The modest storefront window of the second-hand store, Little (also a nickname of the store's owner) on Tel Aviv's Tchernichovsky Street usually features excellent displays. Even though the shop has been around for two years, there is still no formal sign overhead, but the few items arranged in it create the impression they were carefully chosen both for the renewed relevance they have thanks to the cyclical nature of fashion, and also because of the emotional baggage they carry. If sometimes a single blouse is enough to fill the window with restrained tension, here the colorful and endearing backpacks designed by the store owner herself, Lital Fogel, are able to do that.

Fogel's bags are rectangular and made of fabrics that shrink to a triangular silhouette by pulling a white rope threaded along the upper edge that then becomes a carrying strap. These bags are the kind that can evoke childhood memories of day camps and after-school enrichment programs. The only difference, though it is a major one, is in the fabrics and their colorful prints. Sometimes they manage to elicit a broader smile than those prompted by the actual memories.

This nostalgia guided Fogel, 32, when she developed the concept, but the final product offers more than nostalgia. "For a while I have been noticing these triangular bags and they look great to me, but the fabrics they're made of are ugly," she says. "I couldn't understand why they couldn't be made to look nicer. It is after all a great bag, it's small and convenient, and there is something from our childhood in it."

Indeed, in the past few years, luxury brands such as Lanvin, or designers such as Rick Evans, have designed lovely versions of these bags, but their presence on the streets is limited because of the high prices. Fogel's bags, however, are inexpensive as well as environmentally friendly, because they are made of old pillowcases. The idea to use them came up randomly, she says, during her outings to collect clothes for the store.

"More than once, I came across collections of pillowcases no longer in use, some of them single units and therefore not in demand," she says, adding that now she is careful, to the extent possible, to take a pair of pillowcases, in order not to leave an orphaned one behind. "The idea of turning them into bags appealed to me because that way a second-hand item could be given a new life. Another factor was of course the wild prints that can't be found anywhere else."

Comfort zone

The appeal of the bags does indeed stem from the prints. While the focus now is on bold prints and raging patterns in livid colors, be it the influence of ethno-primitive or futuristic-digital styles, Fogel's bags reflect a bit of this frenzy in a way that still remains within the comfort zone of the less flamboyant dressers. The range of patterns is varied and uplifting, and according to Fogel, the initial sorting is done according to gender. "Blue checks are something boys will usually buy, for example, and for the girls there are all kinds of styles that relate to current trends," she says. The truth of the matter is that fewer people are drawn to the older styles and the vintage look of naive flowery bed linens, for example. Most prefer the African style, tribal designs, or the so-very-hip styles."

The latter refers to the geometric designs in fluorescent colors that gained popularity in the 1990s. One way or another, the reactions on the street are enthusiastic among men and women both. She pulls out a sheet for a child's bed from that decade, one she is now using to sew new models on the sewing machine set on a table in the middle of the store. The large swatches allow her to design unique, tailor-made bags.

"One day a Swedish tourist came in here and tried out a bag and was very enthusiastic, but it looked a little strange on him, because he was very tall. I asked him to come back in a few hours, and in the meantime I sewed a larger model for him to match his dimensions," she says. Another time she sewed a backpack for a woman who asked to print her original drawing on it and present it as a gift. "She printed her drawing on a pillowcase and I sewed the bag."

For those who nevertheless prefer solid bags with new designs, Fogel offers plain versions in shades of blue, burgundy or black. Apart from the types of patterns, she says, there are other gender differences related to the methods for carrying the bags.

"Usually men wear two straps over one shoulder. Apparently they feel a need to display strength, and of course it creates a much more comfortable look by casually tossing the bag over one shoulder," she says.

However, the inside pockets she creates with zigzag stitching are a matter of general convenience. You can store small items there that could easily get lost inside the bag, such as a cell phone or key ring. "These bags are great for the beach, and it's also a good option for parties or protests, because it's very light and convenient, and therefore you don't have to take them off your back," she says.

 

Price: NIS 50; Little, 10 Tchernichovsky Street, Tel Aviv