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Designer Hed Mayner is not afraid to play with the totems of Israeli life, from a trench coat made from a military tent to a sleeveless beach top cut from a Jewish prayer shawl.
The 30-year-old from a hippyish village in Galilee joyously mixed djellabas, jogging pants, jeans and PVC jackets in his debut Paris men’s fashion show this weekend.
He started designing at 16 inspired by the collection of kimonos a neighbor in his forest community near the Lebanese border had brought home from her time in Japan.
“When you’re isolated from urban life, you have this fantasy of it that never really fits with reality and you can kind of develop this universe,” he told AFP of his eclectic influences.
His village of 40 families near Amuka in the north of the country is a pilgrimage site for Orthodox and Hasidic Jews who flock to the tomb of a famous rabbi to pray for a good marriage.
This helped kindle his fascination with Orthodox Jewish clothing, although he was never religious himself.
“They wear tailored pieces but not in a sharp suited way,” said Mayner, whose parents are artists.
‘Multicultural to the extreme’
“You have the big shoulders, the jacket and the sleeves that are too long… I really like this idea of disproportion but it’s still tailored and very structured.
“They have these shops which sells one jacket in a million sizes.”
Orthodox Jews like their clothes to “really wrap the body” and handed them down from “from one kid to the another, he added.
Mayner said he drew much of his inspiration from both the military and religious uniforms of the Jewish state’s diverse though not always harmonious communities.
“Israelis don’t see fashion in the same way Europeans see it. It is not something that is very important in everyday life. In Israel people are in uniforms.”
Nowhere more so than in the contested holy city of Jerusalem, he said.
“I love Jerusalem but it’s a very difficult place to live because it’s super intense. You have craziness there all the time, you know the ‘Jerusalem syndrome’, you really feel it.
“Society there is very uniformed, everybody is in uniform and it’s kind of multicultural to the extreme.
“Israel is very split. You have the most secular people and very religious people.”
Mayner preferred to set up his studio in the more liberal beach-side city of Tel Aviv with its creative and international outlook.
As well as French style influences, “Tel Aviv is also linked to Berlin culture,” he said. “The city is half very old, half very new buildings and everything is under construction.
“There is so much around and the idea of creating something is very strong,” not only in fashion but “from start-up people to industrial designers.”
His clothes, however, are not are yet sold in his homeland, instead going to shops in Europe and the United States.
And being a fan of the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, he is chuffed about how well they sell in Japan.
“I think the Japanese understand my clothes better than I do myself,” he said. afp