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Tel Aviv Fashion Week: High Fashion, High Drama

After a year-long hiatus, the Holy Land’s fashion festival begins this weekend

Dana Kessler
March 07, 2014
A model presents a creation by Israeli designer 'Tovale during the Tel Aviv Fashion Week on November 22, 2011 in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A model presents a creation by Israeli designer 'Tovale during the Tel Aviv Fashion Week on November 22, 2011 in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Though Israel used to host fashion weeks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when its textile industry was booming, the country’s modern fashion week history only began in 2011. That year, two different fashion weeks took place for the first time. The Holon Fashion Week, the less commercially oriented of the two, was started to promote fashion as part of a wider cultural discourse (its fourth annual event will take place in October. The Tel Aviv Fashion Week, produced by fashion entrepreneurs Motty Reif and Ofir Lev, was created as the more mainstream, commercial affair. But the following year the two men parted ways acrimoniously, and two competing Tel Aviv Fashion Weeks were born.

Nobody seems to know exactly what happened between the former partners. “According to the rumors it is a case of money and ego—as always,” Yael Ben Israel, a fashion writer at Israel’s Globes financial newspaper, told me.

After holding two competing events in 2012, and skipping 2013 all together, this year they’re back. Or at least one of them is.

In November 2013, both Reif and Lev announced that their respective fashion weeks would take place in March 2014—with both men insisting that their event was the original and official Tel Aviv Fashion Week. Reif even brought Paula Abdul to his press conference to dazzle the crowd.

Four months have passed, and Reif’s event, billed Gindi TLV Fashion Week, will indeed open March 9 at the Gindi TLV Fashion Mall. The event, which boasts a seven million shekel investment, will continue until March 12. Contrary to rumor, the fact that Manor Gindi and Uri Levy, the controlling shareholders and joint CEOs of Gindi Investments, were arrested on bribery suspicions last month reportedly has had no impact on the event, and the fashion festival is proceeding as scheduled.

According to all accounts, it’s going to be a major event, with 18 local designers participating, including Dorit Bar Or, Ronen Chen, Sasson Kedem, Dorin Frankfurt, Comme Il Faut, Alembika, and others. The hope is for these Israeli fashion houses to garner international attention and recognition. Italian fashion house Missoni will show its Summer 2014 collection on Israeli soil at the opening gala, and Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, will attend together with the Missoni family as the event’s special guests. (Both the Missoni family and Sozzani were supposed to be the guests at the last Tel Aviv Fashion Week, but canceled their visit due to security concerns). Franca Sozzani‘s sister, gallerist Carla Sozzani, was a guest at the Holon Fashion Week two years ago.

Gindi TLV Fashion Week will end with the highly anticipated first runway show by Maskit—Israel’s first fashion house, launched in 1954 by Ruth Dayan—after the company’s reemergence in 2013. Even though Maskit participated in Lev’s showcase of Israeli fashion at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Moscow, their comeback fashion show is one of the highlights of Reif’s event.

“Finally all the different forces unite,” Ben Israel explained. “Gindi, Motty Reif, The Manufacturers Association of Israel, The Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, the Textile & Fashion Industries Association, all worked together in order to further Israeli fashion.” And in addition to the special guests, Ben Israel said, foreign journalists and international fashion buyers are also expected to attend the week’s events.

And while Gindi TLV Fashion Week is about to begin, Lev’s fashion week is nowhere in sight. Having announced his event’s postponement, Lev confirmed that his Fashion Week would indeed take place later this year, but wouldn’t offer any other information. Regarding The Gindi TLV Fashion Week, his only comment was: “It’s cool, it’s a good thing.”

Dana Kessler has written for Maariv, Haaretz, Yediot Aharonot, and other Israeli publications. She is based in Tel Aviv.