Jewish Designers Strike a Pose

By Devra Ferst

Published February 10, 2010, issue of February 19, 2010.
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‘Every spring, the women of New York leave the foolish choices of their past behind and look ahead to the future. This is known as fashion week,” fictitious fashion icon Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) says in the movie “Sex and the City.”

Work It: A model walks the runway at Zac Posen’s Spring 2010 show.
Getty Images
Work It: A model walks the runway at Zac Posen’s Spring 2010 show.

She is referring to the real Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, a weeklong event starting this year on February 11, during which 70 of fashion’s biggest names will shuffle their designs down makeshift runways at Manhattan’s Bryant Park, all vying for the attention of fashion editors and buyers.

At least 10 of this year’s designers are members of the tribe, covering a wide spectrum of design aesthetics, from classic American (Ralph Lauren) to quintessential New York (Zac Posen). The lineup will also include two Israeli designers, Elie Tahari (known for functional designs that can transition from the board room to a bar) and Yigal Azrouel (whose designs are hip, young and not for the faint of heart).

While Jews and fashion have long been intertwined — Jewish immigrants in the 19th century made much of the clothing sold in the Garment District — Jewish designs have been more often linked with the schmatte than with couture. But during the mid 20th century, designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein changed the face of Jewish and American fashion with their fresh designs.

Many of the Jewish designers showing this February are seasoned pros, and some are still connected to their Jewish roots. Diane von Furstenberg (nee Diane Simone Michelle Halfin) is the child of a Holocaust survivor, and Lauren, born Ralph Rueben Lifshitz, attended yeshiva before making it as a designer. Isaac Mizrahi was raised in a Syrian Jewish community and followed in his father’s footsteps by taking up a career making clothes.

Connecting to his roots, Zac Posen, a fashion heavy hitter, held his first fashion show at a synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.


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