“DON’T BE AFRAID, DARE AND WORK HARD”
Shenkar College of Engineering, Design, and Art, located in Ramat Gan, Israel, is one of the most prestigious design schools in the world. Founded in 1970 as the “College for Fashion and Textile Technology” with the objective of qualifying skilled manpower for the Israeli industry, it has since formed many world-renowned designers such as Alber Elbaz, Lanvin’s artistic director from 2001 to 2015. After discovering some of the students’ incredible creations during Tel Aviv Fashion Week, I was eager to meet the future generation of Israeli designers straight from the talent factory that is Shenkar. I was lucky to interview five students from the Fashion Design program: Shir Naeh, 25 (3rd year), Avy Amram, 23 (3rd year), Noa Baruch, 26 (3rd year), Yanky Golian, 26 (4th year), and Dor Pichon, 24 (3rd year). Here is what they had to tell me about hard work, inspiration, and making your dreams come true.
INTERVIEW WITH SHENKAR DESIGN STUDENTS
Sophie Amic (Highlark): Hello guys! Thank you so much for answering my questions. First of all, tell me, what brought you to Shenkar?
Shir Naeh: I think that it’s a similar story for a lot of us. From childhood we dreamed about Shenkar. We did a lot of crafts since we were kids, played dress-up with our dolls… Shenkar was an unattainable dream for us!
Dor Pichon: I came to Shenkar after the army. I was supposed to learn engineering but at the last moment I decided to learn fashion design and follow my heart.
Noa Baruch: I too started studies that were completely unrelated to fashion, so it was hard for me to get into Shenkar. But now I’m here and I’m happy.
Yanky Golian: My story is a little different. I come from a small village near Jerusalem. My parents have a garage. I used to work with them and still do. It all started with a sewing machine that I bought back when I was a soldier to fix my clothes. One day, a friend of my mother’s came to me because she needed a wedding dress. At first I refused because I had never done anything like it and I was scared, but she gave me her entire trust. So I did it. It was the first piece of clothing I made in my life, it took me six months to complete! That is when I understood that fashion was my passion and I applied to Shenkar.
Avy Amram: Shenkar is difficult, at times it feels too difficult. But when we are accepted – 7% of applicants only are accepted, that’s 65 out of 700!- , it shows us that we have the ability to make it.
Sophie: Wow, that’s impressive! What is one of the most important things that you have learned at Shenkar?
Dor: I learned that you can’t know everything. When I started studying here I thought I knew everything, but I quickly realized that there is a lot of technical stuff and cultural variables that I still needed to learn. Just because you got into Shenkar doesn’t mean you are the king of the world. When you meet your teachers and see how much knowledge they have, you realize you’re in a serious place and you need to work very hard to know at least half as much as them.
Shir: Shenkar taught me that with a lot of practice you can do whatever you want. And also to trust myself and do everything in my way in order to stand out and be original.
Avy: To work hard and not be afraid of working hard.
Yanky: Shenkar taught me to be fearless.
Noa: Yes, definitely hard work. If you work hard, you can achieve almost every dream, every fantasy of yours.
Avy: With hard work, there is almost no limit to what you can create. There is a way to make every wild thing you imagine a reality.
Sophie: That’s very true! So Shenkar, if I understood, taught you hard work as a mean for expressing yourselves. How would you define your styles as designers?
Shir: I’m not sure I can define my style simply because I am not sure of who I am as a designer yet, but my goal is to achieve the combination between activewear and tailoring.
Avy: French to death! You often hear that France is old, that it’s passé, but I want to reinterpret French style into something new. My silhouettes are always very feminine and I also thrive to be modern, avant-garde, and minimalist. I want women to feel strong and confident, to feel like they are themselves.
Yanky: My style is crazy, without limits. It has humor and always tells a story. For example once I made a teddy bear dress.
Dor: When I started learning here I didn’t know exactly what my style was. We have two projects a semester and each project focuses on a specific technique. Thanks to the projects, I learned that I’m mostly into menswear, specifically soft tailor for men. Actually, most of us came without a specific style and learned from the projects.
Noa: There are certain traits that always inspire me. For me, the garment is the subjects and I make use of the body to sublime the design. I love when the clothing is tailored, when it can stand by itself and tell its story. The cut is the most important, the fabric comes second to help the cut. I like oversize cuts rather than “normal” ones.
Sophie: How did Shenkar influence the way you design?
Avy: Thanks to Shenkar, I am able to see things differently.
Shir: It changed my approach to the process of search for inspiration, and taught me to combine it with my personal life.
Avy: Exactly. We were encouraged to turn little things in our lives into big subjects for inspiration.
Shir: For example, my military service influenced me for a few projects.
Avy: For me, it would be the fact that I lost 65 kilos. Or my sister’s dress from childhood, from which I created a brand new project. There was also that woman that I once met in the Paris subway, she was carrying a shopping bag with a lot of things written on it. So I approached her and she told me she was a survivor of abuse, she wanted people to be able to read her story. That inspired me a lot.
Yanky: Shenkar influenced the way I find inspiration. It taught me that it’s always personal, and to find it within myself.
Noa: Shenkar gave me more freedom. Since childhood, I always had a style that was different, people told me “this is nice but I wouldn’t wear it”. At Shenkar, I learned to wear, and most importantly to design, whatever I like without worrying about what people will think. I learned to develop a precise aesthetic, I realized that there were other people with different aesthetics and that it was okay- more than that, it was to be celebrated.
Sophie: What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Yanky: I am interested in people that are in the background, people – and women- that one is not usually interested in. I am fascinated by their stories, by what made them who they are.
Dor: For me it is people, their culture and way of life. I believe that understanding people’s way of life is necessary to understand their needs and specifically their needs in clothing. So my inspirations include people of different styles and shades.
Avy: I believe that inspiration is everywhere! I am inspired by moments of life, by women who surround me – I want to know what their stories are.
Sophie: As Israeli fashion students, how do you perceive Israeli fashion?
Shir: A lot of the students in Shenkar want to work and create here in Israel, but there are also many who want to go abroad. Tel Aviv, like all the cities in the world, looks at Paris, London, Milano and New York for inspiration.
Avy: It is a different culture here, people are not born with the cult of beauty and fashion like they are in Paris, for example.
Dor: It is very difficult for fashion designers here. I worked with a shoemaker who learned in Shenkar and in London. He went bankrupt after six years. Only two years before, he was one of the best designers of the year in Israel, so it’s really sad and shows you that there is really no certainty here. I don’t know if it’s the culture, the people, the weather that makes it very difficult to have seasons, or the lack of government help, but sadly something here is not working. Many designers choose to go work their magic abroad, those who stay often don’t survive.
Yanky: This doesn’t change the fact that there are very talented Israeli designers. Truth is, today, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, you can become an international designer from anywhere. There is no longer such a thing as fashion from one place, from one country, so to me it’s irrelevant.
Sophie: Let’s finish this interview on a positive note! What would be your advice to aspiring designers that might read us?
Avy: Don’t be afraid, dare, and work hard.