Buy Israel Week | American women find a lot to like in Israeli designer clothing

With a staggering array of fashions from everyone and everywhere to choose from, why should American women buy clothes made by Israeli designers?

To support the Jewish state, sure. But more likely for the quality, the flattering fit, the colors, the size range and the reasonable prices, say those who work in the business.

In the Bay Area, Ruti Zisser sells fashions from her native land out of two Ruti Boutiques — at Town and Country Village in Palo Alto and on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. She also has a Santa Monica store, and plans to open two more shops this year, says sales associate Darcy Fowkes.

Ronen Chen fashions are known for their draping and fit.

Zisser (who was in Israel scouting designers) “looks for a specific look,” Fowkes says. “Her look is clean lines, and comfort is one of her primary goals, both in fit and fabric.”

Fowkes says the fabric is of high quality, with most of the material coming from Japan and Italy, and she raves about the colors. “Israelis have a way with color,” she says, citing a popular T-shirt “of the richest brown, a deep gorgeous color with a little mahogany. Customers who bought that shirt seven years ago will come back for another one. The colors are so contemporary, with an earthy feel.”

Fowkes also cites the wide range of sizes Israeli designers use, from “zero all the way up to 24.”

What customers really come for, though, Fowkes says, is the quality of work done by Israeli designers. “They do a good job of combining fabrics in a way that is artistic that you don’t usually see” with designers from other countries.

In Chicago, Tali Kogan’s downtown showroom, Tel Aviv Couture, features fashions and accessories by a wide range of Israeli designers.

Kogan is an Israeli native who originally worked in real estate after moving to Chicago, but switched careers after a designer friend suggested that she offer fashion-conscious Chicago women something they hadn’t been exposed to much before — Israeli fashions.

The business took off quickly, and now Kogan visits Israel every few months to identify new designers for the trunk shows, fashion shows and shopping events she produces. She also sells online at www.telavivcouture.com.

Several attributes make Israeli designs different, Kogan says. “The country is very warm, and a lot of the clothes are very body-conscious, yet very comfortable. The styles are a little bit more drapey and the fabrics are very soft, and because of that, they can complement many different body shapes. You don’t have to be a supermodel to wear them.”

Many of the designers she features are graduates of the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design, a famed institution based in Ramat Gan. “The education they get there is extraordinary, and the beauty of Israel inspires these amazing young kids to create unique designs,” Kogan says. “My clients go crazy over these designs.” More than half of her clients are neither Israeli nor Jewish, she adds. “They just love this stuff.”

One reason: The clothing is versatile. “As a modern working woman, I understand that clothing has to work for so many different life needs and be easy to travel with,” she says.

One of the Jewish state’s best-known designers is Ronen Chen, who since the 1990s has been selling fashions to women throughout Israel and Europe but is still relatively new to the United States. In the U.S. he sells through an e-commerce site, www.RonenChen.com.

May Sofi of Stylehouse PR, which represents Chen in the United States, says Chen is looking to enhance his profile here and it seems to be working. American women like the versatility and draping of his fashions, she says.

Chen recently released his spring/summer 2013 collection, which includes four thematic groups: Metropolis for spring, consisting of clothes that feature art-deco and geometric lines; Savannah for early summer, described as giving “a nod to African grasslands [and bringing] together elements of both the forest and desert”; Ocean Blue group for summer, with light fabrics in Chen’s signature asymmetrical draping in various shades of blue evoking sea and sky; and Time Out for late summer, “dreamy getaway wear” that looks airy and fresh for the hottest days of the year.

Chen “is known for the fit of his clothing,” Sofi says. “It’s all about draping, celebrating the female form by making clothing that is comfortable and flattering without being too revealing.”

Spring and summer designs are colorful, Sofi says; Chen’s fall collections feature rich, dark browns and navy blues in keeping with the season.

“But his signature thing is the draping and the fit,” Sofi says. “He does a lot of asymmetrical designs inspired by geography and architecture. That’s what got him into fashion design in the first place.”