Internationally recognized stars of Israeli clothing design such as Ronen Chen, Kedem Sasson, Yigal Azrouel, and Ziv Gil Kazenstein have won applause on the runways of the world’s fashion capitals. Yet decades ago, during the ferment and danger of Israel’s early days as a nation, what the pioneering generation should wear might have seemed a relatively trivial problem.
Not so, explains cultural historian Anat Helman, lecturer at Hebrew University and author of last year’s “Young Tel Aviv: A Tale of Two Cities” from Brandeis University Press. In the spring, Helman’s “A Coat of Many Colors: Dress Culture in the Young State of Israel” appeared from Academic Studies Press. In it, Helman explains that even by the time the kova tembel or “tembel hat” was codified as kibbutznik gear via the beloved 1950s cartoon character Srulik who became a national symbol, some Israelis had set their eyes on higher fashion achievements.