Three years ago, Eti and Gabi Roter, the joint CEOs of Castro, Israel’s largest fashion company, started courting the leading lovers of fashion. They marked their flagship store in Tel Aviv as a bastion of progressive, uncompromising fashion. The items there spoke a daring language and were available only in limited and sometimes individual editions that had been created for fashion shows.
The purpose of this move was to give Castro’s image, which was seen as not too adventurous, a bit of a shake-up and dispel the fashionistas’ dismissive attitude toward it. To some extent, it succeeded, to the Roters’ satisfaction. It began a transformation in the target audience’s opinion, and quite a few of the people who had hesitated to be identified with Castro changed their minds. At some moments, the move proved itself by the critics’ supportive attitudes as well. But unfortunately, it did not withstand the most critical test — that of the cash register.
The Roters have changed direction for now to focus on more profitable ventures. Castro’s show of its Fall/Winter 2013–2014 collection, which was held in Tel Aviv this week, proved that the Roters are now speaking in two voices. One voice is for the runway, which most consider an entertaining show with clothing items that speak in a language of challenging, edgy design. The other voice belongs to the items shown in the shops, which have good commercial potential. Yet these two voices are not necessarily in harmony. There is actually a gap between what is shown on the runway and what ends up on the hangers on the shop floor.
The fact that there are actually two separate collections is not new. But this season, the gap between them has grown so wide that they cannot be discussed as a single collection. A visit to the showroom at Castro, which will soon be launching an international online store on its website, showed a lack of vision in choosing the sources of inspiration. Among the alternatives were stylized punk and styles from the early 1900s, inspired by the punk fashion exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Baz Luhrmann’s film version of “The Great Gatsby.” The collection’s modern touches, such as tribal styles and animal patterns, show no particular brilliance. The collection’s conservative, “official” tone is disappointing.
Tribal items, tiger shapes
The styles that made it onto the runway are very different indeed. The creative combinations and accessories added the essence that had been missing. For the first time, there were quite a few samples that stretched the limits of their style, showing not only an immeasurably sophisticated design language but also creative complexity. If we try to sum up the samples we saw on one succinct list, then aside from the punk and Great Gatsby look, it included sharp tailoring in the style of the 1950s, tribal items and tiger stripes. The latter were the decisive elements of the collection: They appeared on every item, in almost every possible color, and at various levels of intensity. In other words, stripes were more than merely the preferred type of decoration; they symbolized the essence of the eclectic layered look created in the spirit of punk or grunge. The “off-the-rack” logic consistently guided the show’s stylistics, from the female model who started off the show with a grayish, threadbare T-shirt and a gold pencil skirt - and over them an olive-green military-style coat - to the male model who stepped out in a long, closed cardigan with a zebra pattern over a tailored checkered shirt tucked into black leather trousers.
Not that there weren’t interesting sights to see at the show. Stiff leather biker-style jackets over striped jeans that fit the models like a second skin, or baggy baseball sweatshirts that covered tiny sparkling skirts — those were convincing punk styles in the spirit of the time. Grayish tailored items in a cotton-wool blend, women’s contoured tube dresses and men’s suits in a sharp, narrow silhouette came out as a safe platform on which wilder scenarios could be constructed by combining samples decorated with stripes. But most of these items, which had not been seen in the showroom before, led to the familiar question of what their future would be. It’s obvious that Castro’s CEOs would rather keep the best items for the runway, according to the logic of surprise. But what will become of them if they go no farther than the runway?
“Dressing is a complex task because you have to convey your message in a precise manner. You have to convey who you are,” Eti Roter said at the end of the show. She is right — it definitely is a particularly complex task for those who don’t know who they are, or those whose identities are not sufficiently strong. Roter sees the difference between the two collections — the one in the showroom and the one on the runway — as differences in platforms. Actually, the gaps between them also reflect ideologies and strategies that differ substantially from one another.