It’s the eternal quandary of the young fashion designer; tired of designing and selling out of a small apartment but not yet earning enough income to warrant renting a studio space.
For Natalie Motlis, 31, and Jul Gasin, 28, the answer was to open a shop together, Jul & My Lilla, in the latest hip neighborhood of Tel Aviv, Mitcham Noga, or the Noga Complex, a rapidly gentrifying warren of narrow side streets in northern Jaffa.
Gasin, a clothing designer, knew the space would work as a combination studio/shop for herself and Motlis, a jewelry designer whose label is called My Lilla.
“I believe in cooperation,” said Gasin. “This is a store that’s also a workspace, and we work here all day, it serves our purpose.”
Their work shares a certain romantic character; Motlis, who started out studying biology, soon left her studies and went to live in London and Scotland, where she discovered her knack for working with plastics and silicon, creating costume jewelry with a whimsical bent. Her initial interest in biology and the world of nature has led her to create pieces featuring the beribboned and crowned faces of animals and pets, a kitschy but amusing sideline that also allows customers to order pictures of their own pets featured on a necklace (between NIS 220 and NIS 350 per order).
Creatures from the worlds of the circus, theater and dance are clearly deeply ingrained in Motlis’ nature; her pop-art-inspired handbags, haircombs, necklaces, rings and bracelets feature Alice in Wonderland characters, Barbie, and other fairytale characters. The images are often printed on wood, silicon or posterboard, and then coated, sometimes with nail polish, before being cut to size.
“I never formally studied design, but I developed my own design language over time, while always hinting to that return to the playroom,” said Motlis. “I let my imagination run wild, and allow myself to be spontaneous, which gives me greater rein to use different inspirations, shapes and materials.”
Her partner, Jul Gasin, displays a similar romantic spirit in her design, which offers a vintage look in its wide range of fabrics and styles, but was initially inspired by a roots trip she took to St. Petersburg, Russia with her mother and sister, which they left 22 years ago.
“All that Baroque architecture and the urban look of the women vis-à-vis the scene around them, those gold domes and ornate buildings, had a strong effect on me,” she said.
Having taught herself to sew at 16, and after attending design school in Italy, Gasin started her line, Jul, two years ago, aiming for an urban look that’s easy to wear and mostly geared for a younger, twenty- and thirty-something crowd.
The collection is full, including slim pants and long, full skirts, bulky knit sweaters that are imported from St. Petersburg, shirts, jackets and coats, ranging in price from NIS 220 for the shirts (including a great black pleather option), to NIS 350 for the cigarette-style pants, NIS 420 for the skirts, and NIS 920 for the trench coat. It’s Gasin’s third collection, and she’s found that many of her customers come to buy an item or two, looking to add some signature pieces to their wardrobe.