Why Israel's Bridal Elite Refuse to Be Hemmed In

By Tracy Moran


Because daring brides-to-be want dresses too.

Fashion runway shows have been known to fall flat, thanks to trips, slips and the exposure of a whole lot more than just a hip. But Susan Glick knew she had it sewn up before the first strut at her recent show, and she basked in a positive vibe as the lights dimmed and the music began. “I just knew we were going to deliver,” the vice president of women’s apparel at Merchandise Mart says, as she aimed to help her New York City audience embrace a group of bold new bridal designers.

Glick is referring to her first-ever collaboration presenting 10 up-and-comers at the New York International Bridal Week, at Pier 94, in a show that reflected an explosive new bridal trend: the rise of Israeli stars. Refusing to be hemmed in, designers from the Jewish state like Inbal Dror, Lihi Hod, Galia Lahav and Berta Balilti have recently hit the global marketplace in stride, seeing sales climb considerably in the past few years. Chasing a piece of what in the U.S. alone is a $4 billion annual bridal store trade, according to IBISWorld, top Israeli designers are selling in upscale boutiques in Los Angeles, New York, London and Moscow.

Success, many say, is down to two big “I”s: the Internet and Israel’s innovative spirit. “We became global just by social media,” says Hod, who attributes her success to Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. The designer tells a story similar to the others’, of brides-to-be seeing designs online and asking about her at overseas wedding boutiques and then being contacted by the buyers, which helped Hod’s business grow organically, and virally. Some say this shift also has to do with the way women dress these days, whether it’s the sheer bodices of Mira Zwillinger, the sultry styles of Inbal Dror or the plunging backs of industry veteran Galia Lahav. “They like to look more feminine and sexy,” says Hanna Kamionski, director of business development for consumer products at the Israel Economic Mission.

A bride here would see herself as a supermodel.

Sharon Sever, Galia Lahav house designer

Indeed, such designs are resonating with brides-to-be. Californian Erika Tuzkov tried on more than a dozen dresses at multiple designer boutiques and loved how the gowns of Israeli designers were far more formfitting than she’d initially dreamed of wearing. Tuzkov, who ended up walking down the aisle in a Berta gown, says, “[Israeli] cuts and designs really accentuate and flatter the female figure.” Berta Bridal’s global operations director Nir Moscovich says Israel’s more provocative bridal style “corresponds with the local liberal and open-minded culture” of the country.

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A model poses during a Galia Lahav bridal collection presentation in New York.

Source Rommel Demano/Getty

Meanwhile, Galia Lahav’s house designer Sharon Sever says the modern approach of Israeli designers not only creates a figure-hugging fit but also offers more comfort and allows for more movement than traditional looks do, an innovation he pins to Israel’s climate, where brides want to feel and look good after a long ceremony, no matter how hot it gets. He also points to a cultural difference: While Western brides have long opted for demure looks, Israeli brides have always been glamorous and fashion forward. “A bride here would see herself as a supermodel,” says Sever, which feeds into even more provocative looks. 

The end result? Designers are seeing a surge in demand for their wares. Lahav, who’s been in the industry for more than three decades, enjoyed almost global overnight success when her son Idan launched her international unit a couple of years ago. Whereas 80 percent of Lahav sales came from Israel before, only 2 percent do now, with a whopping 98 percent stemming from international sales, Idan says. 

While the first wave of Israeli bridal designers is enjoying international success, Glick’s show in October featured the second wave — designers like Shlomit Azrad, Yoav Rish and Lian Rokman who hope to be the Bertas of tomorrow. Many Israeli designers, new and established alike, constantly receive emails from uncharted territory, which is giving many plans to break into new international markets — from Europe to Asia — in the coming years.

What might stitch them up? That “sexy” look, says designer Zahavit Tshuba, could come back to bite them all in the tight-fitting arse. “People like innovative design,” she says, warning that if the dresses from too many of her fellow Israeli designers look similar, they could be written off as trendy: “They won’t be too interesting if they all look alike.” 

But Tshuba has an ace up her sleeve. She’s planning to launch a new collection featuring mix-and-match bodices and skirts, giving brides the opportunity to create daringly distinctive looks.