The Middle East has enough battles to fight without fashion needing to be one of them. Within this dry stretch of land lies a place with a much freer and sluttier sense of style that includes midriff-baring wedding dresses and underwear at the beach. Itâ€™s called Israel.
Like most full-fledged American Jews, Iâ€™ve been fed a steady diet of teen tours and manufactured Masada hikes at sunrise since the age of 12. But Iâ€™m also a total fag. So, naturally, that means Iâ€™m always far more interested in shopping at the shuk than listening to some archeologist talk about how some hole in the ground is supposedly a 10,000-year-old burial site for dead cows and shards of pottery. Years of travel and a boatload of beat-up bongs later, I began to wonder if this was the only country on Earth where khaki-cargo-short-wearing, fanny-pack-toting tourists actually out-dressed the locals. Could it really be possible that G-d had forsaken fashion in his very own Holy Land?
I had pretty much come to terms with the fact that while my people could invent the theory of relativity and Google Instant, they were entirely incapable of designing a decent dress. Â Then that all changed – and Tel Aviv-based designer Mirit Weinstock is the reason why.Â I caught a glimpse of her collection at a small SoHo shindig a few weeks ago, and Weinstockâ€™s shimmery silk dresses and handmade jewelry strewn on haphazardly hair-bunned models served as the eveningâ€™s main course. The whole thing could have easily taken a disastrous turn toward dowdy. But it didnâ€™t. That left me intrigued enough to have a word with her on everything from career and Israelâ€™s track record of sinful style to some of the challenges faced by designers outside of major fashion capitals.
Weâ€™ve listened to plenty of Project Runway contestants tell us their sob stories. Whatâ€™s yours?
I guess my sob story as a designer is that Iâ€™mÂ anÂ Israel-based designer trying to grow in the international market, always living in an ongoing conflict. Should I stay in Israel? Move to Paris? Try to do it in the US?Â Is that OK as a sob story?
I remember insisting that my mother buy me nothing but color-coordinated Nike track suits from the ages of 4-6. It was my sporty phase. Tell us about your first fashion memory.
My mother told me that I insisted on wearing coats in summer and little tops in winter. Â She used to fight with me every morning. Her happiest moment was when I started going to elementary school. We had to wear a uniform.
Describe your personal sense of style in three words.
Elegant. Ladylike. Inspirational.
Whatâ€™s the biggest regret in your career? Whatâ€™s your biggest success?
My biggest success is that every season I manage to create a new collection, which makes me happy. Â My biggest regret is looking at those collections 6 month later, asking myself â€śWhat the hell I was thinking?â€ť
In my experience, wearing a tank top qualifies as “getting gussied up” in Israel. Do you dress differently when youâ€™re hanging in the Promised Land, versus, say, New York or Europe?
No. I always wear whatever I feel like that day. The way people look at me in Israel versus New York or Europe is different though. For example, in Israel, people always say howÂ FrenchÂ I look, while in Paris no one ever mistakes be for being French.
A friend once insisted that I wear an Ed Hardy hat. Needless to say, weâ€™re not friends anymore. Whatâ€™s your most embarrassing fashion fuckup?
When I was still a hip teenager, I used to sport corduroy bell bottoms in a color best described as mustard-beige. I also wore sneakers with them.
What are you obsessed with right now?
A red dress. I’m trying to find one in an exact tone of bright red. I have been dreaming about it for quite a while now. I saw a perfect one at Valentino’s boutique â€“ just a tad too expensive, though.