Working as embroidery designer with some of the world’s most creative fashion labels including Alexander McQueen, Israeli-born Sharon Tal has adorned the fashions worn by megastars including Lady Gaga and Scarlett Johansson. Today she is making her own mark in the world of fashion at the helm of the legendary Israeli brand Maskit.
Once described as “Israeli as falafel,” Maskit was launched in 1954 by Ruth Dayan, the first wife of the late Israeli Defense Force General and politician Moshe Dayan. A strong proponent of women’s empowerment, Dayan initially established Maskit as a means to create jobs for more than 2,000 new immigrants while preserving the skills, ethnic crafts and culture of the diverse communities living in the modern State of Israel.
At its zenith in the 1960s, Maskit became a fashion phenomenon. Recognized for its signature desert cloaks, flowing Bedouin-styled tunics and rich embroidered embellishments, Maskit became one of the country’s first popular imports, its products created for highbrow worldly tastes and officially gifted by presidents and prime ministers to global leaders and diplomats visiting Israel.
As fashions change, so too did Maskit. By the mid 90’s – more than a decade after Ruth Dayan retired and turned her energies to charitable causes – Maskit closed its doors. But even today, at the age of 99 Ruth finds herself once again working as a mentor and inspiration, now to the gifted Sharon Tal who sought her out in 2010 to reimagine and reinvigorate the iconic Israeli brand.
On the runway and in the shops and boutiques where women turn for bold, contemporary fashion, Maskit is back. On Monday, April 11, 2016, Sharon Tal will bring her story and a trunk show to the Gem Theatre in Detroit, in a special Thanks Event hosted by Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy.
In a recent conversation with myJewishDetroit, Sharon Tal offers some insight into the design process and a preview of next steps for the brand.
Q & A with Sharon Tal
Five words that describe the Maskit fashion brand:
High quality, unique design, authentic, timeless, heritage
What Red Carpet celebrities have we seen in Maskit?
Mili Avital, Titi (the beauty queen) and Michelle Obama have a Maskit desert coat and more…
Contemporary or legendary?
What makes Maskit legendary and what makes the brand as fresh and contemporary today as it was when it first burst onto the world fashion stage five decades ago?
I think that the word that describes this tension is authenticity. On one hand, we are connected to our roots and origins, but on the other we stay up to date and relevant. This too was the secret of Maskit in 1954.
Describe Israeli style and how Maskit fits the contemporary fashion sense of Israeli women today?
I think the unique thing about Israel is its many sources of inspiration: its cultural mix, its historical monuments and its geography. All of those elements are reflected in the style that comes from Israel.
What did you learn from your experience at Alexander McQueen?
A lot! I had the privilege of working with Lee (McQueen) and to see his way of thinking. This included working an average of 18 hours a day with the need to reinvent the wheel every second day. Definitely, learning to work under pressure is crucial, as well as learning to work with different materials and to maintain the highest standards.
What does it feel like to be an entrepreneur now at the helm of a legendary fashion brand?
“Challenging.” Being an entrepreneur is very different than being a designer in a big group like the Gucci group. As an entrepreneur, you are under tons of pressure from the sales, operation, business development, marketing and design. It’s very hectic, but I guess this is also the fun part.
Describe how it felt to meet Ruth Dayan for the first time? How did you connect your work with the social entrepreneurial platform of the original brand?
Ruth is definitely a living legend and even more when you meet and work with her. She is sharp and smart and carries years of wisdom. I was so impressed when I first met her and, after five years of working together, I am proud to say that she is the best muse I could have asked for myself.
Socially, we are doing many projects which are in line with the original values of the company. The last one was a project in the Bedouin community in the south of Israel, establishing a factory of 40 Bedouin ladies that created a super impressive embroidered plate.
Describe one of your proudest moments as a fashion designer?
Wow! Standing on the runway after our first fashion show where we launched the brand and seeing Ruth Dayan sitting in the first row and 1,500 people standing and applauding and understanding that we made the impossible happen.
How are you making Ruth Dayan’s vision now your own?
We are sharing the same vision so it’s pretty easy. We both want to restore Maskit to its original position as a leading international fashion house.
What’s next for you and Maskit?
Launching in the U.S. market officially and becoming a leading brand sold all over the world.
Don’t miss this exciting opportunity!
Come hear Sharon’s story and see the iconic fashion live at the Thanks Event on Monday, April 11th! For more information, and to register, please visit www.jewishdetroit.org/thanks.