‘Jews Have Fashion in Our Blood,’ Say Organizers of New York Event Highlighting Israeli Designers (INTERVIEW)
Two Jewish fashion mavins who are organizing events during New York Fashion Week in September to highlight the work of Israeli designers told The Algemeiner on Thursday about the impetus for their initiative.
“We want to showcase Israel through the lens of fashion and beauty,” Tobi Rubinstein Schneier, one of the organizers, said. “Nobody really puts fashion and Tel Aviv together, but many Israeli artists who have come to the United States are doing very well.”
Now, she said, “We want to take it to the next level, and say, ‘OK, Israel has a lot to offer, not just random designers. There’s a whole array of talent.”
Rubinstein Schneier and her partner, Nancy Torres Kaufman, head the Tahor Group, a New York-based fashion advisory firm, which will be hosting an installation featuring pieces by Israeli designer Shai Shalom. The invitation-only event, which will be held on September 15 at the Riflessi store in Manahattan, was a collaborative effort of Tahor, the Israeli Consulate and Motty Reif, the creator of Gindi Tel Aviv Fashion Week. Between 200 and 300 people are expected to attend the event, where guests will be able to interact with the models. Shalom’s designs will be available for purchase at the store for a few days following the event, which is also open to any Israeli companies interested in serving as sponsors or displaying their own products.
“Anything made or dreamed up in Israel can be showcased there,” said Torres Kaufman, also pointing to an additional event her company is organizing, “#TLVRunwayNYC,” — to be held during the 2017 New York Fashion Show — featuring the works of 10 Israeli designers.
Rubinstein Schneier told The Algemeiner that Israel should be taken seriously as a “real player” in the fashion industry, and she hopes the set of events in September and February will “bust open the door” and get people to view the Jewish state as a serious contender.
Torres Kaufman said Jews have “fashion in our blood” — dating back to biblical times. “The first couture outfit is the high priest’s,” she said. “There’s an entire chapter in the Torah devoted to every single color, lace pattern, trim, measurements…what you wear really makes a statement.”
“Attire is a part of our heritage; it’s a part of who we are as Jews,” she added. “The welcoming statue of Seventh Avenue [New York City’s garment district] is a ‘yid’ over a sewing machine, which is how this whole industry started.” She said that by bringing Israeli designers to New York, “We’re bringing it back, full circle.”
Rubinstein Shneier told The Algemeiner that the idea for the set of events was born after she attended Gindi Tel Aviv Fashion Week, where she was impressed and “unexpectedly surprised” by how “exquisite and beautiful” the pieces were on the runway.
“Fashion in the US is becoming extraordinarily boring, and I think Israel has so much creativity that it’s a breath of fresh air to see something new and exciting from young designers,” she said. “Here, everything has been over-saturated and over-commercialized — and even New York Fashion Week itself is conforming. I think the sheer creativity and boldness of what Israeli designers are doing is such a refreshing thing to look at. I think that’s their impact. We want to open the doors to the whole world to show the creativity of the country. We’re just building the portal. We’re allowing it to be exposed. And if it gets bigger and bigger, that’s great.”
Proceeds from the February project will be donated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Rubinstein Schneier explained that the hospital’s founder, the late Moshe Soroka, had raised money for the medical center with the help of a union of Jewish garment workers.
Torres Kaufman and Rubinstein Schneier said they hope to begin holding events showcasing Israeli designers every year during New York Fashion Week.
Israel is becoming recognized for its expertise in this field. The Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, for example, was ranked in June as one of the world’s 25 best fashion schools in 2016, and some of its graduates have become world-renowned fashion designers. Among these are Inbal Dror, who dressed Beyoncé and designed ballerina Misty Copeland’s wedding gown.