Models in stiletto heels and local fashion icons bearing oversized necklaces and chunky boots gathered Monday night for the opening of “Dream Weavers, From Jewish Tailors to Top Fashion Designers,” a new exhibit at Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People.
Curated by Shelly Verthime, an Israeli fashion curator currently living in London who used to work with Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz — the Israeli-born designer entrenched in the couture world — the goal of the exhibit is to show the timeline of Jewish involvement in the fashion world, from the tailors of Eastern Europe to the Jewish stars of today’s industry.
It’s also another opportunity for the museum to polish up its dusty image in an attempt to bring a younger, hipper crowd to the museum’s Tel Aviv University campus location.
“You have to find new things and open a window for young talents,” said Verthime.
In putting together the exhibit, Verthime called the presence of Jews in the global fashion industry a “relatively new phenomenon.”
“I wanted to see if family values and traditions really made them what they are,” she said.
The exhibit didn’t have much about the professional or Jewish histories of the designers whose work was represented, though.
Touted as the first group exhibition featuring more than 20 works by top Jewish fashion designers, it included dresses by Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Alber Elbaz, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Arnold Scassi, Sonia Rykiel, Diane von Fürstenberg, Victoria’s Secret, Nicole Farhi, Ilana Goor, Sarah Moon and Yigal Azrouël.
The heart of the collection, a dark room full of mostly ethereally white dresses — some designed exclusively for the show, others borrowed from the designers’ collections — was meant to represent the floating dresses of Chagall’s bride and groom, said Beit Hatfusot spokeswoman Assia Reuben.
There are beaded tulle creations from Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, as well as a starkly modern sheath by Israeli designer Yigal Azrouel and a black chiffon gown paired with silvery leather pumps designed by Aldo Shoes creative director Avi Tenzer, an Israeli who lives in Canada.
Aside from the few introductory paragraphs describing the Jewish tailors of Eastern Europe and the Jewish sweatshops of New York’s Lower East Side, there are no descriptions or histories of the Jewish designers whose work is displayed.
There are also no current Israeli designers featured in the show.
That didn’t bother designer Kedem Sasson, who’s known for his starkly conceptual clothing rich in fabrics and shapes.
“We, the Israelis, we’re another exhibit,” he said, glancing around the room during the opening night event. “What was missing for me, personally, was more of the story of these international designers. I know the names and the dresses are beautiful, but it feels distant. I wanted to hear the story of these designers and that was missing completely.”
“Dream Weavers, From Jewish Tailors to Top Fashion Designers,” is open to the public until May 17, at Beit Hatfutsot, on the Tel Aviv University campus.