Israeli Designer Ronen Chen Refuses to Toe the Line

The designer’s Limited range, situated in a new-look store, brings out the best in him.

Guy kushi & Yariv fein

For years, designer Ronen Chen has been accumulating store upon store. But you won’t find the familiar look when you step into his new store on Dizengoff Street, in Tel Aviv. In this open space, in shades of black and white, and facing the street instead of the inside of yet another mall, Chen is presenting his new line, Limited.

It shows off an urban and minimalist sensibility. In addition to the clothing, there are handbags and accessories that also reflect the designer’s aesthetic, which hasn’t always been so easy to grasp in some of his recent collections.

While those previous collections sometimes gave the impression of inertia, of a designer remaining within his (and his clients’) comfort zone, this time Chen is confidently promoting his own vision.

“The idea to start a new line came about during the last Fashion Week,” he recalls. “That was the first time I staged a highly conceptual fashion show. And as I was working on it, I realized that the clothes needed to be translated commercially and to move into a store. This is where I always wanted to get them to.”

Since that show last March, Chen has turned his concept into reality. The result is a collection that comprises 45 samples – some of them in limited quantities, some unique pieces. As a whole, they reflect the designer’s work over the years, with hardly any surrender to commercial dictates.

“The clothes this time are more dramatic and minimalist,” he notes. “In my first collection, the client was at the center, but this time it’s the clothes.”

Guy kushi & Yariv fein

The collection includes clothes that look like abstract experiments in cuts and shapes: A Superman shirt with a shawl attached at the back that looks like a superhero’s cape, for example; a man’s shirt with a bolero added at the back; a kite-shaped diamond dress; or a layered coat dress that recalls space-age technology of the 1960s and ’70s, with small round openings for the arms.

Guy kushi & Yariv fein

Another shawl, cut from a square of material resembling crocodile leather, also offers a good demonstration of Chen’s interest in cuts and severe minimalism. The shawl, also offered in fabric with quilted stitching, looks like a fashion version of Japanese origami, and is more a fashion accessory than a classic piece of clothing.

Guy kushi & Yariv fein

The same goes for the oversize kite shirt, or the mini sleeveless jacket that resembles wings atop shoulders. All are fashion experiments with form, given delicate treatment by a designer known for his precise cuts and understanding of the female body shape.

Adi Gilad

True, there is nothing completely wild here. But it wouldn’t be “Ronen Chen” if there were. Chen likes to describe the style as “restrained drama.” But one can see that the designer selected the cuts and materials so as to create perfect garments – ones that don’t grovel to an audience, but signify a minimalist aspiration and fashion precision.

Some of these items look like student fashion experiments, others obtain added value thanks to Chen’s experience with complex cuts and fabrics with unique textures. All are done in monochromatic winter shades that match the new store. (If Chen really does want to challenge himself with this new line, it will be interesting to see what his summer collection looks like and which colors he uses. That is the time to be bold.)

In this new space, Chen is finally seen at his best. And even if a few items come up short, the collection is certainly intriguing and represents a welcome new outlook – especially for a successful designer like Chen, who is busy most of the time keeping his customers happy.