Eleven years after Uri Reiss, owner of the Story retail fashion clothing chain and 911 Fashion Ltd., which stands behind the chain, opened his first store, the retail network is for the first time launching an independent collection designed and manufactured in Israel. Haaretz asked Reiss what led him to come out with a collection like this in a retail chain that imports major international labels, especially in a saturated market and at a rather difficult economic time. He replied: "One of the major labels that we import has just recently come out with a hat bearing the message: 'Start Your Own Fucking Brand.' But this [launch of an independent made-in-Israel collection] is connected with the experience we have gained. After years of importing labels, we began to understand what works and what doesn't. We can now tell our own story, we can now design something that has our own fashion direction, and we can now decide what we are taking and what we want for our clientele."
Actually, the idea of creating an original collection had been knocking around for some time in Reiss's mind: "It was obvious to us even in the early stages of establishing our retail chain. After years of accumulating knowledge, we decided to go ahead and do it, knowing that the local landscape and our retail chain have a real need for such a thing. We knew that many women in Israel were looking around for something basic but also sophisticated and that we had not succeeded in meeting this need."
"The goal," adds the collection's designer, Tal Zur, who previously specialized in industrial design, "was not simply to fill gaps." She explains: "The gaps were there alright. One reason is the seasonal differences between Israel and the major labels - for instance, Scandinavian labels that come out with summer collections that have items that one simply cannot wear here even in wintertime. However, at the end of the day, there was a merger of need and desire. We wanted to create a collection that would crystallize and grow and become an integral part of what we offer to our local clientele."
This small collection - an initial mini-collection with 11 items - is thus a would-be journey to the hearts of the retail chain's clients. It is an attempt to define local taste and its place in the landscape of international labels. On the one hand, it is clear that there is no intention here of creating an ultra-fashionable collection that will be very trendy. On the other hand, this is another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that the Story retail chain is building and which includes a wide range of trendy labels.
Hint of sophistication
"This is a basic collection with a small hint of sophistication," notes Zur, as she tries to explain something that eludes an exact definition. "The collection aims at an attractive look that does not, at the same time, broadcast much effort - something that is related to smart shopping and which is less interested in responding to trends and more interested in meeting the actual needs of the ideal client by providing her with clothes that really suit her."
It is clear that the collection - which includes shirts, pants, dresses, skirts and scarves - is an initial move to test the water in that direction. At first glance, the collection appears almost totally monochromatic, with articles that move along the scale of black, gray and white, with small, intelligent design twists that give it added value. Actually, Zur's background in industrial design ("You can see that the sources of inspiration were sometimes stores selling construction tools or stationery shops, not just sewing notions shops," she says ) and the strong desire not to translate trends but rather to create a more basic group of items that would also be relevant in other seasons, render this collection worthy and interesting.
A slightly masculine cloth shirt is designed with a long collar that gives the fascinating look of a turtleneck, and which has buttons that go down the entire length of the shirt but which become gold-plated. Another shirt (which is called "a Michael Jackson sweatshirt" ) looks like a classic American sweatshirt decorated with medals - gold-plated pins that Zur has designed in the shape of stars, planes and stripes (like a pen that sticks out of the pocket of a man's shirt ). These pins also decorate square-cut shirts and jerseys and give them the look of body-piercing.
Most of the items have a simple look, representing an attempt to tread on safe ground and check out ordinary cuts and fabrics, although one can detect a genuine concern for tiny details and a feeling of comfort that is almost incidental. This by-the-way quality filters down into the photos of the collection, where one can see music journalist Dafna Lustig looking as if she has been photographed without any concerted styling, in a natural, almost at-home, setting.
Other items look more exceptional: A long asymmetrical shirt, its back longer than its front, gets an interesting interpretation with a cotton fabric that looks like an artist's canvas, and with a shoelace instead of buttons that gives it a sporty look - a winning blend of an elegant cut and a jogging shirt. This blend also appears in a beautiful pair of pants of a similar fabric that are also tied with a sporty shoelace.
Like artist's easel
A loose-fitting cloth jacket with a rough finish receives its unique twist with a button that looks like a small gold-plated clip shaped like an artist's easel, and which can be attached to any part of the lapel and closes the jacket in various ways. Another skirt, this one with a short cut and made of thin, summery fabric that looks like wet leather, appears very precisely done.
The small collection looks like a promising start, although it is still rather hesitant. The monochromatic pallette of colors (Zur justifies their use as "colors that are perfect for basic clothes and which always make you feel good" ) emphasizes the fact that it has been built around samples and around the manner of designing them, and that it does not take into account the possibilities offered by colors and textures. Although the monochromatic focus is trendy, it has been a part of the fashion world almost since fashion was born. It is to be hoped that in the summer collection, one will be able to see more audacity and more varied options - in color and feeling.
In any event, the name of the new label, Paper Jam, tells of good tidings. "The name refers to the paper jam in a printer or copier," says Zur, "and is connected to a creative process of trial and error. Of getting stuck and starting all over again. In another sense, the name also reminds one of jam, something that belongs to my world of inspirations - I took a confectioner's course. We attached a recipe for jam to each item and we will change the recipe for each new season. I hope that, as always, making a mistake can lead to something new."
Prices: NIS 249-649. Available at all Story outlets.