Old City of Jaffa was our last stop in Tel Aviv before catching a cab to Bengurion Airport. The oldest sea port in Israel, it has been a center of the trade and merchant activity for thousands of years. The bright blue sea with colorful old boats and white sand beaches reminds of Cesaria, while narrow, paved streets have Jerusalem lime stone feel. Jaffa is an island of ancient history in the modern, filled with skyscrapers, supermarkets and high-speed freeways city. The atmosphere here inspires to create, design, paint… No wonder that a lot of design studios, art galleries, and small boutiques have found a home in the small cobbled streets of the Old City.
After alfresco breakfast of coffee, fresh squeezed juices, freshly baked croissants and fruits in one of the many outdoor cafes, we’ve embarked on our artistic tour. You could write a book about every little store or gallery we’ve visited, however, for me the highlight of the trip was visiting the tiny studio of fashion designer Liat Azar. Finding it was a miracle in itself since these narrow streets with paved stairs running up and down were like a maze. You have no clue where you going, what you will find or how to get back; you just have an urge to continue to explore. There was a sign on the stairs going down and we followed it.
The interior of the studio consisted of a sewing machine, an assortment of various seamstress supplies, and shelves with different colored threads and embroidery. There were a mannequin and a few racks with clothes. I haven’t seen garments like this anywhere else. Feminine, gentle, with open-edge seams and impeccable, unexpected details, they were sewed of the softest fabric. Made in warm earthy colors, it seemed that these dresses have no weight; that they would float with the wind. I liked all of them, but wanted to pick only one. That was not an easy task. My husband and kids were constantly bringing me new pieces to try, one better than the other.
The friendly young woman with short dark hair offered help. She was the person behind all of these creations, designer herself – Liat. She spoke pretty good English with pleasant accent, and had a measuring tape over her neck. I’ve eventually decided on one dress; grey, long, made of the soft fabric that wrapped my body, like I was born in it. It had an open versatile neck line and short sleeves. Once I came out of the fitting room, Liat gave me a quick tutorial about different ways to wear the dress. The belt and neckline could be manipulated to make it either a casual or an evening dress; different accessories could add to the look I choose; I could wear it with flats, heels, or knee high boots. She also attached a small white stone with a hole to the belt to make it fall down nicely - a small element that made a dress even more unique. I told her: “I would buy her whole store if I could.” We talked a bit and joked around; my husband took a picture of two of us before we left.
I got a surprise gift for my birthday from my husband this year. It was a dress – black with white open-edge seams and a black belt. It could be worn as a dress or a tunic over leggings or skinny jeans. I recognized the familiar logo on the label. He called Liat few weeks before. She asked for my size, which he was not sure about, and did not plan on measuring me either, since it would ruin the surprise. That was when the picture from Jaffa came in handy. Being a control freak and creative professional himself, he wanted to discuss the sketch before the dress was made. Well, I loved it and it fitted me perfectly. Did I mention I got a silk scarf as a bonus too?