Kornit Tel Aviv, the «alternative fashion week» setting an example


Tel Aviv — Tel Aviv Fashion Week on the eastern shore of the
Mediterranean capped off an exemplary week of shows on Wednesday in terms
of inclusivity and diversity but more. Embracing the symbolic power of
fashion, the event organized in the Hebrew State opened its catwalk for the
first time to a designer from the United Arab Emirates, Mona al
Mansouri.

“I use this platform to spread social awareness, not just for fashion.
That’s what makes us different,” says Motty Reif, the founder of Tel-Aviv
Fashion Week, whom he met after the collective show of students from
Shenkar – the fashion school which included couturier Alber Elbaz among its
students. For the past ten years, this fertile ground for creations has
been supported by a Fashion Week sponsored, for the second time, by the
company Kornit Digital.

This year, 20,000 people came to the refurbished port hangar to host
around twenty shows. Described as “alternative” by Motty, the four-day
fashion week pushed the inclusiveness slider a step further than its big
sisters in London, Milan, Paris and New York.

“A celebration of beauty and people”

After attending London Fashion Week, Motty Reif says he was surprised by
a cast that, according to him, did not reflect this city, yet perceived as
the «capital of diversity». “They were all young, skinny and tall,” he
says. This is for me the most important thing here. If the designers want
to work only with thin models, fine, but they must be between 20 and 80
years old. They are of various sizes, ages and bodies. To me, that’s what a
celebration of beauty and people is all about. And that’s something you
can’t see in Milan or New York.»

On the catwalk, the gaze passed from a fuller silhouette to a slim body,
from salt-and-pepper hair to a shaved head and every skin color imaginable.
The diversity was there and the public, generous with applause, did not
hesitate to greet the passage of plus size models like that of older women
and local celebrities.

Credit: Yanki and Nataf / Northern Star

For the most part, the models were all Israelis, but «like most people
living here, they come from different places, some are immigrants or
refugees,» says Keshet Shapiro Vaturi, designer of the Kesh brand,
registered with the Kornit Fashion Week schedule. «I don’t look at people’s
backgrounds when I cast, like with my suppliers or the people I work with,
I choose people based on who they are and what they convey.» She hopes that
one day inclusivity will be something completely natural: «Today, in many
cases, it seems forced, but I guess it’s a step in the right direction».

The representation of body diversity has been on the rise for a handful
of years, the topic of inclusivity in fashion is said to even affect sales.
According to the Representation and Inclusion in the Fashion Industry
Report released in 2021 by All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and
Fashion, 83.7 percent of respondents say that if a fashion brand turns out
not to be inclusive, it would impact their purchasing decision. One thing
the founder of Israeli Fashion Week understood well: “I think women are fed
up with fantasies,” he observes. A creator cannot choose and photograph
only one type of model, otherwise you will not buy”.

Credit: Mona al Mansouri.

Mona al Mansouri, the first Arab designer to present in Israel

In Israel, the concept of inclusion, and therefore of coming together,
takes on a political meaning. Because it takes shape in a country marked by
religious division, the human and cultural landscape that Israeli fashion
chooses to represent has an even stronger reach than that of European and
American Fashion Weeks.

At the end of March, a meeting aimed at strengthening cooperation
between the Jewish state and Arab countries took place on Israeli soil.
This «Negev Summit» brought together Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
and four of his Arab counterparts (Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and
Morocco). The event facilitated the visit of Mona al-Mansouri, designer
from the United Arab Emirates: A big step forward since it was for the
first time in history that an Arab designer from the United Arab Emirates
took part in Israeli Fashion Week.

The reception of Mona al-Mansouri was made possible after several months
of discussions. «We had never been able to do this before,» says Motty. But
thanks to the process initiated by Naftali Bennett (Israeli Prime
Minister), a great opportunity has been created. She was very brave to
decide to come because it’s not easy, her clients come from Lebanon, Syria,
South Arabia (…) I didn’t think she would come… you make a decision and
you know what you can lose. Then, at one point, she said «I’m going to take
the first step to making a real connection for peace.» And that’s what she
did.»

According to Motty, fashion has a role to play in bringing Israel closer
to neighboring Arab countries: «Our politicians talk and tell stories, but
we as people, as fashion people, have to take the first step».

Alongside the fashion shows, Kornit Fashion Week also held a showroom
bringing together designers from various backgrounds. Among them was Shady
Francis Majlaton, an Arab creator of Israeli and also Palestinian
citizenship, his work is inspired, among other things, by Muslim outfits.
His arrival was precious for Roza Sinaysky, the curator: “I really wanted a
Palestinian designer, not for the symbol or by strategy but because for me
it’s the same thing. They don’t have the opportunity to do something like
that because they have a fairly restrictive environment, just like Aharon
Ganis» (note: Israeli designer who was raised in an ultra-Orthodox
family).

On Thursday, the day after Israeli Fashion Week, a Palestinian from the
occupied West Bank opened fire in a street in Tel Aviv. While fashion and
the symbols of unity it can offer countries unfortunately have their
limits, the profession nevertheless has the merit of wanting to set an
example.

This article was originally published on
FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English by Kelly Press.



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