TEL AVIV, Israel — For people who live smack dab in the middle of the world’s most politically charged region, Israelis are a very warm and welcoming bunch, keen to show a side of the country that doesn’t make it into most international news reports. As is true for most places in the world, in order to understand Israel and its people, one really needs to visit the country and experience it first hand.
So, I was extremely fortunate to have been invited to speak at Holon Fashion Week (HoF11) last month, held at the stunning Design Museum Holon designed by Ron Arad, who is credited with putting this suburban city on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, on the global design radar. Though the event was dubbed a ‘fashion week’, there were no fashion shows to speak of. In reality, what transpired was more of a constructive dialogue between the global fashion industry and Israel’s fashion community.
My local guides for the week were the vivacious Dorit Bar Or, frequently named as the country’s most stylish woman (on one evening out together, Dorit was stormed by a wall of TMZ-style paparazzi), and the charming Eyal de Leeuw, External Relations Manager for the Design Museum Holon and one half of the leading Israeli men's style blog Ha Garconniere. Thanks to these two gracious hosts, I met the good and great of the local fashion and design communities, which opened my eyes to the energy of this gleaming modern city and its vibrant neighbourhoods Neve Tzedek and Jaffa.
As for HoF11, it was three jam-packed days exploring the fashion industry’s growing relationship with the digital world. There were keynote speeches from the likes Ron Arad and Yuli Ziv, one-on-one conversations with Zac Posen and Stephanie La Cava, several panel discussions, and film screenings featuring Yohji Yamamoto and Vidal Sassoon, as well as Lotus Eaters, a visually striking film from Alexandra McGuinness, featuring the up-and-coming model Amber Anderson, which debuted earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. Both Amber and Alexandra were also on hand in Holon to answer questions afterwards from a rapt audience.
While Israel may be geographically isolated from the Western fashion capitals, the principal discussions and debates that preoccupy the local fashion industry are much the same as those that arise in New York, London, Paris and Milan. Perhaps top of the list is that inherently borderless question: what are the implications of the digital revolution and how should the fashion industry adapt to the growth of new technologies and media platforms?
Indeed, like consumers in much of the developed world, Israelis are highly digitally connected. According to research recently presented by Mary Meeker of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Israelis spend 11.1 hours on social networks each month, more than their counterparts in any other country on the planet. And while full-price e-commerce has yet to take off in Israel, due to slow uptake by local retailers, we are already seeing the early success of local sites such as Style River and Sense of Fashion (targeted at the US market), which are focused on offering deals and showcasing to hard-to-find designers.
I applaud local initiatives like HoF11, which brought Israel’s fashion community into the global fashion dialogue during a period of great innovation and excitement for all of us who work in fashion. And, stay tuned for more fashion news from Israel later this month when Tel Aviv itself will hold its first fashion week, complete with fashion shows from local designers, as well as guest appearance from one Roberto Cavalli.
Imran Amed is founder and editor of The Business of Fashion