Bar Refaeli Returns to the Runway, Greeted With Whistles and Applause

Factory 54 show advertises chain as No. 1 purveyor of high-end brands, in a hyper-reality show of prestige.

Sahar Shalev
Sahar Shalev

Factory 54’s show this week in Tel Aviv was the kind of event that sociologists — perhaps more than journalists — would find a field day. The location: Heichal Hatarbut. (Is there anywhere else in Israel that symbolizes cultural capital more?) The audience: journalists, fashionistas, wealthy women, dozens of celebrities, the paparazzi and Bar Refaeli, who opened the show. Even before she stepped onto the labyrinthine second-floor runway, it seemed that Factory 54 (whose first show last season took place in the Tel Aviv Museum’s lobby) wanted to mark their territory as a site of high-end culture, apart from other brands and full of splendor and prestige, as symbolized by the arena where the show was held.

On the other hand, there’s Bar Refaeli. True, she is not considered an icon of haute couture, but there is no doubt that as far as public attention goes, the photos that were shared on Instagram even before she stepped onto the runway, along with the photo of her displayed when she opened the show, she is evidently the sort of attraction which ensures that nobody will be silent about this show. As in a sophisticated game, this was a mixture of highbrow and lowbrow, elite fashion and pop culture, which blended in a long, complex show aimed both at the audience in the hall and those reading reviews of it at home. It was no surprise that when Refaeli stepped out first, wearing a leather skirt and lace blouse from the Carven fashion house, whistles and applause could be heard from the audience. More than a fashion show, it was almost a hyper-reality show of prestige. The audience had no problem taking countless pictures of the models with their cellphones, having vocal conversations from both ends of the runway and expressing their opinions of the samples out loud.

What’s my brand?

Factory 54 and stylist Simon Almalem deserve praise for having their models display homogenous outfits that did not mix brands. On the one hand, this decision turned the show into a chain in which the brands of each company were displayed one after the other. On the other hand, more than anything else it was a game in which the audience had to guess the name of the brand and grasp the general context in which it was seen.

Among the dozens of models who appeared on the runway, this was a hard job: a strapless dress by Dsquared, next to a tropical-print outfit by Just Cavalli, a Marc Jacobs maxi dress decorated with large stars and sequins (that looked disconnected from reality and recalled a Purim costume) next to coquettish dresses in mint decorated with butterflies by Red Valentino.

One after another, the models walked the runway wearing everything that Factory 54 had to offer for the summer, such as gorgeous sculpted coats with romantic floral prints by Carven, and trendy sweatshirts in bold safari prints by Kenzo. The models also showed the house’s men’s collection, from classic suits by Paul Smith to louder outfits by Marc Jacobs, Kenzo and even Dsquared and Fred Perry, who designed their men’s clothing in camouflage colors, which is one of the most popular looks of recent years. The accessories reinforced the image: neon purses alongside hiker-style backpacks, lovely flat, sequined sandals alongside classic Repetto shoes, and lots more outstanding items from the leading fashion houses.

It was hard to put one’s finger on what it was that didn’t work about the show. Toward the middle, it was clear that aside from the desire to show more and more brands, there was no logical story tying the show together. In this sense, the show resembled a random glance through the pages of an international fashion magazine. As for the content, it was a succession of correct, sought-after looks that expressed an economic desire more than a fashion statement that said anything more than “what’s new.”

So more than anything else, this was a show of strength and a marking of territory, a symphonic shout in which Factory 54 announced that it was the local chain that carried the most desired high-end brands in Israel, from the pop-style Marc Jacobs to the much-admired Carven; trendy Kenzo; Valentino, which has become popular in recent seasons; the minimalist Alexander Wang; the vocal Versace and British Paul Smith, to the elegant Armani. During this grandiose, lengthy show, 157 fashion outfits were displayed (an almost monstrous number, since the number of looks in the large fashion shows in the world never goes over 60). The song “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, which opened and closed the show while Refaeli hopped down the runway, hinted at its content: We want love, and lots of it — so forget about hearing one clear story or pure fashion news.

Peace will be found in a gay club

The color-blind fashion designer Mauricio Pollacsek moved to Israel six years ago after studying fashion in Philadelphia and working in New York. He is color-blind — and has succeeded in turning his condition into part of the celebration of color in the clothing he designs, which he sells in a store located in a hair salon on Tel Aviv’s Bograshov Street. “If there is ever peace here, it will be in the middle of the dance floor in a gay club,” he says, laughing.

And that is what guided him in the collection he is trying to create in Israel: a shirt made up of a prayer shawl and T-shirts with rough seams, jeans engineered from three old pairs of trousers with prominent pockets and parts that are upside-down; a colorful scarf made from old shirts with tassels fastened to the edges, a kaffiyeh tank top with a separate hood, another tank top with a large Star of David, and kibbutz-style khaki trousers hemmed with a tropical print in bright green.

Pollacsek’s deconstruction of old clothing to make them into something new is not intellectual work, as in the Belgian doctrine followed by international clothing designers. It is an instinctive game of colors, borrowed materials and patterns that play with clothing and fashion in an almost childlike way — together with frayed seams, the blending of a more tailored sporty style, fabric remnants and stylish randomness that sometimes succeeds in getting a smile and sometimes seems mannered.

“I don’t plan a garment,” he says. “It is constructed during the process.” Indeed, one can see fashion in the making in his work — garments that are pop-style quotes of style blends, bold colors and a reconnection of fashion remnants for men who are not afraid of going out in the street and attracting attention.

“Even my black is colorful here,” he laughs, holding up a pair of sport trousers made of T-shirt sleeves, or jeans made of old jeans and prominent belt buckles. “My goal is to expand the local horizons in everything that has to do with men’s fashion, similar to what exists in the world,” he says. As always, the question is how much time it will take and whether the rest, the blending and bold color, is something that men here, or anywhere else on earth, will wear.

Bar Refaeli in Factory 54 show in Tel Aviv.Credit: Avshalom Halutz
Bar Refaeli in Factory 54 show in Tel Aviv.Credit: Avi Waldman
Bar Refaeli in Factory 54 show in Tel Aviv.Credit: Avi Waldman
Factory 54 show in Tel Aviv.Credit: Avi Waldman
Factory 54 show in Tel Aviv.Credit: Avi Waldman

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