by Vivian Henoch

In Michigan, where winters can linger for months, can you ever have too many coats?

In the quest for that one timeless piece in your wardrobe – that wrap in sheer luxury to travel with you for life –  you could take the journey to the Maskit Fashion House, a destination shopping experience in Jaffa, Tel Aviv. Or you can take an easier route and wait until Sharon Tal, of Maskit, comes to town with the next trunk show.

The Desert Coat: a Maskit classic

Thanks to Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy team for the introduction to the Maskit brand at a fundraising event at the Gem Theater two years ago, Detroit is now a perennial stop for Sharon. “I always tell people there’s something about the Detroit community – the connections, the hospitality and the generosity that people have here – that’s unbelievable,” says Sharon. “In promoting Maskit, I visit 15 to 20 cities a year. But with Detroit and the people in Michigan, I feel a unique bond. It’s beyond work, it’s like I have people here who are like my family.”

To date, Maskit fashion tours include a circuit of 14 Jewish Federations across the U.S. where a percentage of sales are donated. “This is one of the reasons that keep us coming back every year,” says Sharon. “In every community, we have found people who identify with the brand on a deeper level than fashion. They have become our ambassadors and, in return, we are happy to give back to Jewish organizations in their communities.”

Among the several ambassadors who have hosted Sharon in Detroit, there’s Florine Mark –President and CEO of The WW Group. As most know, Florine is an activist and board member to many of the city’s most influential organizations and an avid promoter for both the State of Michigan and the State of Israel. Sharon met Florine at the Maskit studio in Israel when Florine dropped in several months ago. “I may have met Florine in passing during previous visits to Detroit,” says Sharon, “But when she walked into my studio, it was instant love. Florine loved the look, the feel – and the story of Maskit and what we’re doing with the brand today. When I told her that we were planning to come to Michigan in March this year, she immediately offered to host our trunk show in her home.”

The trunk show, held on March 12, drew a steady stream of  Maskit devotees as well as those just curious enough to explore the iconic “desert coats,” the spectacular bridal collection, signature scarves, the hand-crafted detail of leather bags and other accessories.

About Maskit, a brand reborn

Maskit’s story is the story of Israel itself. Founded in 1954 by Ruth Dayan (former wife of the famed general Moshe Dayan), Maskit was born out of the desert sun and Mediterranean air – a brand created out of necessity to put Israel’s multitude of newcomers to work and to preserve the diverse ethnic crafts and culture of the communities living in Israel.

At its zenith in the 1960s, Maskit became a fashion phenomenon and one of the country’s first popular imports. Its products graced the pages of Vogue and officially were gifted by presidents and prime ministers to global leaders and diplomats visiting Israel. Just as fashions come and go, Maskit’s popularity waned. In 1994, more than a decade after Ruth Dayan retired, Maskit closed its doors.

And then in 2013, in an extraordinary rebirth of the brand in collaboration with Ruth Dayan (then in her mid-90s), Sharon Tal started the next chapter of the Maskit story, and reopened the company with her husband Nir. A graduate of the Shenkar School of Design, Sharon trained in Paris with Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, and then became the head of embroidery at Alexander McQueen in London.

At 36 today, Sharon is honoring the legacy of Maskit, putting her own distinct mark on the brand. The Maskit Fashion House in Jaffa-Tel Aviv is as much a museum as it is a fashion boutique, now growing in popularity as one of the highlights on the itinerary of  Federation’s Missions. For  Maskit shoppers online, the collection will soon be available at

Always in fashion: Sharon Tal in her signature Desert Coat

Beyond her guest appearances with Federation communities, Sharon is also making inroads in markets across the US, holding trunk shows in the homes of private customers, boutiques and department stores. Starting next season, shoppers will find Maskit in stores and boutiques in Williamsburg, VA, California and Oklahoma. . . and most notably, a block from the Max M. Fisher Federation Building at SHE in Bloomfield Hills.

“People are surprised when I tell them I’m going to Detroit,” says Sharon. “And I always tell them, ‘You can’t believe how amazing this city is.  The place is special and so are the people there.’  You can find anything you want in Detroit– art, interesting history, architecture. There are old areas, new areas, everything imaginable! For some reason, I always want to come back to Detroit to see and do more.”