Three racks crammed with clothes line the walls of Shani Zimmerman’s studio. So crammed that one actually collapsed just as I walked in. A quick glance shows that these aren’t all the same item, but quite a large and varied collection, especially for such a young designer. And as I will soon learn, there’s an interesting business twist, too.
Zimmerman, 28 and brimming with energy that’s apparent even when she’s sitting down, is constantly thinking up new connections and new designs. Behind her sits Rotem, a fourth-year student at the Shenkar College of Engineering & Design, busy hand-embroidering something onto a piece draped on a mannequin. Three other seamstresses work with Zimmerman, as well as one who specializes in delicate embroidery and silk work for wedding gowns. The technical side of things is very well-organized and stable, says Zimmerman, explaining that the overstuffed racks in the studio are filled with prototypes used for measurements and photo shoots.
“So one can’t just walk in, buy something and take it home?” I ask, surprised. “No,” she replies. Her customers know that if they want to wear one of her designs, they need to come in a month ahead of time. The initial models are ready, but all the rest can be changed. In other words, her summer collection is simply a recommendation. Let’s say a customer selects a light jacquard jacket and a matching powder-pink skirt; she is choosing the form of the item, but not the item itself. A discussion of her budget and taste will follow, and then she and Zimmerman will pick out the fabric together. In a month, the customer will have exactly the piece of clothing she desires.
Zimmerman’s designs are inspired by textiles and textures, especially unconventional ones. Last year, at Shenkar’s end-of-the-year show, Zimmerman’s work was singled out for excellence and innovation; for example, stamping wallpaper designs on plastic to create a new kind of textile and texture. She creates prints on the computer and prints them out on lengths of fabric. Her designs are moderately colorful, with a palette that ranges from mint green to powder pink, plus white, black and cream, and various combinations of these shades.
The collection has a little bit of everything: flowing galabiyas, knee-length or shorter cloche-shaped skirts, blouses and evening gowns. The interplay between casual and formal wear is very delicate, but a high degree of comfort is always maintained.
Zimmerman’s business model certainly raises questions, but it is clearly practical and well thought-out: She is never left with unsold stock on her hands. Her customers are certain to like the designs, because they have chosen the colors, textures and size together with her. She does not work with other shops on consignment. Customers make an appointment and she takes them through the whole process of measurement and selection, until the final product is ready.
Could Zimmerman’s model, which depends on individual, customized items, be a good alternative for those Israeli designers who are often left with much of their prêt-à-porter stock at the end of a season? Only time will tell, but this intriguing new concept offers food for thought.
Skirts start at NIS 600, with the final price depending on the selected fabric. Available at Shani Zimmerman’s studio on Jabotinsky Street, Tel Aviv. Call for an appointment: 054-4779407
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