Strong Enough for a Man, Made for a Woman: Iconic Designer Presents First Women's Fashion Line

Serene but not stilted, and with a bit of a masculine edge, the owner of the Sketch fashion brand, who up to now only designed men’s clothing, presents his first fashion line for women.

Tom Marshak

It’s been nearly a year since Yossi Katzav, the designer and owner of the Sketch brand of men’s clothing, began work on his first women’s collection. He took the step despite having previously stated that he had no intention of designing women’s clothing. “A lot of women contacted me asking why I didn’t make clothes for them too, and there have also been a lot of women who have bought men’s items to wear themselves,” he said in explaining his new direction.

Katzav, a graduate of the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design, worked as lead designer in the past for Israeli clothing retailers Castro and Fox Men and as lead designer of the men’s division of DKNY. He established the Sketch brand in 2009, which now has three stores in the Tel Aviv: at Hatachana, at the Sarona complex and on Basel Street, in addition to a store in suburban Hod Hasharon.

Katzav’s women’s collection hit the Sketch stores about a week ago, and Katzav’s touch is evident in it, with clean lines and a quiet, sophisticated color palette. “Since I was a college student, I have had about the same taste,” Katzav notes. “I am not a colorful person. There’s no way around it. These are the colors in the collection. I can’t satisfy everyone.” Nevertheless he adds: “If it is a success and people like it, it’s clear that the color scheme will also expand.”

Tom Marshak

Katzav drew inspiration for the collection from the American sculptor Anthony Pearson, in an effort to select raw materials that imitate the marble and stone that he uses in his work. This is reflected particularly in the nearly layered lines of the shortly-cut zippered silk skirt and leather jacket. In addition, the primary materials that Katzav used were linen, cotton and knit jersey.

In addition to drawing on Pearson’s work, Katzav also drew on his own private archives while designing the women’s collection. “I took a lot of items from the Sketch archives,” he states. “Although we have only been in existence for five years, yes, we already have an archive. I simply took them out and said: ‘OK, I really like this collar, this detail, this neck line.’”

As a result, the femininity that Katzav presents in his designs is serene and not stilted, with a bit of a masculine edge: dark cigar pants with close attention to the cut and made of cool wool; lightweight black but elegant three-quarter length pants; and tunics with buttons down the thighs, all reflecting a balance between masculine and feminine and close detail and a more relaxed sense.

Beyond how these designs relate to Katzav’s men’s clothing, items in his women’s collection also relate to one another, creating an entirety that stands on its own, a kind of complete mini-wardrobe. The principle that Katzav says he was guided by was the desire to address all of the needs of the women for whom he was designing clothing. This desire, he says, was a challenge as it’s a relatively small collection of 50 items, ranging in price from 200 to 1,800 shekels (about $50 to $460), in sizes running from extra small to extra large. “It’s not 300 items like at the retail chains,” he remarks. “I have four skirts that need to meet the needs of a lot of clients.”

Tom Marshak

In addition to items designed by Katzav, the collection also includes jewelry designed by Yael Keila Sagi, who is also a Shenkar graduate. They include beaded necklaces as well as bracelets made with thin, black string wrapped around again and again, creating a light mass.

“I think my power as a designer is that I convey a concept, a story,” says Katzav about the collection. “I am not the most innovative person in the world. I didn’t come to stir things up here; I didn’t come to create a storm here. That’s not in my character; those are not my aspirations. My aspirations are to make beautiful clothing that will cause people to see the people wearing them and not see the clothing. I don’t like loud clothes that make people scream out the style and not themselves. I like this un-Israeli gentleness. Everyone thinks I’m actually a Scandinavian brand.”

Asked what his favorite item is, Katzav says: “I always like what sells the best. When something doesn’t sell, it’s like a bone in my throat, and eventually I don’t like it anymore. Look, ultimately it’s business. There’s no way around it. Anyone who tells you that it’s just art is lying.”

Prices: 200 to 1,800 shekels

Tom Marshak