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. It’s called Israel.
Like most full-fledged American Jews, I’ve been fed a steady diet of teen tours and manufactured Masada hikes at sunrise since the age of 12. But I’m also a total fag. So, naturally, that means I’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. Then that all changed – and Tel Aviv-based designer Mirit Weinstock is the reason why. I caught a glimpse of her collection at a small SoHo shindig a few weeks ago, and Weinstock’s shimmery silk dresses and handmade jewelry strewn on haphazardly hair-bunned models served as the evening’s main course. The whole thing could have easily taken a disastrous turn toward dowdy. But it didn’t. That left me intrigued enough to have a word with her on everything from career and Israel’s track record of sinful style to some of the challenges faced by designers outside of major fashion capitals.
We’ve listened to plenty of Project Runway contestants tell us their sob stories. What’s yours?
I guess my sob story as a designer is that I’m an 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? 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. 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.
What’s the biggest regret in your career? What’s your biggest success?
My biggest success is that every season I manage to create a new collection, which makes me happy. My biggest regret is looking at those collections 6 month later, asking myself “What the hell I was thinking?”
In my experience, wearing a tank top qualifies as “getting gussied up” in Israel. Do you dress differently when you’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 how French 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, we’re not friends anymore. What’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 – just a tad too expensive, though.