The Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement hosted a runway fashion show on Wednesday night that showcased the evolution of Israeli fashion from the time of the first Kibbutz in 1909 up until the contemporary styles that grace the catwalks of Tel Aviv Fashion Week.
The semi-historical, semi-creative show was led by Liraz Cohen Mordechai, a fashion blogger and lecturer who is currently on a college campus tour, dedicated to the history and inspiration behind Israeli fashion.
"The idea behind the Center for Israel Engagement is to bring Israeli culture and history to campus, and a big part of any culture is its fashion," said Segev Kanik, the Israel chair at Rutgers Hillel and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "We thought that a great way to engage the student body would be to bring Israeli fashion to them as it's something really relatable, and we can discuss the history of Israel through that lens."
Although its a young country, Israel has an innately rich culture. Cohen Mordechai's goal for this show was to not only showcase a historical curation of styles but also to illustrate how trends reflect different events and emotions that a society experiences throughout its history.
Seen as a mundane, every day object at its worst and an art form at its best, the sociological complexity of fashion is often overlooked. Fashion has greatly influenced the "fabrics" of societies all over the world, said Cohen Mordechai, and what people wear characterizes their lifestyles, beliefs and surroundings.
"People often think of fashion as flat and superficial, but that is incorrect," Cohen Mordechai said. "Today, we can see the evolution of Israeli fashion and how significant events such as war and immigration change the way people dress."
Cohen Mordechai highlighted that during the last century, Israeli fashion experienced constant clashes that reflected the different intents of the modern city of Tel Aviv compared to the more rural areas of Israel. To illustrate this idea, models strutted down the runway in threads similar to what was trending during different Israeli milestones.
When the city of Tel Aviv was founded in 1909, city goers adopted modern, Euro-centric clothing and often donned white hues that complemented their tanned skin. On the other hand, members of the Kibbutz collectives opted for more traditional clothing that was practical for agricultural work.
Hard manual labor in the Kibbutz called for comfortable clothing. While most women in 1909 stuck to skirts and dresses, Cohen Mordechai pointed out that it was not uncommon for Israeli women of these communities to wear shorts and pants. A female model confidently walked down the runway in an all-khaki ensemble that was nearly identical to her male model counterpart's costume.
During times of war, fashion trends borrowed styles from military uniforms, a phenomenon that is not just unique to Israeli culture. As Israel fought in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, citizens admired their soldiers, and men often wore their uniforms in the streets with pride.
Because Israel saw a surge in immigration in the 20th century, trends were also brought on and inspired by an array of different cultures, from embellishments worn by Yemeni girls to embroidery inspired by Russian dress.
Most recently, Israel has gained worldwide recognition as a pioneer in the world of fashion. Celebrities, such as Selena Gomez, frequently wear clothing made by Israeli designers, and Tel Aviv joined the fashion capitals of New York, Paris, London and Milan after establishing its own Fashion Week.
One model wore an entire outfit designed by Elie Tahari, an Iranian Israeli designer whose clothing lines and retail stores can be found in most American shopping malls today.
By combining historical context with high fashion, Cohen Mordechai proved that clothing is not merely a set of garments that cover the body but a legitimate form of expression that mirrors what people believe and what they go through.