From IDF to the Catwalk

Israeli Gita Sidikman Debuts at New York Fashion Week

By Alyson Krueger

Published September 07, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
Model Soldier: Gita Sidikman and a model at her Thursday Fashion Week show.
Alyson Krueger
Model Soldier: Gita Sidikman and a model at her Thursday Fashion Week show.

Walking into New York’s Lincoln Center, a venue at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, is like entering an alternate universe. Muscled security guards watch over the doors, making sure only ticket-holders or grungy looking camera crews make it past their presence. Back stage, models, who all seem to look alike, disappear in and out of black curtained areas, getting final touches on their make-up, outfits and hair. Out of all the chaos and activity emerges Gita Sidikman, a little-known Israeli designer who seems poised to join fashion’s big leagues.

While the famous names of fashion — Nicole Miller and Diane Von Furstenberg — are mostly showing later on in the week, a few of the early shows are dedicated to the work of student designers. And this one, hosted Thursday evening by the Art Institute of New York, seems to be all about Sidikman, even though eleven other designers are exhibiting their work. Before the show, everybody from the public relations manager to the photographer seem to be calling her name, trying to get her attention. The goody bags that await each ticket holder contain promotional materials for her design, a tote bag that reads “Gita Omri” (her brand name; “Omri” means “my nation” in Hebrew) and a hand-written note from her thanking them for attending. While all the other students had to go through a demanding audition process to be in the show, Sidikman was the only one to be asked to join by the producers.

Sidikman is passionate about design, because for her, it’s still a new discovery. “I’m not one of these girls who wanted to go into fashion my entire life,” she says. “Everybody’s like that.” But Sidikman didn’t begin designing until she was in the Israel Army.

Growing up in the Old City of Jerusalem and later Efrat, Sidikman always looked forward to her time in the army. “I am very connected to my Jewish roots, and I am very much in love with Israel and the idea of Israel,” she says. “To me, doing the two years in the army is giving a piece of yourself to the country and being a part of something and not just living someplace.” But only once she got there did she realize she could use the opportunity to take evening classes on the side. Thinking she might be interested in event production, she enrolled in a design school in Tel Aviv, but soon ended up taking styling classes. She remembers one day in class when she saw a dress by Alexander McQueen that “just took my breath away…that was my turning point, I think, when I said, ‘I want to do that.’” And the army not only provided her first exposure to design; it also gave her the skills to follow through on projects, something she always found difficult, until she learned discipline from her days in the service.

When seeing her show, it’s hard to imagine that Sidikman ever struggled. Her designs, on display later that night on the catwalk, scream confidence, freedom, and sexiness. The clothes were cut from bright orange fabric and black leather; many of the models wore over-sized motorcycle helmets, meant to evoke the freeing feeling of a ride on the open road. Audience members, including many seasoned fashionistas, gasped over some items. When Sidikman walked to end of the catwalk at the end of her show — blushing but smiling very widely — they awarded her a standing ovation .

But in fact, when she first got out of the army, Sidikman did not have an easy time. The Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City turned down her admissions applications. “They just turned me away and said this is not for you,” she remembers. “And it kind of crushed me…I didn’t know what to do with myself.” But Sidikman persisted.

Now, she is headed to London where she will attend the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, an experience she hopes will inspire her designs even more. (“Really to be truly free to be as creative as you want, you can only do that as a student,” she says.) And most importantly, she’ll keep having adventures that shape her work and who she is today. After all, she says, “If someone’s coming to read your article, or look at my collection, or see someone’s painting, they are judging you. Because the work comes from you. When it’s artistic, it’s so personal.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.