I Wanna Be a Supermodel: Israeli Fashion Designer Displays Self, Friends in Catalogue

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Three women star in the Israeli designer Maya Negri’s catalogue for spring-summer 2013 – the designer herself and two of her friends, architect Lihi Gerstner, and Michal Ansky, the presenter of the “Master Chef” television show and founder of the farmers’ market at the Tel Aviv Port. Jewelry designer Elinor Dvir also makes a brief appearance.

The idea of casting herself and her girlfriends, it turns out, arose during a trip to Paris. There, according to Negri, she realized the combined power of three women such as themselves and the advantage in presenting "ordinary" women instead of professional models.

The line is geared to “women of a certain sort,” she says. From the comments she and her friends add, and from the photos that appear in the catalogue, it appears the reference is mainly to women for whom words like jetlag and boutique hotel describe a considerable part of their daily vernacular.

It is hard to say whether Negri and her glamorous friends – who are photographed in the catalogue in sleek surroundings such as a luxury apartment or a fashionable restaurant, looking very much like poster girls for a hedonistic lifestyle – will arouse a greater sense of identification from the general public than would a trio of professional models. Nevertheless, this is after all a fashion catalogue and Negri has always addressed in a focused way women of a certain economic and social class.

One such woman, Sarah Sonneborn, a lecturer on history and philology, is a veteran client of Negri’s who over the years has become her friend. At the beginning of the week, when Negri revealed her catalogue to representatives of the media, she returned Sonneborn to her youthful days as a model in Paris and asked her to show a number of the items. Sonneborn made the new softness and lightness in the designer’s spring wardrobe look particularly flattering. If in the past Negri’s attempt to dress women in a wide range of ages and body types was accompanied by some grating false notes (mature women sometimes looked as though they were trying to shed years from their age with the help of fashionable silhouettes, while restrained styles gave young women adult sophistication), this time flowing cuts, light fabrics and a new line of Jalabiyas based on traditional Middle Eastern robes bridged the generation gaps in a good way.

Overall, it was clear that Negri’s design language has matured and has become refined. The best example of this is in a more basic item like a sleeveless blouse made of two layers of fabric combined in angular lines.

“How good is it to know that you have a few good items in your closet and to know that when you wear them you are set?” Negri says. Her strength has indeed always been in the design of a useful wardrobe. If in the past there were influences of religious dress in her designs, such as short rounded sleeves or erect lapels that follow the neck, now these have given way to clean, tailored lines. In a white top of a fine cotton knit she has managed to create a light, semi-transparent design that has a defined structure but at the same time does not look like it is from a bygone fashion er. However, her lightweight black jacket of a tight knit is not up to this challenge. It hovers over the body and does not add any charm to it.

Prints were seen in Negri’s past collections long before they became such a hot element. In the current collection there is only one successful pattern: beige linen printed with a brown tropical thicket and large flowers, from which the designer has cut a long floral dress that softly follows the contours of the body.

The other prints are inferior and look like generic patterns that were randomly pulled from reliable sources for predicting trends or integrated without any inspiration. It is hard to explain, for example, the choice of curly black trim for a pair of white trousers, or the pattern of graphic black spots on a wide white dress. The feeling is that it would have been possible to swap them for any other print or to have done without them, and the difference would not have been all that significant.

One of the innovations in the current collection is a group of basic pieces. Negri explained that this is aimed at making the brand accessible to wider audiences. In the same spirit, she has also accelerated the brand’s activity on the social networks and now, she relates, she and her friends are planning to give lifestyle tips on her Facebook page: “What is the best series being broadcast now? Where do you buy the best leather jacket? (Clearly at Balenciaga, but not everyone knows this.) Where do you buy a special shoe? What is the best restaurant in Paris? What interesting dance performances are on now in Europe?”

In any case, the four items in the new basic group are a long narrow sundress and a tight strapless overall, both of them from a grayish light ribbed fabric that is pleasant to the touch, a T-shirt in a grayish hue with a square neckline and gray silk short pants in a sporty cut. These join the grandfather’s undershirt-style tank top she designed in the past.

However, the two designs cut from the ribbed fabric were not flattering, even on the models who wore them. Though this is a pleasant fabric, it is thin, elastic and is unforgiving on the body.

Is the message Negri wanted to transmit that women who don’t have economic power are not able to look good in their clothes? Presumably not, and therefore this is a miss. If the current collection is mainly an open invitation to women to join the designers’ circle of friends, these designs aren’t going to do it.

Prices: pants – NIS 590 to NIS 920; blouses: NIS 290 to NIS 790; skirts and dresses – NIS 390 to NIS 990; jackets – NIS 1,100 to NIS 1,190; overalls – NIS 110 to NIS 1,200. A detailed list of stores available on www.mayanegri.com.

Negri and friends show off her spring collection, in place of professional models.Credit: Ron Kedmi
Designer Maya Negri, architect Lihi Gerstner and “Master Chef” presenter Michal Ansky model Negri's new spring collection.Credit: Ron Kedmi
Negri's spring collection:perfect for bopping around a boutique hotel.Credit: Ron Kedmi

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