How the Israeli Fashion Brand Maskit Delivers Authentic Luxury – Forbes
I am a firm believer in the saying “History repeats itself.” Nevertheless, when history repeats itself within the fashion industry, I am quite well certain that it will be redefined and modified. Striking a balance between nostalgia and modernism seems to be the key component when discussing fashion during these flexible times. In March, I attended Gindi TLV fashion week in Tel Aviv, Israel. TLV as it is referred to, is currently in its fifth year of production showcasing forward-thinking tech seminars and a steady stream of Israeli fashion designers exhibiting forthright enthusiasm and perseverance. Despite having a rich vibrant history dating back thousands of years, the state of Israel is just shy of 70 years young . So you may ask yourself what does all this information of history have to do with fashion?
As a number of talented fashion houses showcased during the week, one in particular had stood out for me. The name of the brand is Maskit. This fashion house is relevant creatively, however the luxury women’s brand peaked my curiosity due in part to its history embedded in the Israeli government. The Atelier is situated at 14 Hatzorfim St. between the old city of Jaffa and the flea market which I found to be one of the most inspiring areas of creativity. The important thing to remember about Maskit is that it has its enthusiasts but hasn’t yet captured the mainstream platform, that in my estimation, it well deserves. Upon reviewing the brands collection of full and loose silhouettes made with soft to the touch fabrications, well designed embroideries and sophisticated designs, I decided to refer to it as modified heritage.
The brand launched in 1954 by Mrs. Rut Dayan and was owned by the Israeli Government. I do not ever recall having come across a brand that was owned by a government. Nevertheless, upon understanding Israel’s past history of mass migration in the post war era, I easily understood how skilled artisans would be seeking employment. At that time many immigrants from all parts of the world were entering the country and looking for jobs. Rut had noticed many of the newcomers had skills in sewing and embroidery… She submitted a proposal to the Israeli government and it was approved. Consequentially, Maskit was born.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sharon Tal head designer at Maskit where we discussed full silhouettes, soft fabrications and reviving the heartfelt deep history of this brand as it transitions into the future…
Tell us about the history of Maskit and the meaning of the name?
Maskit was founded by the government in 1954 as the first Israeli fashion house. The founder was Mrs Rut Dayan, who just turned 100 last month. Maskit is mentioned in the bible 14 times as “something small and beautiful / an ornament”
What are the pros and cons of developing a brand in Tel Aviv?
The Pros: Israel and Tel Aviv is an inspiring place to get inspiration from… It’s a country in a size of a city and it has few amazing inspiration sources: Firstly, the cultural mix and melting pot. We have 72 different cultures living together. Secondly, the historical elements as we have a vast historical element from the old port in the world in Jaffa that inspire us all. Lastly. the geography as we don’t have the tallest mountain and the biggest desert but we most certainly have desert, mountains and a magnificent beach all within a 30min drive.
Talk to us about your apprenticeships, expertise and Maskits comparative advantage in a fast paced luxury fashion world?
I graduated from my fashion design studies in Shenkar Collage with excellence. During my time as a student, I had the opportunity to intern for a fellow Israeli names Alber Albaz, creative director at Lanvin. I apprenticed underneath Mr. Albaz for a few seasons. My experience with Alber was super special to me. It was inspiring to see Alber at work. In my estimation, he was a combination between a pure professional and hard worker. He was the first to arrive at the atelier and the last to leave. And above all, he was human. After I graduated from Shenkar I was fortunate enough to work for Alexander McQueen. At McQueen, I became the head of embroidery. The most exciting time at the company was that while I was working with Lee (Mcqueen) and Sarah (Burton) on the Plato Atlantis collection, which happened to be his final collection; It was an extraordinary process of pushing the boundaries of creativity…The Plato Atlantis was my last collection I had worked on.
Maskit believes that Authenticity is the new luxury. We use ancient techniques in an updated way with timeless designs. Each piece captures the local inspiration while bringing a modern feel.
Talk to us about the current collection: design aesthetic, fabrications, embellishments and embroidery and how this gives Maskit a unique niche in the market?
Maskit collections combine few unique combinations: materials are always soft and natural, the colors are deep and exotic. The patterns make you feel natural and comfortable. The aesthetics are delicate and intelligent while being timeless. The craftsmanship is our unique development, we take ancient techniques and we embroider them with a different material or new finishes.
Who is your demographic?
Woman who are confident with themselves, leaders in their own field of expertise. Ladies who appreciate art and craft and pay attention to details. Ladies who travel the world, but feel at home when they are dressed. We are neither trendy nor seasonal. Age is not an issue, we pride ourselves in making timeless apparel for timeless woman.
Speak to us about the fashion sensibility of an Israeli woman with respect to the luxury market?
The Israeli woman has their own approach to luxury goods… An Israeli woman on average appreciates authenticity and likes to feel comfortably dressed. This is why I prefer to have materials which have a soft hand and patterns that are a bit fuller and looser.
If you can please lend your opinion on the Tel Aviv fashion week and in your estimation, do you see Tel Aviv fashion week growing exponentially. How has technology helped or hindered the process ( give examples)?
Gindi Tel Aviv Fashion week is a great initiative that has supported the growth of the industry. Tel Aviv fashion week in the 60’s and 70’s had been very strong. Buyer and press came from all over the world to review and buy the Maskit lines. At that time, Maskit was sold at Bergdrof Goodman, Neuman Marcus and many other luxury retailers. Then, like in few places around the world the industry changed and shrunk. Now I think that everybody understands that there is a need to redefine the competitive advantage of Israeli fashion from the beginning and I am sure that you will see it develop in the years to come. The best example of Israeli fashion growth is in the bridal market. Israel with a different angle, found a way to start working internationally.
What is your biggest challenge?
Design challenge: To bring the local inspiration to every piece within the collection in an updated and relevant way.
Business challenge: The biggest challenge is to have Maskit return to being a leading international fashion house, and to be able to create this from Tel Aviv.
Where do you see the future of Maskit and Israeli fashion on the global marketplace.
I think that Maskit can bring “Authentic luxury” to the global marketplace. Luxury product based on superb craftsmanship and local inspiration. I think the first big introduction to the market is going to be the “Desert collection” – the iconic piece collection that combines the iconic desert coat of Maskit in his updated version.