The Fashion Week
held in Israel
recently may have skipped the Western Wall, but members of the liberal women's group known for wearing a prayer shawl at the holy site, in spite of ultra-Orthodox opposition,
have inspired a new clothing line launched by the Comme-Il-Faut fashion house.
After the company's "Women Crossing Borders" catalogue shot next to the separation fence, it's now the Women of the Wall's turn. "We actually imagined the Women of the Wall
wearing Comme-Il-Faut clothes and praying covered with prayer shawls," says one of the brand's two designers, Karin Leikovich.
Her colleague, Sharon Daube, note that thanks to the "moving meeting" with the leaders of the battle, she realized that their struggle is "authentic and real."
The two designers met with Anat Hoffman and Lesley Sachs, leaders of the Women of the Wall, and chose to dedicate the clothing items in their current collection, which focuses on Judaism, to the group's worshippers.
Proceeds from the sale of a T-shirt bearing the slogan "We lovingly give permission to one another" will be fully used as a donation for the group's struggle.
Dr. Ella Kanner and Lesley Sachs at show (Photo: Oshrat Ben Shimshon)
"At the end of the day, fashion is a tool of communication allowing us to convey messages through it and touch people," says Leikovich. "In the winter collection we reached something we are very interested in dealing with and strengthening its message.
"As soon as we reached the research stage of the processes, when we thoroughly examined the Jewish clothing items, we got to the Women of the Wall. During the meeting, which was very moving, we were exposed to a lot of content we were unaware of, and we expressed it in the collection we built."
'We actually imagined the Women of the Wall dressed in Comme-Il-Faut clothes and praying covered with prayer shawls.' From the collection (Photo: Anna Yam)
The Israeli fashion house is used to (sometimes controversial) social gestures. The designers define the Women of the Wall's struggle as "a feminist struggle affecting every woman in the country, which is especially important to us too as secular women. Therefore it is an issue we would like to put on the agenda through clothes."
The fashion house's annual subject of inspiration is religions, and while the past summer was dedicated entirely to a collection inspired by Islam, this winter – according to the designers – is Judaism's finest hour.
The collection, built with a conservative scale of shades of black, white, grey and blue, draws its inspiration from clear male-Hasidic worlds and includes vests and capotes (Hasidic coats) with a new twist, alongside the white shirts serving as the foundation for the entire collection.
'We lovingly give permission to one another.' A shirt from the collection (Photo: Shani Scarlett Kagan)
"The entire issue of layers of a shirt with a vest, with a jacket on top of it and a coat on top of that – comes from a classic manly Hasidic source," says Sharon Daube. "And yet, they have both a design and feminine twist… There are many games of cuts here, of what is exposed compared to what is covered. An entire interface which creates a lot of interest in one set of clothing."
'We want to seize the prayer shawl and tassel from the masculine field and move it to the feminine field' (Photo: Anna Yam)
"We do what the Women of the Wall did," Leikovich clarifies. "We take clothes defined as manly and appropriate them to our gender. Just like the Women of the Wall appropriate the prayer shawl and phylacteries.
"In Judaism, as opposed to other religions, clothing items are also ritual accessories. And part of the religious ritual is in fact attributed to the masculine clothing and ritual.
"It was clear to us that we want to seize the prayer shawl and tassel from the masculine field and move it to the feminine field. In our collection we are corresponding with the tassel poking out of the Hasidic clothes, but in a different transformation, as our interpretation of the tassel. We wanted to introduce a feminine and soft twist into these manly clothes."
The Women of the Wall are used to mobilizing big and small gestures to raise awareness to their struggle. First it was photographer David Rubinger's picture of the group members in the same pose as his famous paratrooper photos symbolizing the 1967 Six-Day War, and there was also a solidarity prayer with the Western Wall's liberators.
Dr. Ella Kanner, who represents the Orthodox stream in the group and attended the presentation of the collection, says that "the decision to dedicate an entire collection inspired by the Women of the Wall shows that we and our struggle have become a mainstream in Israeli society."
'Corresponding with tassel poking out of Hasidic clothes' (Photo: Anna Yam)
The Women of the Wall are planning to return to the plaza of controversy on the first day of the month of Kislev and mark the 25th anniversary of their struggle, but will they model their own brand? Dr. Kanner, a member of the Women of the Wall board, is in favor of that.
"At the end of the day," she says, "women's clothes in many cultures were a means of oppression and control: How much to wear and how much not to wear, and that's a debate which is still alive and kicking…
Comme-Il-Faut pretty much connected to that. Their clothes are wearable for me as a religious woman, without giving up on the feminist style.
"And that's what we want as women: Equality in its very simple sense. The Women of the Wall present feminine comradeship in their joint prayer. A group of women praying together – Orthodox, Reform and Conservative – out of solidarity, and of course out of the ability of each woman to pray to God in her own way."