(1 Dec 2016) LEAD IN:
Modesty is a key virtue in many religions, and Judaism is no exception. When it comes to women's clothing, certain rules need to be followed.
Now 19 year old Israeli designer, Bracha Ben Haim is taking the Orthodox fashion world by storm - creating statement stand out pieces that stay within the rules.
The notion of tzniyut, or humility, requires Orthodox Jewish women to cover their elbows, collarbones and knees, and the clothing must not be too tight.
In her latest autumn collection 19 year old Bracha Ben Haim achieves that while ensuring elegance and style.
She believes that modest should not mean boring and is one of many young Orthodox Jewish fashionistas that are now proving just that.
"It's conservative, very elegant, respectful, but with a youthful twist. I add something youthful to it. All the cuts are very elegant, but always with some colour, something fresh," she says.
"None of the things I design cross the line that's prescribed by religion. There are rules, and none of my clothes break any of those rules. Everything is modest, long sleeves, the length is appropriate. I think not just religious women - every women that wants to look respectful and elegant will like my designs. Because the rules basically say that you should look respectful."
Borrowing the latest trends from prêt-à-porter runways and adapting them to the religion's demands, at only 19, Bracha is taking the Haredi fashion world by storm.
Conservative dresses made out of high-quality fabrics, elegant skirts, light, loose cuts, and embellishments like puffy sleeves or neckpieces characterise her designs.
"Everyone in my surroundings accepts what I do. It's simply a basic need – everyone, also Orthodox women, want to look beautiful, respectful and fashionable. That used to be my problem in the past – I would go to the shopping mall, and try to find something that fits me and follows all the rules, and I wouldn't find anything. I always had to add more layers or something. So it really answers to a demand," she says.
"I am taking a material thing, cloth and clothing, something that religion doesn't really deal with, and sanctifying it. Because I am sticking to the rules, and it's because of my clothes that women are given the possibility to dress according to the rules of modesty."
Ben Haim started sewing at the age of 15, while still at school, and by the time she had finished her ultra-Orthodox school in Jerusalem, her hobby transformed into a successful business. Currently, she focuses on creating sketches, while three experienced seamstresses in Jerusalem collaborate on the sewing of complex designs and prototypes.
"In the future I'd like to have a boutique in Milan, New York and Paris – every city that's a fashion hub, to have a nice store there. With lots of satisfied customers, that would be the best thing I can imagine," she says.
"Her clothes are really high quality. You won't find these kinds of dresses in any other store. Incredible fabrics, rich, not too simple. And her designs are amazing – and modest, which is just as important for us Orthodox women," says Osnat Deutsch, an Orthodox Jewish client.
But it's not just religious customers that seek out her designs. Many secular customers shop at her Jerusalem boutique. Stores in London and Miami respectively also sell her clothes.
"It fits my lifestyle, because I don't generally like to bare too much skin. Not because of anything religious, but because I want to look respectful, businesslike in my work. So the clothes suit my needs," says client, Shany Haddad.
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