Elissa Bloom, the executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City, who was the only industry maven from the area to attend an eight-day trip to Israel sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.
When Elissa Bloom went to Israel with 34 other fashionable Jewish women, she came back with a lot more than the neoprene coat with a geometric pattern on a reversible scuba-like material (although the coat is pretty great).
Bloom returned a few weeks ago inspired by her eight-day trip, sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and partnered with Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.
The organization seeks to empower women through Jewish values and a particular sector of industry. This year: fashion.
“They decided on fashion to really expose and shed a light on all the incredible innovation and talent and creativity that’s taking place in the fashion industry of Israel,” said Bloom, the executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy’s Center City, who was the only industry maven from the area. Others were from different parts of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Estonia, Greece, Panama and South Africa.
During the trip, Bloom said they had the opportunity to meet with designers at various fashion events and shows, get a behind-the-scenes look at showrooms and, of course, shop. (Let’s not forget the Jewish learning and travel, either.)
They met with several different Israeli designers, ranging from accessories to apparel, and also listened to newcomers pitch their products.
Four fashion-meets-technology entrepreneurs presented their products, like Nitzan Kish, who created jewelry using a 3-D printer. The bracelets can be used for self-defense.
“Israelis are always thinking more outside of the box, sometimes more open-minded,” said Bloom, who lives in Bryn Mawr. “The one thing that really came across and resonated was that the Israelis are always looking to solve a problem. American designers are, too, but … hearing this woman talk about her 3-D printing these accessories for self-defense — I mean, that’s something I never would have thought of.
“It’s really interesting how the Israeli mindset is.”
They also visited designers like Maskit, an Israeli fashion house.
“Going to Maskit and seeing the embellishment work — I haven’t seen that type of embellishment,” she said of the detail, like using wood beads on mesh, or raised beadwork that “looked like slivers of silver coins.”
“What came across most from designers was how humble they are and how they’re really talented and creative but very modest at the same time with their design palettes,” Bloom said. “The fabrication and the textiles are so soft and amazing quality. The clothing is so well made. Israeli fashion is very casual but sophisticated and feminine — easy to wear, light and flowy textiles.”
This was Bloom’s third trip to Israel, but the other two were 31 years ago, so going back as an adult was a dream come true.
“I was surprised. I just remember 31 years ago all the soldiers, seeing a lot of security and a lot of soldiers all over the country. And on this trip I barely saw any — I didn’t see any soldiers or police. We were at Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem … and I just felt so safe there.”
“Obviously, there’s a lot of security at the Kotel, but being able to walk around freely and feel very safe and to enjoy everything Israel has to offer from the scope and the viewpoint of a fashion perspective was — along with all the beauty and the nature… To be able to combine my love and passion for fashion, along with getting to tour and see the country and to relearn history that I had forgotten about, was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
As for her own style, Bloom prefers pieces a bit more versatile.
“I’m a mom, so I love finding pieces that make me look feminine but also easy to wear, easy to wash, wrinkle-free, easy to travel,” she explained. “Just items that you can wear multiple ways, whether you’re belting it or putting a jacket on or putting a scarf on it that it transforms the look.
“No one needs another new dress or a pair of shoes, but if it has a little bit of a twist on something that makes it unique and different, and it’s always in the details. Whether it’s the way the cuff is made or its buttons or trimming.”
Bringing those ideas home, she wants to “shed more light and give more exposure to all the incredible talent and innovation that’s taking place in Israel.”
“I’m looking forward to sharing the knowledge and just the brands to inspire our designers here so they know what’s happening in Israel,” she added, hinting at a possible future fashion event with the National Museum of American Jewish History.
So for Bloom, she hopes to bring that Israeli fashion mindset to Philadelphia — simple but unique. And probably wearing that neoprene coat in the process.
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