For a man, Ronen Chen knows an awful lot about women. And not radicchio-nibbling size zero women who won’t be seen in the same room as a salt-beef sandwich.
Real women who eat, but still want to look streamlined and sophisticated when they are dressed.
Finding a male designer who appreciates this concept is a rare thing, as most of them create clothing that requires a no-calorie diet on the part of the wearer.
But whether it is because he has been listening to female gripes through changing-room doors or enjoys food himself, Chen produces clothes that miraculously appear to suit women of varying sizes without the need for shapewear undies.
Witnessing this first-hand at his new store in Temple Fortune, in north-west London, was intriguing, as we know that ordinarily everything always looks better on someone tall and thin.
But in a Ronen Chen dress, the shape and the line of the folds cover the bits one wants hidden and highlights the bits you don’t.
“It’s all about the cut, the shaping and the fabric,” says the 46-year-old Chen matter-of-factly.
“I know celebrity designers tend to have a female ideal or a muse in mind when they work, but I have tons of women in my head of all shapes, sizes and ages. Comfortable clothing that flatters the figure is always my aim.”
That the Tel Aviv-based designer has achieved his goal with each new collection is supported by the 18 stores he has in Israel, as well as a healthy export business to Nordstrom in the United States and now two shops in London.
“The expansion has been slow as locations have to be right,” explains Chen, who opened his first boutique on Shenkin Street in Tel Aviv in 1994.
“I planned on being an architect because I had an eye for construction and could draw well, but I didn’t have the patience for buildings and so I tried fashion design and discovered the water felt good and I knew how to swim.”
Poetic, incisive and able to design a turtle neck that does not make a girl look like she should be shot out of a canon, it is no wonder women cannot leave Chen alone.
“Put it on and forget about it is my fashion ethos,” says the designer whose two favourite clients are his daughters, six-year-old Shira and Noa, aged three.
“They think all fathers make dresses for their children.”
Though he makes clothes for himself, menswear does not interest him. “It’s so limited — you move a pocket from here to there,” he says.
This means women have his full attention and he is going to be at the opening of the Temple Fortune store on Thursday. It is a brave move as styling en masse alarms him.
“I’m glad I don’t work in the stores,” he laughs, but he’ll be there nevertheless. “The customers will tell me what they want.”
Chances are, he already knows.