Match your mask to your outfit: Israeli designers pivot to virus accessories

Harnessing inspiration to necessity, designers offer a range of creative, fashionable and protective one- and two-ply fabric masks

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Designer Lara Rosnovsky is using fabrics from her previous collection to fashion masks for her clients Courtesy Lara Rosnovksy)
Designer Lara Rosnovsky is using fabrics from her previous collection to fashion masks for her clients Courtesy Lara Rosnovksy)

When Israel’s government first issued an advisory to start wearing masks, local fashion designers spied an opportunity.

“I realized there would be demand for masks, for something cool and comfortable, not made of paper or looking too surgical,” said designer Hagar Sattat. “People will be wearing these all day long.”

Within a few days, Sattat had designed three different styles of close-fitting, cotton-knit masks that are made for women, men and kids, and come in a variety of colors.

She wasn’t the only one.

The new regulations from Sunday, April 12 require all Israelis over age 6 to wear a mask outdoors, whether homemade, makeshift or bought.

At least 10 Israeli designers began hawking their freshly sewn masks on Facebook, made of vibrant fabrics and often with adjustable bands, to account for different sizes.

Sattat’s masks echo her own design ethos, made from one layer of cotton tee-shirt fabric, covering nose and mouth and some are stamped with one tasteful, metallic gold heart or a row of silver studs, reminiscent of her classic costume jewelry and tees.

“I wanted something simple and easy to wash, with a clean look, classic with a twist, like my jewelry,” said Sattat, who has been designing jewelry for 16 years, but had to send her staff on unpaid vacation for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. “I designed them very quickly.”

מסיכה מעוצבת זה התכשיט החדש ????כולנו כבר מבינות מה עומד להיות האקססורי הכי חשוב בתקופה הקרובה אז עיצבתי לכן מסכות בד רב…

Posted by Hagar Satat | Jewelery on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Sattat works with several seamstresses and her father and brother own a silkscreen tee-shirt factory, making it easy to move into production. That kind of access to sewing machines and labor is crucial right now.

Zohara Tights, which designs and makes socks, stockings and bathing suits, brought several designers on board to design the 14 different masks added to their inventory two weeks ago, said Dana Rapaport, the Zohara CEO.

One of the mask designers is Lara Rosnofsky, usually known for her colorful galabiya dresses and kimonos. All the Zohara masks are made with two layers, said Rapaport, according to Health Ministry guidelines.

“We’re selling out,” said Rapaport.

So is Sattat, who put her designs up on her website on Friday, April, 10, and had “a ton” of orders by Sunday. She’s selling them individually, as family packs, or in groups of two or four, from NIS 37 (around $10) to NIS 99 (around $29).

Right now, however, Sattat is working alone in her Tel Aviv studio, filling the online orders.

Her website generally accounts for 25% of her business; now it’s the entire business, and she said there has been a 30% increase in online orders. She’s not offering any of her new spring jewelry collection yet, hoping to hold off on that until her store can reopen.

“For now, this is the new spring accessory,” she said.

Clothing designer Dalit Ciporkin is offering her own masks with a cotton exterior and gauze interior as a gift to customers who order one of her sale clothing items.

“Buy with love, receive with love,” wrote Ciporkin on Facebook and Instagram, who is also offering free shipping.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by dalit ciporkin (@ciporkin)

In the meantime, though, making masks helps pass the time, said Lydia Rener, who designs and sells her all-fabric bags out of her studio off of Nachalat Binyamin Street in Tel Aviv.

Rener first made a mask for herself about a month ago, when people first began donning masks for the coronavirus.

“I had all the materials in my studio, and I made it like my bags, with two layers, an outer one and an inner one,” said Rener, who often uses rubberized fabrics for her vegan handbags.

When she got stopped by people on the street who wanted to know where she got her mask, she knew the time had come to make and sell these fabric accessories.

“It occupies me right now,” said Rener. “It’s not going to take the place of the bags, but it gives me something to do and stay active in my work.”

Posted by Lydia Rener on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

All of Rener’s masks are two-ply and adjustable, available from her Tel Aviv studio or by messenger, and from her online Etsy store for NIS 52.73 (around $15).

And they’re all made by Rener.

“For better or for worse, it’s all me right now,” she said. “And I love being in touch with my clients.”

Designer Adi Bakshi began designing masks when the Israeli government asked Israelis to start wearing them outside (Courtesy Adi Bakshi)

It was designer Adi Bakshi’s clients who first pushed her to make masks as well, said Bakshi, who’s known for her series of one-button scarves for adults and kids.

“I didn’t want to make anything until I understood what the masks had to look like,” said Bakshi, a Shenkar graduate who has run her scarf company for the last 11 years. “When the prime minister and health minister said we have to cover our noses and mouths, and that we could use scarves too, then I knew I could make something.”

Like her scarves, which are often reversible, Bakshi’s masks are adjustable for different faces, with two fabric layers, and completely washable. They cost NIS 59 (around $17) apiece, and can be bought with a scarf for NIS 148 (around $43).

“The idea is that you’re buying several masks for a few people, and it will fit anyone,” she said.

מהזהב והכסף הממכרות, דרך הפרחונית שעושה לחייך ועד השחור-לבן שאת חייבת. המסכות החדשות כבר כאן!! ????✨הזדמנות מושלמת להתפנק…

Posted by ‎Adi Bakshi עדי בקשי‎ on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

She’s selling many right now, to individuals and companies who want their logos on the fabric covers, but mostly to families, “for mom and dad and the kids,” said Bakshi.

“I think that something in our lifestyle is going to change,” she said, “We’re going to be wearing masks on buses and trains and planes, and waiting in line at the post office. People will be wearing masks that are metallic or in a fabric and they’ll turn it into an accessory. You walk around with this kind of mask, and you feel better.”

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