Inspired by ultra-Orthodox, massive backwards suits turn heads in Paris

Israeli designer Hed Mayner is selling his oversized creations to boutiques in the world’s fashion capitals

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

In design, it may require someone who’s never had to wear a suit to design a new version of the classic menswear piece.

Hed Mayner, a 31-year-old designer who grew up in a hippy village in the Galilee, has reconfigured the suit into something that’s worn oversized and with a focus on the back, showing it on Paris runways and selling it to more than 50 boutiques in fashion capitals such as Paris, Milan, Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles.

“That’s my real accomplishment,” said Mayner, referring to his acceptance in international fashion circles.

But his inspiration comes from the men of Israel’s ultra Orthodox community, daily wearers of suits, even when on day trips to visit the tomb of a famous rabbi buried in Amuka, the village where Mayner was raised by his artist parents.

Designer Hed Mayner at a recent show in Paris, in January 2018. (Courtesy Hed Mayner)

In Israel, remarked Mayner, the suits worn by Haredi boys often get passed down to siblings, with any defects, wrinkles, or folds included as well.

It’s those details that Mayner has worked into this own iconic designs, articulated in his latest collection of 25 pieces for Fall/Winter 2018/2019, shown in Paris at the end of January.

The fronts of shirts and jackets are smaller, and more fitted, while the backs are oversized, sometimes tremendously larger than the person wearing it.

It’s all about scale with Mayner, as he alternately magnifies and downsizes pieces throughout his collection.

“It’s traditional menswear items blown out of proportion, but there’s an attitude in this incorrectly worn piece of clothing,” said Mayner, who wore his own dramatically oversized blue button-down shirt that was miles larger than he is, but suited his height and dramatic head of black hair, brushed upwards.

A Hed Mayner suit, scaled toward a dramatically oversized back and sleeves. (Courtesy Hed Mayner)

Viewing at a YouTube video of the recent Paris show, Mayner pointed at one model wearing a jacket that was a size 38 in front and another two sizes larger in back.

Much of his attention is paid to the backs of the items, turning fashion’s focus away from the front and toward a different part of the garment.

HIs ‘falling backwards jacket’ has the entire back of the jacket sagging downward, with the sleeves turned and floppy, another inversion of the classic fitted blazer, and meant to force the wearer to wear the jacket differently.

“I’m trying to really change things,” he said. “The narrow [part] refers to the wide [part].”

Another outfit included a shirt with a garment bag hanging from back, literally.

“It’s the whole gesture of dry cleaning,” he said. “There are references from this world and we used them to create something else.”

There’s more than a hint of ultra-Orthodox male clothing in this tailored coat by Hed Mayner. (Courtesy Hed Mayner)

While Mayner studied fashion, first attending Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and then at the Parisian Institut Français de la Mode, he also spent time with tailors, taking apart old suits and putting them back together again in order to rethink their cut and design.

“There’s gestures and body language and to create body language through the cut, it’s how you cut it,” he said. “There are connections to the ways people wear tailored clothing.”

It’s also clothing that isn’t only meant for men, particularly given current thinking and changes regarding gender, and what is considered men’s or women’s clothing.

“There’s a lot of perspectives now in terms of how people see male fashion,” said Mayner. “Menswear design isn’t what it used to be. Women wear this too and it looks great on them. I don’t do that on purpose. This is about manipulations of size and what’s more important is the story, it blurs the stance of society.”

Hed Mayner tends toward oversized and dramatically magnified pieces in his collection. (Courtesy Hed Mayner)

Mayner has been working as a designer for three years, mostly in Paris, where he said he was helped by a network of fellow fashion designers and industry people.

He recently returned to Israel, however, because it felt “more realistic” as a community with people and ideas doing things on a small budget.

“It just felt right,” said Mayner, who is still working at a distance from other Tel Aviv designers, with a studio in a rundown building near the central bus station in the southern end of the city. “Here there’s the freedom to do what you want because there’s nothing here. There’s no history of fashion, really, so you can do what you want. It’s freeing. There’s also a distance from Paris so you feel on your own.”

There’s very little menswear design in Israel and virtually no couture level design, but rather a small, cohesive community of native-born and trained designers who support the casual trends and styles supported by Israeli customers.

Another Hed Mayner suit, worn with a button down shirt that turns the concept around. (Courtesy Hed Mayner)

Mayner works mostly outside that local community of designers, focusing on planning and development in Israel, but using fabrics and seamstresses in France.

It’s a system that works for him, given that he’s found his customer base outside of Israel, where the international design community is overwhelmingly accepting. It’s an artistic, interdisciplinary industry that is international and communal, he said.

“There’s no BDS in fashion,” he said.

That said, he wouldn’t say no to working out of Jerusalem at some point, where there is a concentration of ultra Orthodox men in suits, and the tailors that dress them.

“I find my inspiration in some unusual places,” said Mayner.

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