Horridly Amateurish

At Israel's Fashion Awards, It's All About the 'Popular Kids'

Event had no intention of telling us anything new about Israeli fashion; all it sought was to maintain the status quo.

Near the close of the 2013 Israeli Fashion Awards ceremony, held Monday in Holon, fashion designer Dorin Frankfurt was called to the stage to receive the Lea Gottlieb Lifetime Achievement Award (honoring the founder of Gottex, who died this year), and the audience applauded at length. The veteran designer now marks 30 years of production under her eponymous brand, and the audience – mostly fashion professionals – realized immediately they were seeing one of the event's highlights, and behaved accordingly.

Unfortunately, this was the only time the crowd clapped with such enthusiasm. The other announcements of award winners' names were received with scant applause – and not for lack of interest. The ceremony's organizers presented it as a competitive event, a power struggle between candidates in various categories, and those present naturally expected exciting and surprising twists. The predictable choices may simply have disappointed them.

It should be noted that all of the winners in the different categories – from the men's fashion designer (Yossi Katzav, owner of the Sketch brand) to the women's fashion designers (the sisters Einav Zini and Nophar Machluf, owners of the Sample brand) – were worthy choices. Reuven Cohen, for instance, who won the Best Stylist award for 2013, is a well-known personality in the local industry, boasting an impressive record, and the same goes for hair and make-up designer Miki Buganim. But then, who can compete with them in their fields?

In general, the Israeli Fashion Awards ceremony was horridly amateurish, recalling a familiar children's ritual: It was all about marking out the "popular kids" and distinguishing between them and all the rest. And, as it is with children, there were no surprises. In retrospect, it is unclear why the producers of the ceremony, which was part of Holon Fashion Week, were so bent on reinstating the tradition of awarding prizes to the fashion industry seven years after the show was cancelled. In the past, the ceremony was broadcast live on Channel 2, engaging the interest of the general public and promoting the fashion industry's positive, vibrant image. But now, in the presence of local professionals, did anyone in the audience really need more proof of the superiority of senior figures in the fashion field?

That a well-established designer such as Daniella Lehavi competed with much younger accessory designers was just one example of the imbalance and strange proximity between younger artists and older, more established ones, against whom the novices had no chance. On the other hand, it was a faithful reflection of the delicate balance between the actors in the tiny local industry: There are very few competitors in each category, so that the categories cannot be split in order to distinguish, for example, between promising newcomers and established figures.

Dismal, accurate picture of local scene

The ceremony in general, with its defects and lack of coordination between participants – and there was plenty of both – drew a dismal, albeit accurate, picture of the local fashion scene: from the flippant attitude of its actors to the amateurish conduct disguised by gushing familiarity, to the inevitable exploitation of the industry and its workers by various functionaries for the undisturbed promotion of their own personal interests.

Some of the categories were absurd, illustrating the cynical attitude of the ceremony's organizers. Thus, the Best Model category did not include any male models. Of course, the very unification of the genders in one category is a blatant case of charlatanism. It seems no one gave any thought to defining the categories or choosing the candidates, and none of the producers saw the ceremony's potential of awakening the fashion discourse or broadening its familiar boundaries. For them, the ceremony was nothing more than a great opportunity to show off the sponsors and their associates in a meaningless display. In fact, the decision in the last category – Best Women's Designer – was the only one that carried any surprise factor, reflecting a vibrant reality and creating a sense of innovation. Since bursting onto the scene during Tel Aviv Fashion Week in December 2012, sisters Zini and Machluf have indeed come a long way with their Sample brand.

But they were an exception; otherwise the ceremony had no intention of telling us anything new about Israeli fashion. All it sought was to maintain the status quo. Even the choice of actress Keren Mor to host the event was typical of this kind of conformist thinking. Mor did have the presence of mind to remark, near the end of the event, that "in the future we may get better at holding ceremonies." Media celebrity and the minister for regional development’s spouse, Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, who came onstage near the end of the ceremony, sprinkled some optimism. She spoke of a new initiative called Fashion IL, meant to "push," in her words, Israeli fashion in foreign markets. Five local designers will receive support and aid in their endeavors to emerge onto the international fashion scene. Mozes emphasized the really important aspect of this: Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors and all the rest of them won't know what hit them. "Because the sky is the limit," in her words. In this case, the surprise never wears off: Whenever talking about fashion, particularly Israeli fashion, people feel the need to fly high, to the point of completely losing touch with reality.

David Bachar