From the ancient to the contemporary, the soft, natural fabrics and evocative designs of the Maskit fashion house are works of art that are expressions of Israel — its rich history, diverse cultures, and natural beauty.
Maskit is a stylish standout example of Israel’s prowess in creativity. Founded in 1954 by Ruth Dayan to help immigrants needing employment, Maskit in its early years made its mark by producing a look that blended modern sensibilities with distinctive styles reflecting the embroidery traditions of Jewish, Druze, Bedouin, Hungarian, and other artisans.
Under the direction of head designer Sharon Tal, the iconic brand has been reimagined and relaunched, with new styles that both honor Maskit’s legacy and fit with contemporary tastes. Tal will be the featured speaker at Connections, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s annual philanthropic gathering for Jewish women, taking place on Sunday, January 27, 2019, at The Westin Seattle.
Tal will bring to Connections the rich Maskit story and something more — a trunk show at which attendees will have the opportunity to see, touch, try on, and purchase Maskit selections.
Maskit house was a must-see on the Tel Aviv portion of the Community Trip to Israel sponsored by the Federation in May 2018. There, visitors viewed and tried on styles highlighting the flowing elegance of Maskit designs. Maskit collections include evening dresses, ready-to-wear items, classic coats, and bridal wear.
With Dayan’s support and guidance, Tal, who is a native of Tel Aviv, put talent, hard work, and creative insights into reviving Maskit from a 19-year hiatus that followed the fashion house’s closure in 1994. Tal’s interest in reviving Maskit blended her unique design sense with a strong desire to make a Startup Nation contribution to the world of fashion.
“We wanted to re-create a leading fashion house coming from Israel, showing to the world the creative energy and rare sources of inspiration coming from Israel,” Tal says.
She brought to the endeavor a strong background in fashion design — honors graduate of the Shenkar School of Design in Israel, an internship with Alber Elbaz at Lanvin in Paris, and head of embroidery at Alexander McQueen in London. The next step was gaining a deep understanding of Maskit’s artistry.
“It took me two years of research to understand the brand values and aesthetics,” Tal says. “I drove all over the country with Ruth Dayan, meeting the historical Maskit employees, customers, and designers. I learned about the iconic pieces of Maskit, created mainly by Fini Leitersdorf, who was the legendary head designer of Maskit.”
Dayan, who is 101, has kept her hand in the revived Maskit enterprise. “Ruth is my muse and she is getting monthly updates from me, consulting and sharing her wisdom,” Tal says. Ruth Dayan was the first wife of Moshe Dayan, the legendary Israeli military leader, diplomat, and Cabinet minister.
The foundation of Tal’s fashion vision is “three sources of inspiration” — Israel’s 72 distinct cultures, the nation’s history, and “last, but not least, the landscape and the amazing views.” Tal’s choice of fabrics and other materials is crucial to embedding Israel’s natural and cultural heritage in the Maskit look. “I love working with soft and natural fabrics. I love working with different materials for embroideries, anything from metal, mother of pearl, wood, and much more. The biggest challenge is to create a design that is going to be relevant and exciting in the future, too.”
The Desert Collection is an example of Tal’s art. Evoking Israel’s ancient cultures and the spare beauty of an arid land touched by mountains and sea, the Desert Collection exemplifies Tal’s approach to integrating modern themes and fabrics into legacy designs that are rooted in Israel’s land and people.
“I truly believe that an excellent design is a timeless design. For this to happen, you need to bring a significant depth and inspiration into it. Our iconic pieces, the desert coats, are a great example of how you take a design inspired by the Bedouin community in the Israeli desert and make it a super updated piece of today’s lifestyle,” Tal says.
Another example is Maskit’s new Sodom collection, which was inspired by the dramatic story of Sodom and Gomorrah and its setting among the stark landforms by the Dead Sea. “Mount Sodom near the Dead Sea is a very powerful site that brings a combination of breathtaking views on one hand and industrial damages from the other side. The story about Lot’s wife and the people of Sodom is very present,” Tal says.
For Tal, Maskit’s story is Israel’s story. The artistry of Maskit’s collections and the larger story of the fashion house’s revival have been a “great presentation for beautiful Israel and the creative energy coming from it,” Tal observes.
At Connections, you can hear Sharon Tal tell Maskit’s inspiring story and see and touch that creative energy for yourself.
RSVP for Connections at jewishinseattle.org/connections2019.