The Swinging Sixties? - Israeli Fashion in the 60s

Edited by Shachar Atwan
Reading time +


Movie Clips


Turns out it was a right laugh around here before I was born…

Between 2008 – 2018, I worked as Haaretz’s inhouse fashion correspondent. What this meant was that I had spent pretty much a whole decade attending countless fashion shows and exhibitions, both in Israel and around the world, visiting designers’ studios for a first look at their upcoming new collections, reading dozens of books on the subject, and spending hours on end in the company of the fashion industry’s who’s who.

Of the many conversations we have had, I could probably count on one hand the number of topics which everyone involved was in complete, unanimous agreement on. Fashion, as we all know, is bonkers. In actual fact, you could probably manage the counting with just two fingers: one, in overwhelming agreement that for the past three decades (and counting!), the Israeli fashion industry has been in a constant state of erosion, ever since production was almost entirely relocated overseas and industry factories, one by one, started vanishing off the map and with them, also generations of manufacturers and local craftsmen and women. And lest we forget the absence of any and all consistent government policy, let alone financial support – both of which have played a pivotal role in this decline. This is all common knowledge. Then, there’s the other finger, expressing the still-sweeping agreement on how utterly awe inspiring 1960s Israeli fashion was.

The generally broad consensus on the fashions of that decade would surprise me time and time again. Whenever the subject came up in conversation, it went a little something like this: the atmosphere in the room would shift, just like that – regardless of what anyone had been talking about prior to – and within seconds, everyone present, virtually without exception, was sporting a huge, proud, and contented smile which was the cue for everyone to start waxing nostalgic together, immediately thereafter, about those swinging halcyon days. With time, I was particularly struck by the direct correlation between the time that has since passed and the increased passion and adoration for the period. That is to say, the longer it had been and the greater the distance was between then and now, the pining for Israeli 1960s fashions – whether as a fleeting reality, image, or myth – only consistently got stronger. Ah yes, and I almost neglected to mention that nearly every conversation on the subject would conclude in a very similar manner: rolling one’s eyes to the high heavens and letting out a despairing sigh, as if to say, “Ahh… didn’t we have it good back then, when the Israeli fashion industry was at its peak… what a shame those days are long gone…”.

The handful of books that chronicle the history of the local fashion industry certainly uphold this narrative. The 1960s, as a decade, are consistently framed as no less than the Golden Age of Israeli fashion. It would seem that the reasons for that are both valid and varied in equal measure: at the time, a number of distinctly local fashion houses were dominating the market, including Beged Or (‘leather outfit’), Gottex, Maskit, and Rikma (‘embroidery’) – all of which became a source of national pride, not only for successfully creating an original and distinctly Israeli style and aesthetic, but also for their immense popularity and commercial success in the international fashion sphere.

Meanwhile, another now-grand tradition was getting off the ground – Tel Aviv Fashion Week. These events soon began to attract fashion buyers and intrigued media figures from all over the world. Now, beyond all the fanfare, these fashion weeks also had their financial merit, and their rise in popularity played a major part in the flourishing of industry factories that began manufacturing local product on a regular message. At the same time, European A-List haute couturiers started travelling to Israel where they were unveiling their brand-new collections in high-profile, exclusive events. This whole scene, in all its facets, put Israel on the global fashion map.

However, when you factor in what life was like in Israel at the time, and that it was still very much a young state struggling to find its own national identity, any talk of an international fashion boom sounded almost entirely farfetched. Looking at the chronological timeline, the 1960s in Israel are bookended by the trial of Adolf Eichmann at the start of the decade and the Six-Day-War in the latter part. And even if the decade did end on nationwide note of euphoria and elation following the victory in the war, one would struggle in hindsight – even with the rosiest of rose-tinted glassed on – to apply to them the same moniker that became so synonymous with the decade across the West: ‘the swinging sixties’, a term coined in London to describe the seismic shifts and changes in pretty much all walks of life at the time, was enshrined as a bona fide cultural revolution whose impact was felt all over the world.

So just how swinging were ‘the swinging sixties’ in Israeli fashion? Was it indeed that jolly around here before I was born? Judging by the footage that’s survived at the Israeli Film Archive, the answer to that is a resounding yes. ‘The spirit of the ‘60s’ in all its local shades and facets, is unmistakable in so many of the Geva Newsreels that have captured it. The black and white shorts produced by Geva Films, with government backing – that were shown regularly in Israeli cinemas throughout the 1950s and ‘60s in newsreel format before the evening’s main feature presentation – offer several glimpses of some of the period’s more prominent, watershed moments.

The sheer number of reels dedicated to featuring the fashion of the day suggests that the 1960s were indeed the most thriving decade in the industry. With a formidable wealth of selections on offer, there’s fashion shows galore, adverts, fashion and art exhibitions, behind-the-scenes footage inside the factories and reports on the opening of new ones, high-profile visits from international designers, and so much more. The image of reality, as portrayed in the reels, is in line with all the values and markers that have since become so synonymous with the swinging sixties: the cultural explosion, alongside rising curiosity, and the willingness to experiment and blend together different styles and aesthetics, blazing new trails, and conquering uncharted territories.

As a whole, the newsreels complete the course charted by all the aforementioned moments – the brands and high-profile events, the growth of the industry, etc. – covering each and every one of these milestones that helped to cement Israeli 1960s fashion’s mythical status, with the pièce de résistance no doubt being Tel Aviv Fashion Week. There’s no telling whether the thought process behind the idea of having several back-to-back weeks of fashion shows was the product of their immense popularity in Israel at the time. Either way, those were – for all intents and purposes – high-profile, star-studded cultural and entertainment events that drew women by the droves. Long before the age of the internet and budget airlines, these shows offered a rare up-close-and-personal opportunity to take in all the latest fashion trends and novelties from overseas. Interestingly, in those days Italy and France were fighting for top tier tastemaker rights, and Israeli women were called to cast their deciding vote between the two most prominent schools of design dominating the fashion capitals at the time – Paris and Rome

The miniskirt is, by all accounts, a distinct product of the swinging sixties. Looking back, the huge cultural shakeup brought on by the skimpy skirt – whose echoes are all too present in print media articles of the time – seems like a veritable storm in a teacup. In one reel covering the new trend that had taken over the Israeli high street by storm, young women are seen walking about the streets of Tel Aviv, with the cameraman almost literally trying to get in their skirts. The profoundly unsettling camera angle – from below – a voyeuristic, invasive point-of-view attempting to emphasise just how little leg skin is covered by the skirt – would never have cleared an editor today [and might even have fallen under the heading of ‘upskirting’ – EE]. Watching the footage will no doubt make contemporary viewers cringe.

One other mark of the period is the attempt to marry fashion and art. When a worldly-renowned French designer was invited to showcase his latest designs in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, a whole lot of local middle-class ‘pearl clutching’ ensued. Then again, at the same time, a group of young Israeli artists who had been drawing on fabrics and then sold the pieces to use as materials for original garments were hugely successful.

This, like other details, I had gleaned from a bit of simultaneous trawling through the print media archives. More often than not, all the stories and pieces I’d curated helped me to fill in any blanks I might have been left with after watching the reel footage at the Israeli Film Archive. In several instances, when piecing together the big picture, the newly added information created an image of reality that much more nuanced and different to the odd snapshot captured in the video archive. Look at Maskit, for instance – a local fashion house for which the sixties marked a loss of direction. The factory, which first shot to fame in the 1950s, started to lose its way due to consistent mismanagement. To this day, there is no contesting the brand’s creative triumphs, nor the unique styles and trends that it set; however as a financial enterprise, Maskit with time lost all its viability until it was eventually sold off to private entrepreneurs.

The phrase ‘smoke and mirrors’ that is especially commonplace in the fashion industry comes to mind in this context. It refers to any visual phenomenon which, on closer inspection, is revealed as an optical illusion – gaseous clouds on the one hand, and silhouettes doubling themselves in multiple reflections, on the other. That is not to say that this collection of archival footage compiled here makes for a misrepresentation of 1960s fashions. Not in the slightest. What is more, in handpicking these segments, I made no attempt at singlehandedly summarising, in one fell swoop, a network of narratives and cultural and artistic developments within a decade’s chronological framework. Nor does this following collection presume to assume a historical role, per se, in the sense of presenting an authoritative, chronological, reconstructive summary – let alone force some version of hindsight wisdom on the past. Instead, it offers one the chance to look back, however briefly, and observe reality and its portrayal through a different set of eyes. And dare I say, it may even gain something from the film archive’s innate sense of a ‘present continuous,’ and the vitality it breathes into all those moments otherwise lost in time and expunged from memory.

Movie clips

Fashion Show of Maskit

In the chronicles of Israeli fashion, the name Maskit is synonymous with local, novel, quality fashion, as well as international prestige and allure. Maskit started out as an extension of the Ministry of Labour, with the Department of Commerce and the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office also joining in later on. The idea of training new immigrants in the craft of weaving, in their own homes, was a pillar of Jewish pioneering ideology. Soon thereafter, the company was already branching out to carpet threading, metalwork, and other crafts. At one point, Maskit’s production range was so vast, it covered over 20 different categories, with its product catalogue exceeding 6,000 – including wicker baskets, ceramic and glassware, and carpets. Through the years, Maskit’s directors organised and spearheaded a great many fashion shows both locally and internationally. The one seen here, that was held at Herzliya’s Hasharon Hotel – with guests sat around tables serving canapes and drinks as the models were showcasing a range of dresses, casualwear, and coats – marked a new chapter in the brand’s history. Shortly beforehand, Maskit founder and director, Ruth Dayan, announced that the company would be switching over to mass, cost-effective production. The ramifications were instant: the cost of the garments in that season’s range was 40 percent lower vs. previous seasons. In hindsight, it was evident that this was a step taken to contain the financial fallout from this state-run company’s disastrous mismanagement. The failings, amongst other things, included the lack of any and all long-term planning which led to heaps of surplus stock in factory warehouses, with no buyers in sight. Another issue was the frivolous wasting of many resources on training and staff, as well as breath-taking fashion shows that may have earned the brand its prestigious label – but ultimately failed to raise revenues to a satisfactory level. Eventually, a string of administrative missteps resulted in huge financial losses until in 1964, the factory founded and nurtured with love by the Israeli Government and Jewish Agency was sold off to private ownership.

Diva Swimsuit Fashion Show

Israeli swimwear, corset, and brassiere manufacturer, Diva, first opened their factory doors in 1942. The brand was established by the Hirschthal brothers, who had moved to Palestine from then-Czechoslovakia. Nothing about the factory’s humble beginnings, with a staff of just two manning one machine, could have suggested the future that lay ahead, in which it would take Israeli and European retail markets by storm. The designs were all done by Mrs. Hirschthal who had picked up all the secrets of the trade back in her native Czechoslovakia where her family ran a small swimwear and women’s undergarment sewing factory. By the 1960s, the Diva brand was flourishing, with its own massive factory in the heart of Tel Aviv on Herzl High St., employing upwards of a hundred workers. The quality of the products and the fetching silhouette it gave the female form earned the label such a high reputation that at one point, around 80 percent of the factory’s production was earmarked for export – to Europe, South Africa, and South America. An especially unique chapter in the factory’s history came when it became the official sponsor of the annual Miss Israel beauty pageant, in which contestants were all parading round in Diva swimwear.

Ora Weaving Factory for Blind Womens 5th Anniversary

The Ora embroidery factory was a joint WLI (Women’s League for Israel) and Ministry of Labour and Welfare project. Officially christened in 1957 in Netanya’s Fourth Pioneer Women’s Home, the factory set out to rehabilitate blind women through productive labour, and to allow them to lead a full, independent life despite their condition. A sewing mill was set up next to the factory where immigrants and a variety of disabled women were employed, making women and childrenswear, prayer shawls, maps, and a range of other textile products – all made with the factory’s colourful fabrics, at top quality, and boasting an original Israeli style and aesthetic. The name ‘Ora’ [from the Hebrew word ‘Or’, for light] imprinted on childrenswear labels, symbolised the light being restored in the lives of these young blind women, by helping them to become fully self-sufficient workers. In 1959, the factory’s all-female staff were awarded the Kaplan Labour Prize. Not a single brow was raised over the award going to the women. If anything, the only thing to be left bewildered by was the women’s awe-inspiring ability (who had been blind from childhood!) to master a trade requiring such fine craftsmanship. It was through touch that they were able to get a feel for the embroidery patterns. And whilst the factory was a Department of Welfare initiative, by no means was Ora a non-profit establishment, nor were its products marketed from a place of sentimental philanthropy. “Might it be that the vast range of products, [and] the original style evident in Ora garments are not the work of an artist named Ora but rather, the handicraft of many young women who have never set eyes on their own handiwork, or anything else for that matter?” An Al HaMishmar [‘on guard’ – a long defunct daily paper] reporter mused in 1960. In 1961, the brand was named an Excellent Presenter at a variety of international fairs and exhibitions in the United States, Australia, and Germany. Later, at one of the regular star-studded fashion shows at the WLI House, guests were all left in awe – not only of the original, fashion-forward designs, but also of the young blind models walking the runway. The same women who had made and manufactured these designs were now showcasing them on their person. At its five-year anniversary mark, the embroidery factory had 16 young blind women on payroll, and six additional female employees with special needs who, together, produced 22,000sqm’s (237,000sqft.) worth of fabric, valued at £210,000 [Israeli pounds – the currency that predated the shekel]. At the press conference held at Netanya’s Greenspan Hotel, then Welfare Secretary, Shlomo Yosef Burg, announced a new blind women’s training centre for textile craftwork at Ramat Gan’s Ort School. The programme, amongst other things, also included a threading module, with each class comprising ten young blind women.

Cornerstone Ceremony of New Aled Knitwear Plant

The cornerstone laying ceremony for the new Aled factory in Petah Tikvah, just outside Tel Aviv, was attended by employees of the fashion brand from Israel, New York, and Los Angeles. Guests were studying the factory’s floorplan sketches whilst a tractor was working the site at the same time. This was one of several Aled-owned factories – a high-fashion knitwear brand, and one of Israel’s textile industry pioneers. The factory’s earliest days date back to 1898 in Austria’s Bohemia region where a young man by the name of Alfred Edelstein set up a knitwear workshop that, before long, became one of the largest knitwear manufacturers in the county. In 1938, Edelstein’s daughters packed up shop and set off for Palestine. The following year, they set up a small knitwear workshop in the neighbourhood of Pardes Katz, just outside Tel Aviv, which at the time was an area teeming with orchards. Their inaugural export orders came from fashion houses in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey – as well as the British Army and Palestine’s British Mandatory police. Following the establishing of the State of Israel, the factory became the IDF’s primary supplier. Little by little, it began to branch out also into knit skirt and dressmaking. The garments won a great deal of praise and Aled Fashions soon began collaborating with a range of top-end brands and designers, including Maskit and Dorin Frankfurt. At one point, the factory had a staff of 280. One of the novelties it brought into the field of knitwear was soft, bright synthetic knit fabrics that could be dyed all kinds of spectacular shades and colours. Aled’s range of knitwear fashion became a staple of Israeli haute couture boutiques, however the vast majority of product was earmarked for export. Aled’s 30 anniversary was celebrated with a fashion show that featured a mix of ‘classic chic’ (i.e., the small knit suits) and ‘young chic’ (midi and maxi-length). In 1985, the factory closed its doors for good.

Schuberth Models in Israel

Beyond their main purpose of debuting new fashion ranges to the general public, fashion shows in the 1960s were also very much a way of firming up the budgets of women’s organisations. One show organised by the women of WIZO, in association with weekly women’s lifestyle magazine, LaIsha (‘for the woman’), featured two of Italy’s most prominent fashion houses at the time – Mingolini-Guggenheim and Schuberth – with the latter’s exclusive client roster including the likes of Gina Lollobrigida and others. A delegation of five models, the Italian fashion designers themselves, and their entourage landed in Israel for a series of runway shows. The group came straight from the US after showcasing their collections before American audiences. In the course of one week, seven fashion shows were held in different Israeli cities – one per day – including a runway show held at the Miss Israel selection ball. All proceeds were later donated to the WIZO Children’s Fund. And though held for pure entertainment value – i.e., none of the garments were made available for sale – these runway shows nonetheless meant the world to local fashionistas; allowing them to get up close and personal with high-end Italian taste, not to mention all the latest lines, silhouettes, and materials. This was also a chance for local fashion manufacturers to get up to speed with all things new and hot. “This year, we witnessed novel shapes and cuts copied straight from the catwalk,” [long defunct daily paper] Davar reported. “One prominent example being the tightly woven cotton nightgown, which is a knock-off of the Italian silk nightgown which we all saw at the runway show. ”Print media reports of the time describe a battle between France and Italy around everything style and ‘fine taste’ related. The same Davar news story also argued that one takeaway, perhaps, from Italian fashions is that “one would do well to rather copy the Italian garments, as opposed to the Parisian ones.”

Givenchy Fashion Show at the Tel Aviv Culture Palace

Towards the end of 1968, Israeli catwalks marked a truly historic occasion with Parisian haute couture designer, Hubert de Givenchy’s grand fashion show. The audience, mostly comprising women, were all sat in the central section of Tel Aviv's Culture Palace, with the aisles used as catwalks for the models. The idea to combine fashion and the Culture Palace was the brainchild of one David Rothman – a Parisian-based British Jew who worked in PR and was a personal friend to many fashion creatives. Rothman had been especially keen on bringing Givenchy to Israel, and after Pierre Cardin had already showcased his range at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum – Rothman was determined to secure a similar location of equal cultural reputation and calibre. Givenchy, himself, failed to attend the show. However, he did make sure sure to send his apologies by letter to the Prime Minister’s wife who had given the event her personal sponsorship, explaining that he was neck deep in next summer’s collection. That said, his absence did not take away from the evening’s high-end grandeur in any way, which kicked off with a concert conducted by Antal Doráti, with the orchestra breezily playing a selection of jovial tunes. In the interval between the concert and the runway presentation, a parallel show of sorts – featuring members of the audience – was taking place in the foyer: curls and ringlets of all shades and colours mixed and huddled together, whilst several ‘It’ girls were spotted donning trouser suits which, for the past two seasons had become an evening attire staple all over the world and were now finally making their Levantine debut. The women of WIZO, who were the evening’s organisers planned a 40min interval which, according to the press, went by in the blink of an eye as 800 women were busy eying up (and down!) 800 women in a foyer show that gave the main event in the auditorium a good run for its money. At the end of the night, a raffle was held with the top prize being an original Givenchy gown – a tunic dress with a flared long skirt worth 800USD. The winner was Martha Evron – a renowned Tel Aviv seamstress. Daily paper Maariv reporter, Yehudit Hanoch speculated that soon, about a dozen Israelis could say that they own a near-original Givenchy in their wardrobe. “It was, without a doubt, the most splendorous night of the season – an evening that saw business booming for seamstresses, beauty parlours, and hair salons,” she added. The women’s arrival at the auditorium with their plus ones was described by Hanoch as a modern-day boarding of Noah’s Ark. Boyfriends, husbands, and colleagues were sidelined in favour of one’s best girlfriend. “Because who in their right mind would spend £25* on a ticket, followed by two hours in front of the mirror and a whole afternoon at the beauty parlour on a man?!”. [*the local currency, pre-shekel, was the Israeli pound.]

The First Israeli Fashion Week

Israel’s inaugural fashion week took place at the start of March 1965, at Tel Aviv’s Sheraton Hotel. It was co-produced by the Israel Export Institute, the Trade Fair Company, and the Department of Industry and Commerce. Upwards of 50 local traders and manufacturers turned up to showcase their designs to over 250 foreign buyers representing a host of American, European, and Japanese department stores and fashion emporiums. Around 250 Israeli guests attended the various expos and shows that took place throughout the trailblazing week. In his toast on behalf of the foreign buyers, one rep from a high-profile US company mused that this event was proof that Israel was not an ‘up-and-coming market’, as the saying goes, but in fact a market that has very much arrived. After the event, a flood of orders for Israeli fashion products soon followed, for a sum total of $2.5m (according to reports by the Export Institute). The event’s tremendous success paved the way for what is now a tradition of local fashion weeks that have only gone from strength to strength over the years. Immediately after it had wrapped, the event’s organisers announced next year’s follow-up fashion week – highlighting that it will have a budget of £300,000 (vs. the inaugural fashion week’s £180K budget) in quite the vote of confidence, with the Israeli government footing 90 percent of the bill. In its second year, Tel Aviv Fashion Week found a new home at the then brand-new Hilton Hotel. Organisers had hoped that the international hotel chain’s reputation would go a long way towards promoting the event amongst tourists. The director of the Export Institute at the time explained that Fashion Week’s number one mission was to put Israel on the global fashion map. Going by the sales figures from the second fashion week, as well as all the buzz and curiosity about the local designs, one might cautiously declare, ‘mission accomplished.’ In fact, the figures ended up far exceeding the most optimistic predictions: 500 foreign buyers showed up to the event, doubling the previous year’s numbers, whilst sales reached a whopping total of £12m – double the amount predicted.

A Pierre Cardin Fashion Show at the Israel Museum

In November of 1966, a Pierre Cardin fashion house delegation, accompanied by an entourage of French male and female models, arrived in Israel ahead of an exclusive fashion show they were to host at the Israel Museum. Six female and four male models (one of whom, Boaz Mazor, was a native Israeli) showcased a range of different sarafans* (*a trapezoidal Russian jumper dress), all of which were part of the designer’s upcoming autumn-winter 1966 collection – complete with giant zippers, polo waistcoats, boots galore, and skin-tight smoking jackets. At the cocktail party hosted in Paris ahead of the event, the designer told daily paper Marriv’s foreign correspondent how the fashion house’s trip to Israel has no business significance, as it is only meant as a celebration of France’s deep affection for Israel. For that reason, he explained that all proceeds from the sold-out fashion show, £9,000 in total by the museum’s estimate, had been donated to the museum, (a ticket for two was priced at £60, with tickets limited to 150. The press described the event as “meant for those of the deep pocket persuasion.”) The production itself did not cost the museum directors a penny, as all travel expenses had been covered well in advance. “What man does not worship at Jerusalem’s altar, and what man is not in awe of the grand creation that is Israel?” Cardin waxed poetic. The collaboration between the Israel Museum and the House of Cardin was the brainchild of David Rothman, an international runway agent. Initially, the museum’s powers-that-be were quite apprehensive, citing a range of puritanical reasons, only to later U-turn on their opposition following pressure from the Israeli embassy in France, the Foreign Office, and the Department of Tourism – coupled with the promise of international-scale PR, which was more than delivered on with extensive coverage in the French press. Members of the audience, meanwhile, were promised that one of the garments featured that evening would be up for grabs in a draw. The runway garments were described as outfits straight from Mars, or genuine “spacewear.” Daily paper Al HaMishmar’s Dalia Shehory described the models as flat-chested, flat-heeled, and stripped of any lip colour. That said, it appeared that equally as the fashion itself or the designer’s futuristic style and aesthetic, the very prospect of models traipsing about the museum caused quite the uproar and dare one say, was even a slap in the face to some. At a Jerusalem press conference when Cardin was asked what fashion could possibly have to do with a museum, he replied “every fashion is destined to become obsolete and eventually, must be consigned to a museum.”

The Ten Group Presents a Fashion Show at the Artists House in Tel Aviv

The 10+ (‘Ten Plus’) Group was made up of young Israeli artists who decided to come together. The group comprised ten artists – including Raffi Lavie, Buky Schwartz, and Siona Shimshi, to name but a few – however, their exhibitions were open to other artists to showcase their works, hence the ‘plus’ in the name. This coming together was meant to provide exposure for young artists in a time when only a handful of art galleries were around in Tel Aviv, with those mostly if not exclusively only showing the works of well-known, reputable artists. Between 1965 – 1970, members of the group hosted 10 joint exhibitions; the second of which was held at Tel Aviv’s Artists House. It was titled Grand Works, and the idea was to showcase something different, young, and unchecked. The art show also featured a host of additional activities including stay plays, film screenings, and even a runway show where all original designs that walked the catwalk (mostly dresses) were made out of fabrics painted on by group members. Despite the novelty element, this by no means was the first time that members of the group thought to marry art and fashion, and to mix original art and clothing. Their first exhibition took place several months earlier at Maskit’s Tel Aviv venue, and was entirely dedicated to fabric art. Maskit’s directors were only too happy to offer the brand’s event space to promote and encourage original Israeli art. The event was billed as ‘Artists Paint Fashion Fabrics’ and it was under this heading that artists showcased their craft, painting various fabrics using a range of techniques, with every original piece shown at the exhibition later put up for sale. Women who had purchased the art pieces were encouraged to have them made into original, one-of-a-kind dresses. “Artists Shall Dress You,” read the headline on the pages of Al HaMishmar.

1964 Mr. Israel Bodybuilding Championship

In 1950, the country held its first ever Mr. Israel contest. The tradition, however, was short-lived and would come to an end just five years later. Then in the summer of 1964, after nearly a decade-long hiatus, the contest – now with a revamped format – was revived at the Yad Eliahu Basketball Arena (now the Menora Mivtachim Arena). Alongside crowning a new Mr. Israel, the contest also featured a variety of events including the ‘Strongest Man’ competition, a ’Grab All you Can’-style tournament, and various wrestling contests. It was also then decided that the winner would represent Israel at the Mr. Universe contest that year in London. Excitement was through the roof as this would be Israel’s first time sending one of its own to represent the young country in the international contest. Except the real wrestling match ended up happening behind the scenes. Long before the resurrected contest even got off the ground, two private bodies found themselves in a bitter row over the exclusive rights to host the Mr. Israel contest which, each side insisted were theirs and theirs only. One claimant was the Tel Aviv Events Organisation Office, whilst the other was the Gymnasium Organisation – a union formed by the owners of several gyms and fitness centres in Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan to that end, and whose officials vociferously claimed that organising and hosting the contest was their natural, inalienable right.

Mens Fashion Show at 13th Tailoring Conference in Tel Aviv

The 13th Tailoring Conference, held at Tel Aviv’s Sheraton Hotel, was attended by 450 tailors from different countries including France, the UK, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. The conference organisers, the Israeli Tailors Association, hoped that the event would open Israeli men’s eyes to the importance of tailoring suits to size. Practical symposiums during the conference were mostly spent discussing the problems presented by a host of fashion novelties ahead of the upcoming winter ’68 and summer 1969 collections, promoting the importance of dressing smart in as many circles as possible, raising and championing higher professional standards, etc. “Israeli haute couture suffers from lack of resources,” bemoaned Tzvi Schein, head of the local organisation, adding that “With the help of this conference we’re hosting, we hope to give the trade a bit of a new lease of life. Show the youths that here is a living, thriving, evolving trade.” In those days, Israeli haute couture was on life support, with many in the country worried that there would be no one left to carry the torch. The average age of local couturiers was relatively old – whilst young people rarely if ever ventured into the field. Out of 2,000 practising tailors in Israel at the time, only one is known to have sent his son to study in Vienna’s Tailoring Academy, whilst others’ children pursued more traditional, mainstream trades. This too was not considered a pure “Jewish” craft – and as such, many ended up turning their backs on it. Now, organisers of the conference were hoping to turn this tide. Israel’s then-Chancellor and Secretary of Industry and Commerce, Ze’ev Sherf, under whose sponsorship the conference was held, believed that Israel is home to knowledgeable, highly skilful and talented tailors who can more than hold their own in a professional exchange of ideas with international artists. According to him, despite the economy’s growth and the rise in industrial factories whose speciality was mass clothing production, haute couture tailoring hadn’t quite had its day just yet. The hundreds of local tailors who turned up at the conference, were invited to study in-depth all the latest novelties in their trade. In a fashion show that took place during the conference, each country showcased six original tailored men’s suit designs, divided into morning and evening dress.

Mini Skirt Fashion in Tel Aviv

Such a small garment – such global uproar. The daily press of the time was reporting an anti-miniskirt crusade led by extremists in several Middle Eastern countries, including Israel. And whilst the IDF and work environments approved of the miniskirt – it was ‘persona non grata’ during office hours and as such, women and young girls were banned from showing more than 3cm of thigh over the kneecap. In Turkey, religious militants threw acid at the bare legs of women in miniskirts whilst in the UK an order was issued, formally banning miniskirts from all courtrooms. The main idea behind the skirt was for it to look ridiculous on the full, voluptuous figure of anyone past her teenage years. At the time, there were those who put it down to social changes that seemed to flourish in the periods following a crisis when youth is at once given unchecked freedoms – followed by a boom in “girly girl” chic amongst young women. The same thing happened after the French Revolution, and in the 1920s in the aftermath of World War I. The miniskirt was also a symbol of teenage girls’ newfound and hitherto unprecedented financial independence. And of course, this was all accompanied by the young women’s quest for gaining and displaying all the freedoms and sexual liberation that their older peers were now enjoying. The footage here is from 1968. And it really is hard to believe that only the previous year, everyone was convinced that the miniskirt was not long for this world and that this was all just a passing, aesthetic, and social fad, exclusive to the English capital. The miniskirt trend, however, persisted and persevered even through the harsh London winter. Young Londoners gave the miniskirt the all the ‘leg-up’ it needed (and then some!) to take root in the fashion world, and in doing so incurred the wrath of the English, for reasons that went beyond mere chastity. It soon emerged that HMRC (the British Inland Revenue Service) were in a huff as the miniskirt, it turned out, was exempt from purchase tax – like children’s clothes. A decision then followed to tax any item of clothing of a length exceeding 51cm (20 inches) (i.e. from the belt down). Fashion designers, however, were not fazed in the slightest. By that point, they had already come up with mini-miniskirt and the micro-miniskirt, meaning that even after the new tax had taken effect, the skirts remained fully exempt.

Subscribe to our mailing list and stay up to date
הירשמו לרשימת התפוצה שלנו והישארו מעודכנים

This will close in 0 seconds