Introducing Foreign Correspondent, a weekly report on style and culture from abroad. This month we travel to Tel Aviv with Eyal de Leeuw, a leading Israeli men's style blogger and head of external relations at Design Museum Holon.
On a warm winter evening this earlier this week, veteran men's fashion designer Doron Ashkenazi threw a small street party in his storefront on the perpetually busy Dizengof Street. Ashkenazi was celebrating the outcome of a competition he established to scout the best emerging men's fashion designers.
Friends partied with passersby in the neighborhood, drinking local beer to celebrate the fashion renaissance in Israel and to honor the two winning designers: Adam Gefen, formerly of Althor Throup in London, who mixes camouflage and tribal prints (we interviewed him for in November), and Haviva Strasse (pictured at top), a brand that was established in 2011 as the result of a social protest in Israel. A little backstory: Last summer dozens of large-scale protests for social justice (our answer to the Occupy movement) were held in Tel Aviv. They made a huge impact on Israeli culture, art, and fashion. Now many local designers are conscientious of ethical manufacturing practices, among other things.
Tel Aviv is a very young city. Unlike Jerusalem, the holy city (which Tel Avivians always joke they need a visa to enter), Tel Aviv was established only 103 years ago and has no roots or established traditions to offer. This has led to a chaos of aesthetics, a confused contemporary culture intermixed with waves of nostalgia for "the good old days."
Still, the current "global generation," as we're called, embraces the information spread by international fashion blogs, and we're already noticing a sea change in design and fashion.
We saw a wave of surprisingly refined menswear, for example, one month ago at Gindi Fashion, Tel Aviv's fashion week, in the collections from Israeli designers Shay Shalom, David Sason, Dorin Frankfurt, and Yosef.
Another key player in the modern men's fashion scene in Tel Aviv is Yossi Katzav, who returned to Israel after a stint as design director at DKNY's men's division to establish his own line, Sketch.
And since every city needs its cool collective, Tel Aviv's is the always surprising trio, The Muslin Brothers, whose experimental, deconstructed clothing can be spotted at pop-up shops around town.
Two weeks ago we (The Garçonnière co-founder Sahar and I) were lucky enough to be invited to Pitti Uomo in Florence to cover one of the most important men's fashion fairs in the world. Aside from walking the show floor, meeting the designers in person, and seeing next season's collections, the Pitti organizers created a great lineup of discussions, shows—and parties!
Image courtesy of NowFashion
One of the most inspiring events occurred in the installation space of the Italian fashion journalist (and men's style icon), Angelo Flaccavento. The installation (in cooperation with thecorner.com) presented 21 key items for contemporary men, hung from the ceiling like a giant mobile, or, as Flaccavento called it, "a a deconstructed walk-in-closet."
Flaccavento asked three style comrades, Nick Wooster, Matthew Schneier (from Style.com), and Gianluca Cantaro (editor of L'Uomo Vogue) to gather one morning for a chat about men's style today. The talk was fascinating and after looking at those four well-dressed men I couldn't stop thinking about how different Tel Aviv's style is. But it was Flaccavento's text on the wall that caught my eye and put everything into perspective: "It's the imperfect beauty of trying to be an individual. Enjoy!"
—Eyal de Leeuw is the co-founder of Tel Aviv's leading men's fashion blog, The Garçonnière.