Walking through the bustling crowds and shouting shopkeepers of the Mahaneh Yehuda shuk, one would never imagine that in the heart of it all lies a serene, spacious artists’ studio, where the only sound comes from a handheld soldering device.
In the basement of an abandoned schoolhouse, Baara Guggenheim combines precious metals with concrete to create minimalist geometric jewelry. Beside her, Adi Yair uses her loom to weave gowns and coats. But the designers in Beit Alliance (as the building is known), and indeed the entire fashion scene in Jerusalem, tend to go unnoticed by the public. Liraz Cohen Mordechai (Liri) is seeking to change this. Read More Related Articles
Liri, an FIT-trained fashion blogger and lecturer, founded “Fashionating by Liri” four years ago, in an effort to empower Israeli designers and to give tourists a peek into the world of Israeli fashion. Liri has been traveling throughout North America to present Israeli designs, “telling the story of Israel through a unique perspective of fashion,” as Ilan Dotan, director of Israel programs at Fashionating, explained.
Liri’s audiences asked if they could meet the designers themselves,
Liri realized that it was time to start bringing groups to Israel.
Fashionating’s tours have taken people to Tel Aviv, which Dotan admitted
is the center of Israel’s fashion industry. But the fashion
conversation rarely veers to Jerusalem.
“It’s a huge question: why don’t people talk about the fashion scene here in Jerusalem?” Dotan asked.
opened its first fashion tour of Jerusalem in July, taking groups to
Jerusalem’s nooks of innovation and creativity that have cropped up over
THE MODERN fashion industry in Jerusalem dates back
to the 1800s. Hemda Ben-Yehuda – wife of famous lexicographer Eliezer
Ben-Yehuda – wrote a fashion column for the Jerusalem-based newspaper
Hashkafa. Ben-Yehuda coined the Hebrew word for fashion: “ofana,” which
is still in use.
Design found a permanent home in Jerusalem in
1906, when Boris Schatz established the Bezalel Academy of Arts and
Design “to train the people of Jerusalem in crafts, develop original
Jewish art and support Jewish artists, and to find visual expression for
the much yearned-for national and spiritual independence.”
than a century later, the Academy attracts more than 2,000
undergraduate artists to Jerusalem each year. The difficult part is
keeping them there. After completing their years of study, many of the
Bezalel designers choose to move to Tel Aviv to launch their artistic
Bezalel Academy has launched a valiant effort to carve
more room for young Jerusalem designers by providing them with
subsidized studio spaces right in the heart of downtown Jerusalem. The
top floor of Cafe Nocturno, on 7 Bezalel Street, houses a number of
design studios in which artists have the chance to create and present
The cafe serves as a hub for food, fashion, art and
music, sponsoring monthly art exhibitions and frequent nighttime
performances. The cafe building boasts two design pop-up shops, two
full-time designers working from the premises, and 40 articles of
clothing created by budding designers.
“They have a place to
actually sell their art and designs, which is amazing, because not many
places offer this opportunity to young designers,” Dotan said.
CEO Amit Magal-Schechter created the space to empower young designers
and innovators. Magal-Schechter started the cafe 25 years ago and moved
it to its current location nine years ago. At that time, the top floor
of the space contained government-sponsored design studios, which
Magal-Schecter decided to incorporate into his cafe framework.
ADI YAIR’S loom (Credit: HAILEY KLEINSTEIN)
floors combine into one, because everything that we’re doing here is
something that is creative. Food is creative. Culture, art, fashion,
music,” he said. Magal-Schechter named the cafe after Chopin’s
Nocturnes, one of which is tattooed on his arm. “It’s basically my life
project,” he said.
The cafe employs artists as managers and
curators, providing jobs to around 55 creative souls. Yarden Moshe, a
weaver and designer, uses the space to create and exhibit clothing from
her Jahta fashion brand.
While traveling to India in 2016, Moshe
fell in love with the traditional handwoven fabrics that she came across
and began to design clothing using linen, raw silk and cotton.
designs her clothing in Israel and produces it by hand – down to the
last stitch – in India. She draws inspiration from Israel’s desert
landscapes and Bedouin population. Her palette includes black and white,
to represent the dichotomy that she has both observed and bridged in
“I know that there are two worlds inside of me, like
this city and the nature, and I always try to find myself between them,”
Moshe explained. “That’s one of the things I love about Jerusalem: it’s
a city but it’s not really a city. It’s more like a big village, and
really close to nature.”
DOWN THE block from Nocturno, still on
Bezalel Street, a number of boutique shops have popped up in recent
years – so much so that a sign reading “Designers Complex” directs
pedestrians towards it. Jerusalem native Anat Friedman found her niche
on this street after graduating from the Bezalel Academy of Fashion and
Friedman said she uses Jerusalem fashion as a platform to combine her passions for painting and drawing.
found that fashion is a great combination because in the working
process I can draw, I can sketch and I can really express myself,”
Fashion for her is tangible because she can touch
the fabric, craft the look, sketch and make it with her hands, instead
of just designing in front of a computer.
Upon graduation from
the Bezalel Academy, Friedman originally sought a job in Tel Aviv.
Initially, she believed there was no chance to work in fashion in
Jerusalem. That is, until she received an offer from Nocturno. When she
discovered that Nocturno hosted subsidized artists and designers in
subsidized studios, her eyes widened with enthusiasm.
there for three years, and it was my time to study the job,” Friedman
said. “I learned what it takes to be a fashion designer. I learned how
to work with a pattern maker, how to communicate with a seamstress and
how to work with factories.”
Friedman believes that fashion
design is so multifaceted, because she not only learned how to make her
product, but also how to sell it. She claims that her three years at
Nocturno helped her to realize that being a fashion designer was her
dream. Years later, she opened her own shop that presents both modern
and traditional clothes and accessories. Friedman’s clothing symbolizes
the unification of Jerusalem’s past and present. Designing in Jerusalem
is special to her because it is off the beaten track.
cannot take fashion in Jerusalem for granted,” Friedman said. “It was
our vision to open this store because it’s not very mainstream.”
vision is to lure people in with Jerusalem’s unique fashion industry
and style. Her clothes are simple yet communicative with styles that
mimic canvases and drawing techniques. Some of her blouses and pants
have more graphic designs and drawings inspired by what she lays out in
the studio and draws on her walls.
“I think what inspires me the
most is the body,” Friedman said. “I’m trying to keep it very
minimalistic for the silhouette and for the appeal of the figure. I
think my drawings serve as inspiration for shapes on the clothes.”
LOCAL fashion artist who believes in creating through minimalism is
Baara Guggenheim, a jewelry maker who works with mixed metals and
concrete to demonstrate the various layers of Jerusalem.
look at the city of Jerusalem, there are so many layers,” Guggenhiem
said. “The market by day is for shopping and at night it comes to life
for so many people.”
Gugenheim aims to create jewelry that is
simple yet beautiful. Her most popular products are rings and necklaces
with a grey concrete set in mixed metals with circular shapes. It is
modest, humble and accessible – much inspired by her experiences living
“When I talk to someone from Jerusalem, there is
something at the core of them, that is something at the core of
Jerusalemites,” Guggenheim said. “It’s something that’s modest, humble.”
According to Dotan, the different atmospheres in each city are what make the designs from each one so distinct.
it’s not only in clothes, it’s something in the air,” Dotan said.
“Fashion is music, fashion is culture, fashion is something that you
can’t really say, but it’s something that’s in the air, and in every
city you feel something different. That’s why fashion changes from place