One Man's First Visit to Tel Aviv Fashion Week

Haaretz's Benny Ziffer visits a fashion show for the first time in his life.

Headshot of Haaretz columnist and literary supplement editor Benny Ziffer, who is artistic director of the poetry festival to be held in Metula.
Benny Ziffer
Headshot of Haaretz columnist and literary supplement editor Benny Ziffer, who is artistic director of the poetry festival to be held in Metula.
Benny Ziffer

My partner for the Israel Fashion Week opening event, fashion writer Shachar Atwan, came down from the press room in overalls whose shoulder straps were rolled down. It seems that this is going to be the new look for men in the spring and summer of 2013: to let their shoulder straps slip deliberately, as if you’ve just come out of the bathroom and haven’t had a chance to put them back where they belong.

And indeed, with their shoulder straps slipping meticulously, the male models of the Moschino fashion house marched up the runway where they, incidentally, got much louder applause than their female counterparts at the evening’s event. It’s an open secret, after all, that the overwhelming majority of fashion-show attendees are women, who tend to prefer the men, particularly men whose pants look like they’re going to fall off any minute.

For a moment, with a little imagination, the Station compound in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, which was chosen to host the Fashion Week events, looked a bit like elegant Milan, designed and contoured, liberal and post-modern, in which gender boundaries had been removed and men dressed like women who were dressed like men mixed with women who dressed like men who were dressed like women.

The only ones in the crowd who looked like old-style men were, to be honest, the photographers, those proletarians of the entertainment industry who are sent at impossible hours on photo shoots that bore them. One of them, a particularly muscular guy, sat with his huge video camera on a reserved seat in the first row, which generated a rather ugly argument with the security people, who are also among the last survivors of the old male genre. The fight got heated, and who knows -- perhaps it ended in blows outside the venue.

That’s because there is a clearly defined hierarchy here that separates the aristocrats who got front-row seats from the middle-class in the second row, the indigent relegated to the third row and the riffraff in the back. Personally, I would have been happy to switch seats with Karen Dunsky, a former model and former star, who sat behind me and didn’t stop complaining loudly about how the place looked like Gaza, that she was cold, that she was sick and taking antibiotics, and that she still couldn’t figure out how a celeb of her status had been give a side seat in the second row.

Some of her complaints were justified, including the fact that the fashion show started more than half an hour late, and such a thing would never happen somewhere else that wasn’t Gaza.

She actually said something that was totally logical: “Fashion is expensive. If you don’t have money, don’t do a fashion week.” The reference was to the fact that the organizer of Fashion Week had had a dispute with his business partner, and all the snafus were the result of this rift. As she said this, she patted me on the shoulder, to encourage me to write down everything she was saying.

Then suddenly, to my left, another celeb unceremoniously sat herself down: Judy Nir-Mozes Shalom. But almost as soon as the lights went down before the start of the fashion show, the heiress of the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth and wife of Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom suddenly dropped her head to her chest. I asked her worriedly what was wrong, but instead of answering she rushed to the exit.

It turned out that she had accidentally swallowed a large candy and was choking on it. But so as not to cough in public, since there is nothing less proper than engaging in a natural physical activity like coughing up something in such a rarefied setting, she made a beeline for the door. Until the end of the show I was uncomfortable and even feeling slightly guilty – perhaps it was shock at my decidedly unfashionable look that had made her choke?

Indeed, I had dressed for the occasion in a manner not in keeping with the latest jackets from the house of Moschino, which are made from detergent bags or from knits in loud colors. My jacket, poor thing, had been purchased in a men’s fashion store on July 26th Street in Cairo four years ago and it’s a nondescript dark solid color, just like the pants that came from another fashion house on the same Cairo street.

To be honest, I had never been at a fashion show before, unless you count the fittings that my mother and grandmothers would do at home, when they would summon the Turkish seamstress, the affable Madame Abuav, to sew them dresses from material they’d order from Istanbul. Those fashion shows consisted of dressing and undressing and walking up and down the narrow hallway between the bedrooms to see how well the dresses fit.

So where are you now, Madame Abuav? You would faint if you could see how some of Moschino’s long dresses are sewn, with threads dangling between the models’ legs. There was something cheap and totally classless in the way the clothes hung on the rail-thin, tired-looking models. The huge silver platform shoes on their feet lacked any charm and looked as if they had just been bought at the central bus station.

Still, there were some nice flowered Sixties-style dresses. My mother once had a dress like that, with pockets in front, big buttons and a straight cut. She bought it from the designer Bat-Adam, for a wedding of rich people for whom the attractive dresses made by Madame Abuav simply would not have been fancy enough.

MoschinoCredit: Daniel Tchetchik
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TAMAR PRIMAKCredit: Nir Kafri
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TAMAR PRIMAK.Credit: Nir Kafri
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MoschinoCredit: Daniel Tchetchik
Tel Aviv Fashion week kicks off



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