Maskit is located at 4 Auerbach St., in Jaffa. (photo from Maskit)
When next in Israel, in addition to walking the beaches of Tel Aviv, being spiritually uplifted at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and enjoying the food across the country, carve out some time to see the fashion houses that have put Israel on the map.
Over the last few years, Israel has been leading in the fashion industry, with numerous graduates from Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art landing jobs with renowned fashion ateliers in Europe. But let’s take a step back in time.
In the 1950s, post-independence, immigrants from Yemen and Morocco arrived in Israel. The government sought to train the women in textiles in order to provide for their families. At the time, Ruth Dayan (Moshe Dayan’s wife) was approached to lead the women and, seeing their talent in embroidery and weaving, she suggested that the government and a Hungarian designer, Fini Leitersdorf, initiate a designing business.
The House of Maskit became the headquarters of fashion, with Ruth Dayan as the principal designer. Maskit became famous for their signature caftan, with embellishments of embroidery, textures and the colours of Israel. At their peak, Maskit was featured in Vogue. Their tunic-style creations were considered art, gaining world recognition, enabling them to sell in Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks. As Maskit’s success grew, a higher-end line was introduced, which had buttons made from river stones, olive trees and pure silver. The fabrics were from the finest sheep’s wool, as well as silk, linen and cotton.
In the 1970s, however, the Israeli government stopped funding Maskit, shifting its spending to other priorities, notably the military. Ruth Dayan stepped down and, ultimately, Maskit closed.
Full speed ahead some 30 years, designer Sharon Tal, who graduated from Shenkar, returned to her native Israel after designing for the House of Lanvin in Paris and Alexander McQueen in London.
Although a new mother, she was still working, involved with a British lifestyle website that focused on the trends in Israel. Tal’s aha moment came when she saw Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, which was designed by the House of Alexander McQueen. Upon viewing the outfit, with its elaborate embroidery, she knew it was time for her to get back to design.
Together with her husband, Nil, they discovered that the House of Maskit was ready to reopen. Tal picked up the phone and called Ruth Dayan, then 94 years old. The two became friends and Maskit eventually was reborn, in 2013, melding together its history and Tal’s designs, known for their soft lines and feminine feel.
Maskit’s clients include actresses like Sarah Jessica Parker and Jamie Lee Sigler. However, one of the greatest honours was when the late first lady of Israel, Nechama Rivlin, bestowed then-U.S. first lady Michelle Obama with a coat designed by Tal on a visit to Israel.
The couturier’s home is in Jaffa, where Tal has her atelier. The décor is wondrous, with stone walls, warm natural hues and rows of heavenly designs displayed. On your next visit, do some shopping for what are sure to be lifetime classics.
For more information, visit maskit.com.
Ariella Stein is a mother, wife and fashion maven. A Vancouverite, she has lived in both Turkey and Israel for the past 25 years.