No, Israel doesn't just mean Gottex

By Jan Shure, December 29, 2009
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Op art shift by Avsh Alom Gur

Op art shift by Avsh Alom Gur

Israel’s fashion industry may once have been best known for stunning swimwear but today the country’s designers are making much more creative contributions to the world of fashion.

The most feted and talented is, of course, Alber Elbaz, design director at Lanvin, who has helped oversee a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of the Paris fashion house with his brand of luxe, sexy-yet-refined evening and cocktail wear. But for those of us for whom the £1,000-upwards creations are a fantasy, there are still some highly talented Israeli designers whose clothes we can buy here or when we go to Israel.

Alongside bridal designer Pnina Tornai, who opened her first shop in September, and Ronen Chen, whose West End shop opened in November, London has nurtured other Israeli talent.

Avsh Alom Gur, who was briefly design director of the revived Ossie Clarke label, has now turned his talent for exuberant, mashed-up couture-meets-street to an own-name collection. Autumn/winter 09 showed a fresh maturity, more suited to the European market than his earlier, frankly strange, paintbox bright pieces. For winter he displayed a grown-up and confident collection with fabulous eveningwear, like the salmon pink silk playsuit with strapless, sculpted bodice; a stunning black georgette one-sleeve number emblazoned with “Credit Crunch” around the waist in gold and crystal embroidery; and an exquisite long-sleeve jacket of perfectly crafted origami folds, worn over a bell-shape skirt, both in fruit-and-flower print in rich autumnal shades.

For spring/summer, Gur’s collection evokes the spirit of Audrey Hepburn. There are duster coats in black-and-white geometric prints with bracelet-length sleeves and little splashes of colour; and slash-neck shift dresses with gently gathered-on-the-knee hemlines in prints that mix op-art with spots and ethnic swirls. His collection is available at Palette London in Canonbury Lane, Islington.

Tel Aviv-born, New York-based Elie Tahari, who has boutiques across the USA, including Manhattan’s achingly-trendy SoHo, perfectly blends an Israeli tendency towards vivid colour and vampy shapes with a laid-back, ladylike East Coast sensibility. His spring 2010 collection features sublime separates, perfect slouchy jackets, gilets in palest Park Avenue shades of caramel and cream, cropped trousers in grey or tangerine and perfect, on-the-knee dresses cinched with skinny belts. Tahari’s womenswear is available in London at Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, but for his entire collection you have to head to 417 West Broadway.

While Israeli designer Mira Zwillinger is best known in the UK for her wedding gowns — she made the exquisite frock worn by Rachel Stevens for her Claridges wedding last summer — she is also known at home for her evening wear, formal daywear and leather.

For winter she majored in black plus grey and indigo, producing perfectly sculpted trouser and skirt suits, many with bracelet sleeves and wide-set asymmetric collars. Her cocktail and evening wear is softer, with silk and taffeta in a palette of pales that include nude and gold, often with embroidery or delicate beading. You have to head to Helsinki Street, off Kikar Hamedina — Tel Aviv’s answer to Sloane Street — to see her evening and daywear, but brides can see her trunk show at Browns Bride in Hinde Street on January 14 and 15.

Twenty years ago, top Israeli designer Dorin Frankfurt had her own London shop, created by her pal, the design guru Ron Arad, in Covent Garden’s fashion-cool Monmouth Street, but these days you have to go to Israel (or shop online) to purchase Frankfurt’s brand of very on-trend, occasionally quirky-chic evening, cocktail and daywear. This season, look out for cropped jackets in lace; tulip-skirted dresses with sash at waist; shimmery, 1950s scoop-neck shift dresses and neat little cropped flannel jackets. One of Israel’s most successful and prolific designers, she has 17 shops around the country so there’s no trouble finding her clothing line, bags or shoes wherever you stay.

Last updated: 2:38pm, December 30 2009