Bracha Bar On's new collection continues the casual spirit that's always typified her designs.
Veteran clothing designer Bracha Bar On looks relaxed among the rails laden with items at her shop on Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Street during the presentation of her brand's spring-summer collection. "Look for yourself at the items and tell me what you think," she says. She does not feel the need for much explanation.
"Every collection is like a story. It's important to me that it have a beginning, a middle and an end," the designer, who has been working in Israel for more than 30 years, says simply, before expanding a bit on the intention behind the current collection.
The story of the collection - the main axis of which is the classical casual look that has characterized Bar On's designs since the 1980s - is evident first of all in the arrangement of the dozens of items in the shop. There are four main units of color, in the spirit of the solid blocks of color that have inundated the fashion world in recent years, but without the brazenness of many other brands that give the trend an extreme interpretation.
Something in Bar On's designs creates the impression they have been through some softening and adaptation to suit her varied clientele, the climate and the Israeli consumer who doesn't know how to wear international trends. This also applies to the blocks of color: Entire areas of the shop are devoted to black, to a particularly beautiful royal blue, to white and to mint - colors that can coordinate and come together in outfits that suit nearly every woman at any time of day.
Making the masculine feminine
Bar On is also interested in so-called "boyfriend" cuts - somewhat relaxed, simple and above all wearable styles that are suited to her clients and don't pose much of a fashion challenge. Bar On explains that she has tried to translate a masculine look into a feminine one, transferring various elements from the male wardrobe into her women's collection - such as the addition of a masculine collar, and tank tops that have a row of buttons along the hem. Additionally, a white shirt with bands of striped silk sewn along the line of its button placket, and a similar element sewn on its sleeves and revealed when the cuffs are rolled up, is reminiscent of an old-fashioned men's shirt. The relaxed and easy shapes indeed reveal a masculine influence, mainly in the cargo pants with oversized pockets, simple and pretty buttoned shirts and military khaki pants.
But in some of the garments the addition of masculine elements seems almost arbitrary. Such elements cannot serve as external adornment - it is desirable that they have a functional role just as they have in the original. Adding the edges of a masculine collar to the bottom of a tank top, for example, is entertaining and intriguing but ultimately remains an external element of the garment, almost tacked onto it. Sometimes this even weighs down the collection, which on the whole radiates an easy and relaxed spirit.
In general, it seems that Israel designers exalt attention to detail and the nearly secret twists that are revealed behind a collar or inside a sleeve - but they forget the big picture. And such small details do not come together to create a clear fashion statement. For the most part they remain on the level of curiosity and make it difficult for the clientele to understand the garment.
Also in the collection are summery jackets in bright orange or lovely charcoal gray, a shirt-jacket with two prominent pockets, thin cardigans, oversized T-shirts and shirts, trendy polka-dot jackets, a classical motorcycle-style jacket of tissue-fine fabric with unraveled threads, and more. In addition there are items in geometric, African prints in red, brown, black and white, crepe dresses, and a selection of basics - simple tops and layering pieces in thin and pleasant fabrics.
Elegant pieces with a unique design that goes beyond the casual spirit at the heart of the brand are lacking, but there are many useful items here. A stroll among the rails of the collection makes it possible to go along with Bar On's request and understand on one's own the story she is telling. Here, clients can feel as relaxed as the designer does among the dozens of items on display. Each and every woman can combine them into her individual story.
However, out of all this, one question inevitably arises: What new fashion story does this collection tell? What is different about it, especially in the context of the brand's previous collections and the collections of other brands, be they huge chains or local designers?
True, the sewing seems carefully executed and the fabrics are suited to the Israeli climate. The press release says that "Bracha's handwriting consistently blurs the boundaries between the classical and the contemporary." But it is impossible not to wonder whether, perhaps, this blurring is not ultimately to her benefit.
Prices: shirts and tank tops - NIS 199 to NIS 460; pants and jeans - NIS 439 to NIS 640; jackets, tops and sets - NIS 439 to NIS 640; dresses - NIS 590 to NIS 890