Shenkar College’s Ilan Beja on harnessing technology and customizing career paths
In today’s world, many country pride themselves on their prestigious design colleges, though few fashion schools anywhere have allied themselves as successfully with high tech, sustainability and digital printing as Shenkar College in Israel.
Founded in 1970, Shenkar is the nation’s leading college of engineering, design and art; whose fashion school’s most famous alumnus is the great Alber Elbaz.
This week, students from several years at Shenkar staged a joint show during Tel Aviv Fashion Week, unveiling a half dozen notably gifted young talents. Shenkar is consistently ranked among the top 20 fashion colleges in the world, and one can see why from this joint show.
Mingling elements of sustainability, street-style and recycling the show was one of some 28 online video fashion displays in the four-day Tel Aviv season that ends Thursday, April 1.
Dolev Elron caught the eye immediately with his dramatic voluminous denim, a clever take on curvilinear jeans couture. Do pay attention, Renzo Rosso. While Gal Yosef took outlandish proportions to a new level, with artfully constructed gothic style.
Maayan Galili produced some tremendous patchwork rock legend coats; Lera Dror invented eye-catching leather fantasies – with oodles of dystopian dash; and Nika Yakubov unveiled some marvelous waxed and painted denim idea that cried out for a Grammy Award red carpet.
Shenkar’s fashion section is directed by Ilan Beja, a graduate of the college, who in a busy career has been a ready-to-wear designer; senior merchandiser and creative director before taking charge of the department.
So, we spoke to Ilan about directing students during the pandemic; harnessing Israel’s high-tech strengths and how the country’s recent normalization with gulf nations might alter the future of Israel and fashion.
FashionNetwork.com: What sets Shenkar apart from other fashion schools?
Ilan Beja: The curriculum in the department encourages personal, original and creative expression in all areas of the fashion world. A designer, as in any other field in the design world and perhaps even more, must be contemporary, sensitive to all the changes and developments around him and at the same time familiar with the local and international cultural heritage. It is also a winning combination of dedicated team of lecturers and experts, the diverse collaborations we have, fashion design projects that prepare them for the real world, high technical skills, students who strive for excellence from the small place in Israel on the way between Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan (the high-tech satellite city, known as Little Baghdad), artistic freedom and ... hard work.
FNW: Your fashion department is within a design college; how does that help develop your students?
IB: We have courses for which we collaborate with the Textile Design Department like print and weaving; lecturers from the Industrial Design Department and the Visual Communication Department are participating in some of our courses. Next year, we plan to collaborate with the School of Multidisciplinary Art. One of the highlights of the collaborations within Shenkar was a final year project in 2020 by students of fashion design and electrical engineering who created clothing systems that respond to music in space.
FNW: Israel is known for its advanced technology. What synergies are there with fashion; and with Shenkar?
IB: Thanks for asking. We just had a fashion installation that combines fashion and technology at the Eretz Israel Museum called 'Tech Couture.' Students, alumni and lecturers introduced garments and products that deal with the connection between fashion and technology whether it is in 3D software, virtual fashion design, smart garments, technological sustainability, digital prints, applications for retail world and more. We are promoting these topics in the coming year and are constantly adapting the curriculum to the contemporary arena of local and global fashion.
FNW: Do you believe that the recent normalization between Israel and Gulf countries will affect the fashion industry in Israel?
IB: I think there will definitely be explorations from both sides, like other industries in Israel. There are already plans for a few fashion weeks. We need to adjust some differences but as in any relationship if both sides are interested then we find the compromise.
FNW: Diesel has now created an award for Shenkar students. How did that come about? How does it operate?
IB: It started a few years ago. We were privileged to visit the Diesel offices with the generous hospitality of Renzo Rosso due the time our graduate Niran Aviser worked there. This was renewed after Noa Baruch won the prestigious Diesel award in the ITS competition, and we thought it appropriate to collaborate with them again with our jeans project. We turned to Diesel Israel's head buyer, Seymour Luzon, who connected us to Keren Gabay, marketing director, and Diesel Israel CEO Matti Polak, who embraced us and donated their time and energy. Together we had a great meeting with Rina Tollio, creative talent acquisition for the OTB group. She discovered the outstanding talents in the course and at the end handed out four valuable prizes on behalf of Diesel.
FNW: How many fashion students do you have? How many graduates annually?
IB: We have 220-240 in all four years; about 50 graduates annually.
FNW: How did you become the director of the fashion department?
IB: I worked in the local and international fashion industry for almost 30 years after graduating with honors in fashion design from Shenkar. I started as a fashion designer for tailored and casual men's wear and my last job was VP of merchandising and creative director in one of the biggest fashion groups in Israel. However, throughout the years, thanks to Leah Peretz, former head of the fashion design department, I taught one day a week.
After all these years I had great experience in design, management and education. A year and a half ago I was appointed head of the fashion design department. Then Covid-19, the lockdowns, changed the entire world. In a few days we had to manage the crisis, change the entire curriculums together and replace frontal learning with online learning. I am glad to say that the students finished the year with all the academic commitments we promised them.
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