Scanning the somewhat puzzled faces at Gordon Gallery in Tel Aviv, Ron Arad is waiting for an answer. “Well, what do you see here?” He tries again, pointing at a cloud shaped table hung on a far off wall. Arad had scattered many of those mirror-polished stainless steel tables within the gallery space; some are lying on the floor, others seems to be climbing on the walls. The spectators move around it in silence, though with apparent confusion. Many of them would probably have wished to say “nothing”, but are too ashamed to admit it. It’s a pity since “nothing” is the correct answer.
Eventually, Arad follows with his finger a trail of hollowed circles on the surface, reconstructs the four letters which make up the word “כלום” (nothing, in Hebrew). “Here it is, you see?” Frankly, not really. It takes some effort to follow the evasive dots. And as some of the people are squinting, trying hard to follow, the rest is still quite puzzled.
“All and Nothing” is the title the 67-year-old designer/architect/artist has chosen for his current exhibition at Gordon Gallery. As he points out, one can attribute it to a famous phrase by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – “There will be nothing because there is nothing”. However, what actually guided him was the aesthetic order in space. Entering it, the viewers are welcome by practically “nothing” – the mirror like surfaces which reflect the gallery’s white walls. It is only at some point when “All” appears to the viewer through the same surfaces.
This “All” turns out to be the multiple reflections of a vivid huge collage Arad has put together using various elements: mainly reproductions of his 2013 “Pressed Flowers” series (in which he has crushed six Fiat 500 automobiles flat using a shipyard press, “just like you would dry flowers in a book”, he explains), but also images and posters he has found around Tel Aviv. Therefore, it may not come as a surprise that it brings to mind the many bulletin boards spread around Tel Aviv. Those Arad had long loved as a child.
Even though Arad is based in London since the 1970s, Tel Aviv, he says, is still a central part of his intellectual biography. “I was born in Tel Aviv and I love it a lot. There is something very personal about the nice kibbutz atmosphere of it.” In his current visit to the city, he was busy supervising the Toha compound, which combines two towers, and will be the highest skyscraper in the city (91 floors). “The idea of this building is that it will be an upside-down building which touches very little ground and that you do not build a front shop with a building on it.” However, he continues, it will also have a green Park on one of its top floors which overlooks the street, pointing out how different this compound would be from the Holon Design Museum, one of Arad’s most famous projects. “The museum in Holon is an autistic building, in the sense that it does not connect with anything around it. When you enter it you see only the sky. You do not see the neighborhood at all. It’s the Bilbao effect. ”
Even though Arad is based in London since the 1970s, Tel Aviv, he says, is still a central part of his intellectual biography. “I was born in Tel Aviv and I love it a lot. There is something very personal about the nice kibbutz atmosphere of it.”
Though it is tempting to define Arad as an Israeli, and some do so, he himself refuses to include his work in a certain nationality. “I think design is not football, it cannot be tied to a nation. There’s something deceiving about presenting what I do as Israeli design: Sure, I was born and raised in Tel Aviv and it is definitely a part of my cultural DNA. The Beatles, for example, remind me of Tel Aviv and not of Liverpool. However, I believe there is more significance to the fact that I work in a place where I was an outsider for a long time. When you grow up in the periphery, you look at the centers with an intensity other than someone who might take things for granted. ”
And equally, Arad is not keen to limit his work to the strict definitions of design, architecture or art. Whenever he is asked to define his work, he says ”All of the above.” Then he smiles and adds “all and nothing,” reverberating the title of his current exhibition. It is enough to examine the array of projects he is currently involved with to realize it: while in Israel, Arad was supervising the construction of a new wing he designed at HaEmek Medical Center in Afula. Back in London, he will continue working on UK’s National Holocaust Memorial in a park near the Houses of Parliament, alongside British architect David Adjaye.-
Arad is not keen to limit his work to the strict definitions of design, architecture or art. Whenever he is asked to define his work, he says ”All of the above.” Then he smiles and adds “all and nothing,” reverberating the title of his current exhibition.
He grabs his phone in order to show me a book he had just created for Einstein’s theory of relativity. Its pages are made of polyamide, cut in the silhouette of Einstein’s profile. And though it may remind Sukkot decorations, it isn’t just a pretty book. Arad had commissioned various visionaries – Barbara Streisand and the late Shimon Peres, but also Ridley Scott and Salman Rushdie – to write a text especially for this book. Quickly swiping his finger on the screen, Arad presents me with another image: A black polypropylene chair he had recently designed for Disney to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday.
And when he readjust the sunglasses on his nose, a simple gesture opens up a new conversation. For the past eight years Arad has been involved in the brand glasses pq. He pulls a napkin and scribbles two letters – p and q – next to each other in order to show me where the idea for the name and logo came from. “Once you put these two letters together, you draw glasses whether you want it or not.” The model he’s wearing is from a series called A-Frame. The idea behind it is quite simple: An A-shaped metal skeleton allows to adjust the glasses by moving the lenses along it.
“I was persuaded to do a collection of glasses when I realized there was much more to do and that I could be interested,” he explains. “All in all, most of the glasses look pretty much the same.” Not the ones Arad designs. So far he had created highly elastic frames using 3D printing and incorporated fierce colors and materials to incorporate rather futuristic silhouettes which feels very timely.
And just before we say goodbye, Arad pulls off some images from his recent exhibition in Hong Kong, where he played again with some Duchampian ideas. On that occasion he crushed some old bottle racks, turning it into two dimensional objects which he then hung on the gallery walls. “They’re pressed against the walls just like the Fiats,” he says. Back then, he recalls, the hardest part of his working process was persuading the Italian collectors to hand him their precious vehicles. “I had to convince them that I was not going to destroy it, but rather the opposite: I would crush it into eternity.” When asked for his motivation, he answers right away: “Pouring my ideas over what any material can do,” and smile.
Hello and welcome to Telavivie, the first online store offering the finest fashion from Tel Aviv.
Why Tel Aviv? Well, first and foremost simply because I have been living and working in this city for the last 52 years, during which I established strong professional ties within its vibrant fashion scene. In a global age, with international fashion retails shaping somewhat united ways of dressing visible in places such as London, New York or Tokyo, relating fashion to a certain nation or city may sound outdated. This massage roams loud and clear on social media. And yet, with a closer look into it one could easily point out the nuances within the language of clothing typical of every city: be it a certain freshness and crisp of Scandinavian fashion, for example, or the bold colors of Tokyo’s street style; The subversive tone which has been characterizing Berlin’s attire since the fall of the Wall in 1989, or the athletic flair typical of New York city’s style.
TLV fashion also has its own attitude. It must be a sequel of its unique urban composition: a combination of a busy but small town, which has the character of a small village on the one hand (you could easily run into people you know on the street) and at the same time carries the capacity of bustling cultural activity to match the size of a metropolis. Tel Aviv is a city without a break, as its municipal slogan suggest, and it definitely justify its reputation.
And even though TLV fashion might be relatively young, its aesthetics are pretty distinctive. One of its indicative characteristics is an eclecticism of influences, wrapped in cheeky lightness but also in a monochromatic palette, perhaps as evidence of the accelerated urban development Tel Aviv has undergone over the past two decades. Another one would be a secular approach to elegance and a certain tendency towards practicality, both are in charge for supporting the relaxed beauty TLV fashion designers produces so well.
TLV fashion also has its own attitude. It must be a sequel of its unique urban composition: a combination of a busy but small town, which has the character of a small village on the one hand (you could easily run into people you know on the street) and at the same time carries the capacity of bustling cultural activity to match the size of a metropolis.
Last month, while the city was still bathing in the Mediterranean sun, I asked the friend and photographer, Ran Golani, to join me for a day in Tel Aviv. The deal was very simple: I would do my thing – attend some meetings and events, and he would accompany me with his camera. The question I had in mind was – can TLV fashion, spontaneously picked throughout the day, live up to its reputation?
Our morning opened at the Peres Center for Peace, located along the beach in Jaffa, for a special event commemorating the late Shimon Peres. The choice of a light and airy coat and pants made by Tres, a trio of young women who set up their brand right after graduating from Shenkar college and gained immediate success, seemed almost natural to me. I felt that the casual elegance of a classic (though slightly modified) trench coat, along with a matching loose-fitting trousers, perfectly suited the occasion. Though these items were taken from Tres’ 2017 spring-summer collection, you are now welcome to check out the brand’s current collection (fall-winter 2018) online.
Once the event was over, I rushed to the studio of Maria Berman, an old friend of mine whose clothes have long become an integral part of the urban fabric. She had just finished working on her 2018 fall winter collection and was thrilled to show it to me. Amid the beautiful clothes, a black knee-length dress had immediately caught my eye. What appeared as a simple and almost classic princess-cut dress at first sight, was actually a lot more. Berman had cut it off Indian organdin (100% cotton), so light and crispy with its rather surprising transparency. It was the perfect outfit, so I felt, for a lunch date with my daughter. Lucky enough, I had my favorite Petitpois bodysuit and Ugly Duckling tiny shape-up with me (I rarely leave the house without it). All those items, along with the beautiful black shoes made by Sample Line, could be found here online.
The question I had in mind was – can TLV fashion, spontaneously picked throughout the day, live up to its reputation?
I have known Gal Schnfeld for quite a long time now. And despite being relatively young, her TLV brand Mews is already well known for its beautiful dominantly-black wardrobe. Therefore, it was an easy pick for the business cocktail party I was about to attend. I dropped by Gal’s studio and soon enough found what I was looking for: a long wrap dress made of rich black velvet. At the party, held in one of the most beautiful Bauhaus houses along Rothschild Boulevard, I had Diane von Fürstenberg and her iconic wrap dress in mind. For my colleague, however, it reminded of the late Madeleine Vionnet and her bias cut sensual gowns. She also complimented my choice of the somewhat rough shoes designed by Rotem Gur for Vas and a rather delicate gold bracelet made by Reuma.
I guess you got it by now: all these great items can be found here online. And while each one of those unique designers knows how to craft beautiful clothes and accessories, the real strength, in my opinion, lies in its humble quality to serve as flattering and empowering backdrop to the women wearing it.
And dealing with the background and front relations, there is another personal matter which needs to be clarified. In 2009, my beloved father Jacob Schnitkes died of Alzheimer’s. Being a child, I was always afraid of his death. I never believed that when the time comes I would be the one to accompany him in his last days. And when it happened, it taught me a great deal about escorting the dead. That experience, along with others which came later on, made me want to open my own hospice alongside the shore in Tel-Aviv. One in which a window could be open with a view to the sea.
For that reason, Telavivie also works in association with the non-profit- organization ‘Forget Me Not’, for the establishment of a hospice in memory of the late Jacob Schnitkes. Our aim is to create a hospice that will provide patients with a home and supportive environment, easing the pain and allowing them to maintain their dignity during their last days. A specific purpose is to encourage spiritual empowerment, and despite this difficult period for the human body and spirit, to attempt to find beauty at a time it might be needed most.
And that is also why a 2.5% of all sales on Telavivie is donated to ‘Forget Me Not’ and its goal of building the hospice in central Tel Aviv. The treatment, care and services at the hospice will include the best doctors and therapists, as well as practitioners of alternative medicine, all intended to help those at the end of their lives to gently and peacefully release the physical and emotional pain they hold as they approach their departing days.
It may sound odd, even morbid, to tie fashion and death so closely. And even though both reflects the fragility of time and the transformation of form, it seems fundamentally contradictory: In Western perception, unfortunately, death still marks the opposite end of birth; Fashion, however, is a celebration of vitality, and of being born again within your skin. But at the end of the day isn’t it all about aesthetics – to live and die with dignity?
I know, death isn’t a pleasant idea to ponder on. So for the sake of living, let’s put it aside for a moment and focus on life itself. I truly hope you enjoy the variety of fashion we have carefully gathered here for you, and that it allows you to explore the unique vitality and creativity which drives the city of Tel Aviv. It might also be useful to remember that at its best, fashion can bring about a change in preconception and ways of thinking.
founder and chief-editor of TELAVIVIE
Shop for Tel Aviv designer fashion online at Telavivie