosophy from New Jersey’s Upsala College and studied fashion design at the Washington D.C. Ardis School of Design.

She has often been described in Israeli media as Israel’s “first lady of fashion and reporting.

In the very eye-opening interview with Bat-Yaar, I learned a lot about the history of Israeli fashion and it left me wondering why fashion here is not on the world map (at least as much as it was  in the 60s and 70s, as Nurit mentioned in her answers to the questions.) Hence, the biggest reason I’m mentioning it here and perhaps a small step in the mission of my blog: to promote the potential of the talented designers, labels, and fashionistas we have here in Israel.


Nurit Bat-Yaar


Some surprising things I learned about Israeli fashion:

  • According to Bat-Yaar, present day Israelis know very little about the heritage of Israel’s fashion industry and its fabulous success on the international arena
  • Back in the 60s and 70s, exotic styles and ethnic fabrics  (Yemenite embroidery, kafias, were much more popular in Israel than the mod, indie styles of today.

“Designers were more oriented to the country’s cultural resources and used them as an inspiration. Today, on the other hand, globalization has taken over. Companies go to far-eastern low-cost labor manufacturers. Young designers (once hired by the export industry) now work on a small scale in their own studios.”–Nurit Bat-Yaar

  • Stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana wore designs by Israeli designers.
  • Israelis have done much in the world of fashion.  Gottex is one of the most famous swimwear lines in the world and Zuri Guetta invented the use of silicone incorporated fabric whose clients include leading haute-couture Paris designers such as  Jean-Paul Gaultier.
  • Designers like Donna Karan and John Galliano have assisted students at Shenkar with internships and apprenticeships.

For more of Keren Ben-Horin’s great interview, please visit her post: From Rags To Riches: Israeli Fashion Rediscovered

The next post found was one by Ayala Raz, who was Keren Ben-Horin’s former professor and thesis instructor.  She was also the head of the Fashion Design department at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design for seven years (Shenkar was the first academic school for fashion in Israel.) She continued to teach until last year.

Raz was a fashion journalist in the 60s and a fashion designer, as well. She currently makes jewelry, blogs, and is also a museum curator.


Ayala Raz


And, of course, she is a fashion columnist for a new online magazine called Israeli Lifestyle, which is where I read her article about some historical aspects of Israeli fashion.  The magazine was founded to teach Israeli “fans” around the world all about the country’s social, cultural, architectural, and business contributions.) The magazine was founded by Gila Gideon,a senior advisor, lecturer, and blogger for Israeli social media and international e-commerce.  She has grabbed Ayala Raz to be part of her team.

Finally, she is the writer of the book Changing Styles: 100 Years of Fashion in Eretz-Israel published in 1996, which was the only published book on fashion at the time.

Raz has written some great pieces for Israel Lifestyle, one of them being this next post on Israel’s fashion history compared to the Israeli fashion of today. Here are some things I learned from the post:

  • The desert was the image attached to Israeli fashion in the 1960s and it represented the oriental exoticness that existed at the time.
  • The Export Institute held an Israel Fashion Week at the Hilton hotel in Tel Aviv as well as in Jerusalem and Eilat.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s Israeli fashion was based on the exotic styles of olim chadishim (from mainly Middle Eastern countries like Yemen.)
  • Israeli fashion designers who followed used elements of “exotic Israeli fashion.”
  • Local characteristics in Israel are different now, for example you won’t normally find Israeli dressed in the garments of their country of origin.
  • Now the tone in fashion in Israel (and in the world) are set by individualistic fashionistas.  Thus you’re more likely to find indie designers with their own studios and their own lines than a typical trend that surrounds the country.

The mark of the young designers in Tel Aviv is substantial and apparent.  This impressive reservoir of design talents indicates an unprecedented blossoming in the fashion design field in Israel.–Ayala Raz

  • Tel Aviv fashion represents the Israeli fashion of today, according to Raz.  But the neighborhoods that were the fashion areas of Tel Aviv back in 70s and 80s are not the same fashion neighborhoods today.  For example, Gan HaHashmal (Electric Garden) has replaced Shenkin.) 

    Gan Hahashmal (Electric Garden)

For more on this enticing look at Israeli fashion of yesterday and today, please read: Is There A Local Style in Israeli Fashion?

Photos: Nurit Bat-Yaar, InIsrael, Israeli Lifestyle


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