For the last couple of years, the fashion world has been seeing the rise and reign of “modest fashion.” Jewish and Muslim-founded brands, as well as fashion giants like Dior and Valentino, have been busy at work demonstrating that covered-up, demure clothing can be stylish and trendy, and big retailers got the memo as well; last fall, the Japanese chain Uniqlo collaborated with designer Hana Tajima, who created decidedly modest pieces, some styled on hijab-wearing models.
Adi Heyman, a New York-based fashion blogger, is one of the pioneers and a prominent propagator of the modest movement, representing the new generation of fashion-conscious and tradition-abiding Jewish women. Yesterday, Heyman, who has over 30,000 Instagram followers, led an event cementing the existence and importance of a fashionable Jewish community: The inaugural Faith in Fashion, a day of panels and discussions on the convergence of style, success, and Judaism.
Benefiting the Jewish Life Chabad branch at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), the gathering, initiated by Heyman, was held at the Mezzanine, an event space in Manhattan’s Financial District, attracting a hefty mix of FIT students and curious women who see themselves as a part of the local Jewish community. Tickets ranged from a $75 general admission option to a $1000 patron ticket, with all sales benefiting the center.
Conferences of this genre, touching upon topics of career and feminism and bringing professional women together for inspiration and networking purposes, are widespread across the U.S, with the likes of Create Cultivate and Alt Summit dominating the social calendars. It was only a matter of time before entrepreneurial women like Heyman and Malka Werde, the leader of Chabad at FIT, mobilized the trend to benefit the Jewish community. On stage, Werde and Heyman met with women from all corners of the fashion industry, who joined two panels to discuss work, ambition, Judaism and social media prowess. Among them were Michal Kurtis, a buyer at Barneys New York; Adena Rohatiner, a Los Angeles stylist who works with actresses Mayim Bialik and Amy Landecker; Roza Sinaysky, an Israeli fashion writer and blogger; Hannah Lancry Sufrin, a fashion designer at House of Lancry, an online modest fashion retailer; and Elizabeth Savetsky, a fashion blogger.
“Instead of looking to the industry to define us, let’s look to the amazing community of women,” said Heyman in the opening remarks, and panelists took her advice, intertwining motivational speak and professional tips with nuanced discussion of faith, community, and traditions. “Being there was a reminder that a community of strong Jewish women who support each other exists, we just need to pause once in awhile to be able to find each other,” said Kurtis, who, on stage, talked about the endless “hustle” of her industry. “The underlying message was that even if Jewish women define their faith differently, we still have a common foundation, a set of values that’s imprinted in our work and relationships.”
Sinaysky, who splits her time between New York and Tel Aviv and frequently promotes Israeli fashion designers on her social media channels, had Heyman to thank for the experience. “She is the first modest blogger and the incredible force behind the event,” she said. “I was humbled by the incredible women who shared the stage with me and was incredibly touched by all the support from the crowd. It made me even more motivated to continue to work hard by creating my own path and legacy.”
Lancry, who attended the panel wearing one of her designs, deemed the event successful. “It’s such a great cause,” she said. “plus, I was able to show students how to start a successful businesses and be out there in the world while also keeping my religious values.” Circling back to modest fashion, Lancry added: “it’s important to let women know they can shine in their clothes while staying true to themselves,” and just as important as the presence of a place where Jewish fashion designers of the future can shine and belong. Judging by the “2017” attached to the title and promotion, Faith in Fashion is geared to be a recurring event, helping the students do just that.
Flora Tsapovsky is a San Francisco-based food and culture writer.