Fashion

How a young designer revitalized an iconic fashion house

It was a brand beloved by Queen Elizabeth and Audrey Hepburn. But after it shut down, a student embarked on a quest to bring it back to life.

A model in a teal leather dress from Maskit's Summer 2015 collection.A model in a teal leather dress from Maskit's Summer 2015 collection.A model in a teal leather dress from Maskit's Summer 2015 collection. (Photo: Maskit)

Like most in the fashion industry, Sharon Tal started out as an intern. She began her career working under Alber Elbaz, the former chief designer of Lanvin in Paris. She moved her way up to head designer for embroideries at Alexander McQueen in London. But the 33-year old designer felt a strong desire to return to her native Israel.

Back at home contemplating her next move, she began to think about the iconic fashion house Maskit, founded in 1953 by Ruth Dayan, a legend in Israel's design world. The brand encapsulated everything Tal stood for as a designer. But there was one problem: Maskit had been closed for more than 20 years.

Maskit was founded by Dayan when she visited artists and artisans skilled in decorative arts like embroidery, rugs, and arts and crafts. They were living in small Israeli towns, and she wanted to help them earn a living wage.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Maskit Fashion House created more than 2,000 jobs for such artisans and ran 10 stores in Israel and one in New York. Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue were among those who stocked its garments. Dayan collaborated with Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Queen Elizabeth and Audrey Hepburn were among Maskit's notable clientele. But by 1994 the industry had changed, and the company shut down. Dayan moved on to focus her time on social and humanitarian causes.

Tal, a graduate of the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel, contacted Dayan, and the two arranged a meeting. The rest, as they say, is history. The meeting led to a collaboration to revive the Maskit brand two decades after it closed.

Tal says she wanted to create something that would be hers, but also make a bigger impact. "Our vision is to become a leading international fashion house inspired from Israel," Tal told From the Grapevine.

Models showcase new dresses in the Maskit line at an event in London this summer.Models showcase new dresses in the Maskit line at an event in London this summer. (Photo: Maskit)

Reviving such an iconic fashion brand would take time and careful curation. Tal and Dayan spent 2 1/2 years tracking down former employees and collecting archived Maskit apparel and memorabilia. Maskit's showroom, in a restored villa in Tel Aviv, now proudly houses much of this memorabilia.

The design duo's hard work has paid off. Tal won the Most Promising Designer award from the Israel Fashion Industry Awards.

The student is quick to pay homage to her mentor. "Ruth is an amazing person and an inspiring muse," says Tal. "She has been guiding me through the whole way and she's been an active partner through the inspirational process."

A model at the London launch of Maskit at the Brown's hotel in Mayfair. A model at the London launch of Maskit at the Brown's hotel in Mayfair. (Photo: Maskit)

Maskit's latest collection, showcased at last month's Tel Aviv Fashion Week, had an intriguing muse: The Dead Sea.

"This collection was inspired by the Dead Sea views," Tal explains. The collection is characterized by the use of striking, high-quality materials such as silk, viscose, leather, wool and cashmere paired with natural materials like metals, shells and wood. The line includes dresses, shirts, skirts, kaftans, and evening and cocktail dresses. Maskit also introduced a collection of handmade bags this season which feature unique cutting techniques.

Her latest collection is evidence that the Maskit fashion house will continue to make its mark with collections that draw on the brand's rich heritage while imbuing a fresh perspective and modernity. Tal defines her design aesthetic in a way that simply says longevity to us. "It's clean, timeless and high quality, with strong attention to detail," she says.

Maskit's founder, Ruth Dayan with Sharon Tal, the fashion house's head designer. Maskit's founder, Ruth Dayan with Sharon Tal, the fashion house's head designer. (Photo: Maskit)

Lindsay E. Brown is the managing editor of Eco-Chick, the web’s first ethical fashion, beauty and travel site for women. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, and Cottages & Gardens. Lindsay has been featured as a fashion and beauty expert on the Veria Living Network. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The opinions expressed in blogs and reader comments are those of the writers and do not reflect the opinions of FromtheGrapevine.com. While we have reviewed the content to ensure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, From the Grapevine is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information.

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