The Arty Semite

Israeli Fashionistas in Under 500 Years

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
courtesy of zivgilkazenstein.com:

Internationally recognized stars of Israeli clothing design such as Ronen Chen, Kedem Sasson, Yigal Azrouel, and Ziv Gil Kazenstein have won applause on the runways of the world’s fashion capitals. Yet decades ago, during the ferment and danger of Israel’s early days as a nation, what the pioneering generation should wear might have seemed a relatively trivial problem.

Not so, explains cultural historian Anat Helman, lecturer at Hebrew University and author of last year’s “Young Tel Aviv: A Tale of Two Cities” from Brandeis University Press. In the spring, Helman’s “A Coat of Many Colors: Dress Culture in the Young State of Israel” appeared from Academic Studies Press. In it, Helman explains that even by the time the kova tembel or “tembel hat” was codified as kibbutznik gear via the beloved 1950s cartoon character Srulik who became a national symbol, some Israelis had set their eyes on higher fashion achievements.

Part of the motivation was to transcend severe rationings of everything, including fabrics, which inspired an Israeli newspaper cartoonist in 1950 to depict Shakespeare’s Othello and Desdemona squabbling about whether they possessed sufficient “points” to acquire a handkerchief. By 1955, one newspaper praised Czech-born Lola Beer Ebner whose fashion designing agitates the “hearts of more Israeli women than the names of [then-popular screen idols] Gary Cooper or Robert Taylor.” Beer Ebner, honored with an exhibit at Tel Aviv’s Czech Center in 2010, was inspired by Parisian styles for her own light, airy creations.

Beer Ebner was no optimist about Israeli fashion, estimating that it would take “at least five hundred years” to develop a uniquely Israeli fashion. Others were more sanguine, including a rival fashion house, Maskit, founded by Ruth Dayan, the first wife of General Moshe Dayan. Maskit’s chief designer, Fini Leitersdorf, was honored with “Maskit: A Local Fabric,” a 2003 exhibit at Tel Aviv’s Eretz Israel Museum of which a lavish catalog remains as valuable documentation.

Leitersdorf stated her goals, as quoted by Helman: to combine “Sabra simplicity, Eastern colorfulness, and Western sewing techniques.” A useful complement to Helman’s historical reflections is the lavishly illustrated book by Nurit Bat-Yaar, Israel Fashion Art 1948-2008 out last year from Resling Publishers, Tel Aviv. Former longtime fashion editor of the Yedioth Aharonot daily, Bat-Yaar, like Helman, would seem to contradict Henry D. Thoreau’s maxim, “We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes,” at least insofar as the state of Israel is concerned.

Watch Nurit Bat-Yaar interviewed last year on Israeli TV about her book, Israel Fashion Art 1948-2008.

And here.*


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ronen Chen, Robert Taylor, Lola Beer Ebner, Kedem Sasson, Fini Leitersdorf, Gary Cooper, Ruth Dayan, Yigal Azrouel, Ziv Gil Kazenstein

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.