Designer Focus: SHAHAR AVNET
Was there a particular moment that made you decide you wanted to work in fashion?
When I was 15 years old my grandmother taught me to knit. The first thing I ever made was a scarf, a Pink scarf to be exact, at one point I run out of Pink thread and I decided to continue with gold thread. When I finished knitting I discovered that the scarf that I had imagined in my mind came to life and that realization enchanted me- Imagining something and creating it. It was an epiphany moment for me and from that moment I knew I wanted to become a fashion designer. At that time I wasn't familiar with the fashion world, I couldn't really imagine how I would fit into it. I grew up in the north of Israel in a small and rural area I wasn't aware of fashion shows or well-known fashion designers.
The thought of becoming a fashion designer felt like the right decision at that moment, I knew I had good hands, and My thoughts back then were- ‘hey! I like colors and creating things and working with my hands, and this seems like a great solution for the grown-up world. Everyone seems to be spending so much time at work and I want to be able to enjoy my work- I want my work to be fun! and also no harm will be done if I make a mistake- It's only clothes - no one will die’. I was charmed by the creation process that is similar to giving birth- the privilege of imagining something that doesn't exist and bringing is to life- it's seemed magical to me.
I remember myself getting up from the couch and just that feeling of knowing- this is my dream! Until this day when I look back to that moment, I have no idea what led me to those thoughts and how they came to me. It just so disconnected from my life back then, from the things I was learning, the things I knew and saw In my environment-. Today 16 years later, It's still a mystery to me, I like to believe that it was a magical moment a guiding hand that gave me the love and passion for design and art- a gift.
Do you think you have a responsibility as a designer to respond to the social and political issues of our time?
Definitely yes. I think that designers are constantly in contact with so many individuals and they have the opportunity to influence and to have their voice be heard about changes in the society, As well as the opportunity to spread a message.
My brand motto is ‘Love Yourself’ I’m trying to spread a very clear message to women- Love yourselfs don’t resent or get mad at yourself, don't hide- celebrate yourself, celebrate love and life- Its will only attract positivity and happiness into your life.
I think we've been taught very incorrectly about the ideal of beauty. Unfortunately, many times when society thinks of a beautiful woman- she needs to be suffering, in pain or hungry. I try to convey a different message- there are so many types of beautiful women- its just wrong to believe there's only one kind. Beauty like many trades comes from within and is mainly based on a feeling or an experience that a specific individual is going threw and feeling at a certain moment. It's impossible to decide that beauty should be perceived a certain way, It changes like most things around us constantly change- something that might seem beautiful to one woman might not seem beautiful to another and so on…My message is just on the contrary- I want to encourage women to take a look within, make it a compassionate look, a loving and non judgmental look.
I would like women to wake up and be excited about getting dressed, they should think- “who do I want to be today?” and not “what will people think?”. I believe fashion is our first communication with the world, it’s the first chance we get to tell our environment who we are and our story. When a woman walks into a room you see and feel her energy- clothes and fashion are a huge part of the way she carries herself and can help convey her true self. My customer is the kind of woman that walks into a room and not afraid to celebrate herself, her confidence lights up the room. For me fashion means to communicate and that's the reason I spend so much time in the small details and make sure they are made with love for the profession, for the material and for the feminine body.
Has your relationship with clothing changed as you delve into the fashion world?
Yes, definitely. I’ve always loved the idea of the fashion world since I remember myself. As a young girl I was always attracted to it, I loved clothes and getting dressed and expressing myself through clothes, I wanted to be a part of it, but I never really knew what it truly was. The fashion world was foreign to me like and exotic place that I knew I wanted to go to someday. It’s important to mention that I came from a family that has no connection to design or fashion, they are very creative individuals but I didn't know the fashion world. I also didn't know how to express myself and my ideas inside this world.
Today fashion is a way of expression for me it's like another language of mine, I can speak Hebrew, English and Fashion. Another language of mine is Art that goes hand in hand with who I am. Today when I look at fashion It means the world and beyond to me. I used to admire clothes and today I admire the feminine body, I feel like getting to know the fashion world has made me love women even more than I used to. When I design a garment today I think about the woman who will wear it- her body, who she is, what she's feeling when she's wearing this garment or who she wants to be at that moment. I try to think of myself in different moments, I think at one point I started to admire moments and emotions and the ability to express them through visual techniques- like garments and fashion. It’s always a challenge for me to be able to express an emotion through my design of a garment or a dress. At the end of the creation process when I see my collection come to life I’m always amazed by the way it tells the story I was aiming for.
What do you feel are the most important ingredients in building a brand?
First of all, in my opinion, when your building a brand you must have a passionate love for the trade. When you start building a fashion brand you discover quite quickly that the actual designing part is not that big, and you have to like the business side of things to and to appreciate the times you get to actually work on your designs. The second thing that you need is a lot of self belief. it’s hard not to give up at times there are many obstacles along the way, you must believe in the path you are taking even when everything seems dark and things don't go the way you planned you must believe in yourself - Self belief is so important.
Last but not least is you need to dream big and to be patient at the same time. To dream the impossible without being afraid to fail. To set your goals high and at the same time understand that things take time and that ‘Rome wasn't built in a day’ everything has a course and a time. Keep walking one step at times and trust the path you have created to steer you in the right direction.
You have to remember to take in the good moments you get- to know how to stop, breath and smile. When you start your own business there are always hiccups, unpredictable things happen all the time- you can't let those stop you, and you can't avoid it from happening. I think it's important to stop and linger on the good moments, the things that make you smile, the good people you meet along the way, the little success and the big ones.
Be proud of yourself and what you have achieved.
Tell us any anecdotes about the making of your last collection?
My design process is derived from my mental process and the developments that I experience in my life. I start from choosing a subject that relates to my life in the past 6 months. Then I create an inspiration book. This book is like a diary where I write my thoughts and feelings. After writing I go through the book and add to each sentence an illustration, drawing or collage sometimes pictures or different materials. The outcome is an inspiring book full of colors and textures.
The next stage I take a sketchbook and start to develop the silhouettes for the designs. Then comes the material/fabric search I decide the colors and textures. Next is the embroidery development stage, I go back to my inspiration book and choose my favorite drawings and create them as embroideries with a variety of materials and Swarovski stones.
Finally the construction, I match the silhouette with the fabric and the embroidery and the garments comes to life.
My most recent collection is all about the creation of my self-titled brand and everything I went through during this time of Making my fantasies into dreams and dreams into reality. I named this collection ‘WONDERLAND’ - It's about the two years of the opening my business- on one hand I feel as if ten years have gone by with all the things I have learned and the growth I have experienced and on the other hand it's gone by so fast that I can't stop, even if I want to rest for awhile It's not possible- like getting on a treadmill that doesn't stop- you must keep on going. Along the way I have received so many magical moments and gifts from the universe and It’s all part of my journey and that's why I called my latest collection Wonderland.
How do go about choosing your materials and manufacturers?
It’s definitely a challenge for me. Every time I feel like creating something totally crazy I start from letting myself sketch with no boundaries and then only after sketching my ideas I start thinking, Does this fit the weather for the collection? let's say it’s the AW collection can this garment I am imagining fit for winter? Can you wear a coat over this? Would I wear it? This is a struggle for me, on one hand to design very freely and on the other hand thinking in a very practical, financial and conces way- For now it's still a challenge for me and I like challenges- Like a code I need to crack, every season I have a new riddle to solve.
Beyond all of this is, the fact that I’m creating a product and that it has to have a price- my product has to be practical it must relate to the everyday needs of the customer. Another important thing is to be able to look at the collection as a whole and figure out If it answers it’s perpose - I ask myself many questions- how much each piece is going to coast? Is this pricing relevant to my customer? Would people want to buy my garments for this price? Where are the places I can lower the costs and what are the places I’m not willing to compromise on? I decided to open a Haute-couture fashion brand, and I consider myself as part of the Slow fashion movement in the way I execute the production of my garments. I chose a costly way that isn't easy on my pocket but is very considerate of the environment and to my workers and suppliers.
My main goal is to give love and attention to my customers- I try to conduct myself threw this point of view and let this guide me threw my decision making. I consider it a privilege to be able to create garments that are wearable and still made with attention to the finest details, that were made by the most professional individuals that earn honest wages and work side by side next to me in my studio in Tel-aviv.
Designer: Shahar Avnet Photo Credit: Liron Weissman