10 Questions: Tel Aviv-based Menswear Designer, Eliran Nargassi
Eliran Nargassi (NARGASSI) aesthetic is clean, classic, and effortless. The designer takes time to chat with us about his latest collection, advice for up-and-coming designers, and what he loves about his country.
How long have you been a designer? Five years now.
Did you have formal training? Yes, I’ve graduated from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Tel Aviv, Israel.
What inspires your designs? I am mostly inspired by my local environment, for example – Israel, Judaism, my Jewish-Moroccan roots and so on. Some of my inspiration also comes from my inner world; I like to deal with subjects like contrasts, for example, the tension between religion and secularism.
Tell us about your Nargassi FW 2018-19 collection. According to the Jewish biblical law, it is prohibited for a Jewish person to wear “Shatnez,” meaning a fabric or a garment combining both wool and linen materials. The law forbids the interbreeding of different species of animals, and the planting together of different kinds of seeds, collectively known as Kil’ayim – (Hebrew for Hybrid).
In the ultra-Orthodox garb, a belt named Gartel is tied to the waist in a way that divides the body into two parts: The lower part referred to as the material part, where the organs responsible for procreation are located. The upper part, considered as the spiritual part, where the head, mind, and brain are located, the organs vital for Torah study and Mitzvah (precepts and commandments commanded by God).
Hasidic custom requires that there be a physical separation between the heart and the genitalia during any mention of God’s name. It is commonly explained that separating the upper and lower parts of the body manifests a control of the animal instincts of the person by the distinctly human intellect.
With the Fall/Winter 2019, I continue to explore different Jewish aspects, focusing now on elements & details in garments worn by Orthodox Jewish groups. In the collection, I created belts that were inspired by the Gartel and combined them with woolen threads in Tzitzit- like ties and the Jewish prayer shawl. This collection follows the line identified with the brand’s handwriting, contrasting and raising questions.
On the one hand – conservative, religious, Jewish, rooted, & Israeli. On the other hand, by combining Wool & Linen together – I go against the Jewish law and one of the traditions that even nowadays are still closely observed. It is cynical to think how something that is so rationally minor and not visible makes wearing this garment forbidden.
Focus on your brandingand your brand DNA, build it slowly and safely. Stay away from trends; make a personal statement.
Dream client? Jake Gyllenhaal
Do you find it challenging to break into the American market? When it comes to retail – YES. Although most of my online sales are to the US, I still don’t have a sale point in the US. I first wanted to break into the EU market, but I hope to focus on the US market soon.
Do you plan to do womenswear in the future? I will do womenswear for sure; I believe it’ll happen soon, most likely it’ll be a small collection to check the market. Although I define my brand as a menswear brand, many women like to wear my designs.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming designers? Baby steps. Focus on your branding and your brand DNA, build it slowly and safely. Stay away from trends; make a personal statement.
Tell us about your country and what you love about its culture. Israel is a melting pot. A nation that was established by immigrants from all over the world, each bringing its traditions and customs. It’s also holy to many religions – Judaism, Islam, Christianity and more.
The country itself is tiny but includes many different landscapes – A beautiful beach/sea strip from north to south, mountains and green landscapes in the north, desert in the south and in the center are two main cities that are so different from one another – Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.I love the cultural mix;the fact that each ethnic group brought their own culture and mixed with many other different cultures eventually created a new culture.
What’s next for your brand? I’m working on the Nargassi Fall/Winter collection that will be shown at Harbin Fashion Week in January 2019.