On the table, among the refreshments served at the launch of fashion brand Comme Il Faut’s 2013 collection last week were two full pitchers of Coca-Cola. On one pitcher, “Coca-Cola” was written in Hebrew, and on the other, it was written in Arabic. This was the work of artist Zoya Cherkassky, and odd as it seemed, it was appropriate in light of the title printed on the fliers next to every seat: “Judaism and Islam.”
The religions are the theme that Sybil Goldfeiner, the founder, owner and chief executive of Comme Il Faut, has chosen for the year. This season’s collection, the first of the year, was inspired by Islam. The next one will be dedicated to Judaism, and the two after that will focus on things the two faiths have in common. The new collection appeared designed to mark a new chapter in the history of Comme Il Faut. At the very least, it marks a change in personnel. Ira Goldman and Efrat Ziv, the designing duo behind the brand in recent years, went on maternity leave and never came back. “I see that as almost a feminist failure, but on the other hand feminism means being supportive,” said Goldfeiner in a tone that combined humor, harshness and regret. The designers were replaced by Sharon Daube, a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design with experience in the local industry, and Karin Leikovich, a recent graduate of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.
“Fashion is culture, and culture is society, and this is our place to have an influence and maybe create a bit of change,” Goldfeiner said. “In this case, religion, or religious dress, is a way to control women by covering them and concealing their bodies to keep men from behaving inappropriately, heaven forbid. The use of these tools results in silencing and oppression.”
One of the goals of the current collection, and the ones to follow, is to allow women to wear religious symbols, “but from a position of strength,” said Goldfeiner. Her strategy for accomplishing this is simple: in her words, “To look at Muslim manners of dress in a positive way.”
“Many times, when we look at Muslim clothing, it’s interpreted as a sign of backwardness or irrelevance - something that goes completely against fashion,” Goldfeiner said. “As we looked at it, we tried to find the beauty in it.”
The initial result is a collection that follows the logic of Muslim dress, with loose cuts, modest patterns and layers. But it is unclear whether glorifying oppressive modes of dress and making them attractive is an effective way to condemn the silencing and oppression that these patterns create. One guest at the launch wondered aloud if when Goldfeiner talked about a “position of strength,” she was referring to women blessed with financial strength. The outfits - which are comprised of a blouse, trousers and a skirt - cost as much as NIS 3,000.
Female empowerment aside, the silhouettes celebrated in the collection are in line with the prevailing mood in high fashion. Many designers, even those not averring goals of social change, are exploring the disciplined character of religious clothing - be it traditional Tibetan or Amish.
But Comme Il Faut’s new collection is infinitely more stylish and refined than the Muslim garments that inspired it. The clothes masterfully exploit the tension between firm tailoring and soft or crisp fabric and between sharp lines and delicate pleats. Despite the religious hints, the end result is a relaxed look of contemporary elegance.
Prices: Blouses: NIS 320-1,400. Trousers: NIS 900-1,200. Jackets: NIS 1,400-2,500. Skirts and dresses: NIS 750-1,600. For a list of stores, visit the website at http://www.comme-il-faut.com