Even with dozens of stores in 20 countries around the globe, Michal Negrin still cannot quite take in the fact that she is the doyenne of a costume jewellery and fashion empire that has captured the imaginations of both teenage girls and sophisticated women alike.
"I don't live my daily life within the context of being the head of an empire. The only time I'm even aware of it, is when foreign tourists come to my flagship store and provide me with feedback on my designs. Then I pause to think about the influence I'm having," she says.
Michal Negrin turned her dreams into reality by channelling the pulse of Tel Aviv into her design concepts. As a young child, growing up amid the laidback atmosphere of Kibbutz Na'an (close to Rehovot), Negrin felt that the nearby metropolis of Tel Aviv "looked like a magical place". She was drawn to the city's eclectic and fast-paced lifestyle.
"I was immediately attracted to the rhythm of the city, the colours, the daring people... These things inspired my ideas," says Negrin. When she set up her first makeshift booth of home-made jewellery and fashion pieces on Tel Aviv's trendy Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall, in late 1988, the response from buyers was immediate and overwhelming. Recognising that her unique designs (ranging from lace dresses to costume jewellery) were a hot commodity, Michal decided that the time had arrived to "brand and image" the Negrin collection.
Ironically, the beauty and success of the Negrin collection is predicated on a very simple concept: "I have always been connected to the world of innocence and femininity and loved the nostalgia of things such as dolls and pop-up cards," Negrin recalls. "My fashion and jewellery concepts are designed to rekindle the nostalgia with a twist of modernity and harmony."
Even though 23 years have passed since she started selling her wares, her creative energies are as strong as ever. "My business is my passion," she says. "I feel blessed because it still excites me to come to work each day. The things that I've dreamed about are an everyday reality and I enjoy living the moment."
Several years ago, Negrin decided to "share her world" with local and foreign customers by opening a large flagship store in Bat Yam (near Tel Aviv) incorporating a product gallery and visitors' centre. It has quickly become a magnet for buyers, browsers and neophyte designers alike. For Negrin, the store also reflects Israel's positive energy. "There are so many perceived negative notions about Israel in the world, so my idea was to create a place that reflected joy and harmony," she says. "Tourists who come and visit are overwhelmed when they see this place, because it provides them with a positive perspective, akin to a polished pearl."