Winter in Israel: High Fashion After Sundown

Local fashion label Gertrud's new collection is inspired by the colors of twilight

In the four years since she joined the design team of Gertrud, Shira Shir has tried to shift the image associated with the brand from sophisticated lingerie to an up-to-date fashion line.

"Once we were a lingerie center, but over the last few years that's changed," says Shir, 30. "We continue to supply these items to our clients, but in the collections we are showing now it's more important for us to understand the feminine body and resolve difficulties or problems with its proportions - to understand what cleavage is appropriate for each woman, to learn the strong and weak points of her body, what should be revealed and what areas are best covered."

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Clothes from the Gertrud Fall-Winter 2011-12 collection. An almost random assortment.Roni Knaani

With Bella Gonshorovitz, 27, who brought a fresh outlook when she joined Shir around a year and a half ago, she designs urban clothes that preserve the soft feminine look that became the immediately recognizable trademark of the little store that opened on Tel Aviv's Sheinkin Street in the early 1990s, but with a more sophisticated line than in the past.

For the current fall season, they chose the nicest part of the day as their starting point - "the twilight hours, when the sun sets and before the stars appear," explains Shir. They wanted to create a look that would be more spritely than is the norm in winter. "Black is a very dominant color in the winter wardrobe. Naturally it is present in the current collection, but we wanted to brighten the clothes with warm tones of orange and red and with lively prints," Shir continues.

It is apparent in the sleeveless, rayon blouses with wide stripes in shades of Bordeaux, orange, gray and beige, and in the long-sleeve, light knit shirts with assorted prints of tiny flowers in shades of orange or purple. The bottom of the shirt is soft and breezy and the top is made of slightly stiff rayon. Even though the cut radiates a certain naivete, a deep U-shaped neckline shows a generous amount of cleavage.

A knee-length, clingy dress is made of intense orange rayon, covered by a dense woven black layer that tones it down and endows it with a more elegant shade of bronze. A diagonal slash along the upper part is meant to flatter bustier women, and sharp pleats below the waist create a looser shape around the hips.

There are also similar pleats on a short, clingy, rayon, knit skirt in navy blue with two pockets. A thick black elastic belt along the waist makes it possible to comfortably adjust the skirt to fit a variety of body shapes.

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Clothes from the Gertrud Fall-Winter 2011-12 collection. An almost random assortment.Roni Knaani

"It's important to us to create a balanced collection, so if there is a close-fit style of pants, there will also be another one that has a wider cut," explains Shir. There are no pants at all in the current collection, but the designers were careful to offer a broad range of prints and styles - from an abstract jacquard in shades of Bordeaux, gray and white in the top of an elegant dress, to paisley prints and leopard-print swaths of fabric (in shades of black and white, or in a more colorful variety including dashes of pink, red and blue ) in knee-length rayon and soft Lycra dresses.

Nighttime gloominess

The dusk hours guided the designers toward the moment when the spirit becomes more dramatic, mysterious, prior to the evening hours. "As darkness falls, when the stars begin to twinkle," as Shir describes it. They expressed this by weaving shiny Lurex thread into the collection's knee-length black or gray dresses and also in a short, brushed, tailored jacket in dark gray, whose outside has a grainy and shiny texture resembling fresh asphalt. The hidden zippers on the edges of the long sleeves, the hem that sits high above the waistline, the angled cuts and the coarse fabric edging the firm collar are all meant to intensify the dramatic nature of the late evening hours.

There is also a nighttime gloominess in a coat dress with a deep, wide V-neckline, flat pleats along the waist and a belt that fastens with two buttons on the sides. A concealed zipper that cuts across the entire length allows for it to be left open, with only the belt keeping it closed. Shir recommends wearing it with a silk and lace combo underneath to create a really dramatic look. Romantic lace, she says, has moved from clothes to their natural place in lingerie. The raffia used in the cotton knit around the coat dress's neckline makes it seem like some complicated handicraft.

The designers also did not hesitate to diversify with a touch of sexual perversion, as hinted at by a coat dress with wide proportions and a 1940s-style pointed neckline made of a fairly dense knit along the bust and lower part and with fine cotton along the sleeves to maximize freedom of movement.

The complex lines of the jackets and dresses, the setting suns of the light rayon blouses that create clever transparency games, and the inclusion of knits and weaves in the alluring dresses together make this a classy and sophisticated collection - and yet it still lacks real momentum. It has a weak and incomplete feel that is reflected in the variety of items it features: It includes mainly dresses, blouses and jackets and not a single pair of slacks.

It's as if Gertrud's managers gave up in advance the possibility of persuading their clients to put together an entire wardrobe from their designs and the collection instead offers an almost random assortment of clothes, some of them very well designed. In general, this collection is the pale or gray light that appears when the sun is beyond the horizon.

Price ranges - Blouses: NIS 372-560; slacks: NIS 584-696; skirts and dresses: NIS 464-1,200; tops and jackets: NIS 424-1,300. Detailed list of stores on the website