Young Israeli Designer Learns the Power of Error

Noa Raviv, who at 27 has already made her mark on the international fashion scene, says she has learned 'to extract the good from every bad thing that happens.'

Noa Raviv. Two months ago, Raviv and her husband of two years moved to New York.
Dan Keinan

To young Israeli designer Noa Raviv, failure is not separate from success, and one can lead to the other in surprising ways.

“I think it’s better to enjoy mistakes and failure than to fear them,” she says. Even her final project at Ramat Gan’s Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, which used 3-D printers and was awarded the college’s Fini Leitersdorf award for 2014, is tied to failure.

“It began with mistakes I had on the computer, and I used their form. That is something that reverberates in my mind, which is that you have to extract the good out of every bad thing that happens,” she says. “That’s how it is in design as well as in life.”

The interview with Raviv was conducted over Skype from Scotland, where she gave a lecture on, surprise surpirse, “the power of mistakes” at The Glasgow School of Art.

Now the 27-year-old is facing her most successful year yet: she was selected to take part in The Costume Institute’s spring 2016 exhibitions at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. First, though, her work will be in an exhibition at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Between her junior and senior years at Shenkar, Raviv took a break to do an internship at the Munich fashion house Escada. The difficulty she experienced there helped her personal development, which she mentally catalogued as “failures contribute to success.”

“Suddenly everyone is speaking German, and I didn’t know a word, and it forced me to adjust and jump into the deep end,” she recalls. “Suddenly, I needed to take a ton of courses. This kind of experience sharpens many things about you because you feel strange and different, especially as an Israeli, with such a different mentality than that of the Germans. But I think that in the end it influenced me more personally than my design.”

After graduating, Raviv had planned to go on for a master’s degree while working at a fashion house. That changed, however, when she won the Fashion Designer of the Year Award at the 3D Printshow in London, beating out a field of 12 competitors from around the world, in September 2014.

A detail from a dress from Noa Raviv’s Hard Copy collection, her final project at Shenkar. Photo by Ron Kedmi

“I was added at the last minute,” she says, “and there were some well-known names like Julia Koerner. It was a very pleasant surprise.”

After winning in London, things started happening quickly. “Everything is unfolding very rapidly. Suddenly, there were a lot of responses, and all sorts of people started telling me, ‘We saw your project on Pinterest, we saw it here, we saw it there,’ and the child is walking on its own.”

She says it was startling at first. “I remember saying, ‘Wait, this is my baby. I’m not ready for everyone to see it this way and ask me all these questions. It takes a moment to adjust. It’s something that feels terribly personally, and suddenly it comes out. And suddenly, alongside the reactions, came articles in Vogue Italy, Japan and other media, as well as various invitations to all kinds of places, some of which I went to.”

Last year, Raviv presented her final project at the HTC Product Launch event, a fashion show in New York. “It was an experience to see how things work on a scale I haven’t known,” she recalls. “It’s really a crazy production with people at the highest level there is.”

She also exhibited in Paris, Alaska and Jerusalem. She says with a laugh: “Suddenly they started asking strange questions, like ‘Where is your showroom?’ and ‘How many people work for you?’”

Raviv says up to that point she had only done a collection from the salon and from Shenkar, and it suddenly changed my plans, and I realized that perhaps this was the time to start out on my own, even though I really had not planned to start my own label after my studies.”

A detail from a dress from Noa Raviv’s Hard Copy collection, her final project at Shenkar. Photo by Ron Kedmi

In addition to the exhibitions, Raviv also designed a capsule collection for the Los Angeles clothing store H. Lorenzo, where her dresses cost over $2,000.

Raviv admits that she is afraid of success. “This whole year was much scarier, but on the other hand, I am also very cool,” she says. “I don’t get too excited, neither by the good nor the bad. My husband laughs at me that when the Vogue Japan article came out I forgot to tell him for a few days. I don’t know how I do it, but that’s just the way I am. Perhaps it’s because there is so much to do.”

Two months ago, Raviv and her husband of two years moved to New York. She is already working on her next collection.

Raviv doesn’t see herself returning to Israel anytime soon. “I think the industry in Israel is amazing. There is a lot of talent and ambition, but it’s no secret that Israel is not an easy country to live in from a lot of perspectives, not just as a fashion designer. For now, we see ourselves staying here a few more years. Although it’s impossible to know, life can surprise you. Perhaps in two months you’ll suddenly hear me saying, ‘I miss Israel and want to go back.’ If I do, I will certainly get involved in the industry in Israel.”