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  • Writer's pictureIsrael Gulf Report

Innovative American-Israeli designer Israel Kasnett showcases his rare, modest and exclusive fashion

The innovative American-Israeli clothing designer Israel Kasnett behind luxury modest high-end apparel speaks to The Israel Gulf Report about his new clothing line and hopes for the future.

Can you tell us how you got into design?

This was a dream that began when I was 17 though I always had an interest in fashion. One of the first fashion designers to catch my attention was Gianni Versace and I actually visited his home in South Miami the day after he was shot by a serial killer in 1997. That event launched me even further into his wonderful world of Baroque though I now lean more toward Neoclassicism. In 1999, I applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I didn’t end up taking it further though and I moved to Israel and my life took a different course. So the interest in fashion began at a young age.

For years though, I wanted to introduce a new definition of what modest luxury clothing is. If you google the term “modest clothing” you will find religious Muslim or Christian apparel. But there is a wide gap between bikinis and strict religious apparel. There are bohemian-style dresses that are more religious or Christian. But people are also interested in apparel with a slightly lower hemline or slightly higher neckline, something that is elegant and classy.

Many sophisticated women, including those who are CEO’s, diplomats and ambassadors for instance, are looking for classy clothing that isn’t ankle-length on the one hand but isn’t too revealing on the other.

The most important and unique aspect of my signature shirt is that it is made of top-quality Giza 45 Egyptian cotton, the absolute best cotton in the world.

This is hard to find?

Yes. If you’re a woman looking for dresses with sleeves in the summer, you’ll be hard pressed at many department stores to find something that isn’t revealing. My designs all have sleeves and/or go to the knee. So that’s the modest aspect. Then there is the luxury aspect. There is a big demand for exclusivity, people who frequent theatres, operas or fund-raising dinners need a lot of outfits and they don’t want the same as others. People shop in the same places and people find they are wearing the same things. So exclusivity is important. People want a rare and exclusive product. I’m an emerging designer in the apparel industry. What I’m offering is luxury apparel that is not mass-market. I only sell a limited number of each item, which makes my customers more unique. People are looking for relatively exclusive clothing. I don’t create haute couture one-off pieces, but I am producing smaller amounts than most ready-to-wear companies. That gives my customers the ability to wear something that is harder to find.

The “Made in USA” label is also unique. A lot of luxury clothing is made in Asia. A big factor today is that consumers are looking for clothing made in the US because they want to bring industry back to the US. It disappeared from midtown Manhattan in the 80s but there are efforts now to bring manufacturing back. My manufacturing is done there. So my fabrics may come from Italy and other places, but the idea is that we manufacture in New York City.

Another important element is that clothing that is well-made and constructed with good fabrics are hard to find. Even luxury labels sell a lot of high priced clothing made in polyester or other fabrics. I’m using high quality fabrics such as silk or wool. I don’t use much man-made stuff. The idea is to use high end fabric and construction with a high stitch-per-inch count, which makes the clothing more durable. What I make is hard to find.

The signature cotton shirt is made with the best cotton in the world (Israel Kasnett/Amir Yahel Photography)

My signature cotton shirt is a unique shirt with a mandarin collar and zipper front. That is a rare design. You can find white shirts on other online luxury marketplaces but mine is unique. I use only high-end Lampo zippers on my clothing. Chanel and Gucci are two other companies that use this zipper on their products as well.

The most important and unique aspect of my signature shirt is that it is made of top-quality Giza 45 Egyptian cotton, the absolute best cotton in the world. The Giza 45 cotton fibres are extremely fine but also incredibly strong, which gives it an amazing softness and durability. So the idea was to offer our clients a beautiful shirt made from the best cotton in the world.

I want to offer my clientele the best of the best. I want to provide a high-level product that answers their needs. Our markets are high-value clientele in the UK, US, Japan, Europe and the Gulf.

So my goal is modesty, luxury and exclusivity and that combination is hard to find nowadays. The idea is that we aren’t talking modesty in the sense of being invisible in the room. Rather, my clothing is for the confident woman who is also the center of attention and my designs are meant to complement the person wearing them. But it is modest and not provocative. This is about regal elegance and my designs would be a great fit for someone like the Duchess of Cambridge, for instance.

A major focus for consumers today is sustainability and preventing the further destruction of our beautiful planet.

So let’s talk about the region a little, you’re an Israeli designer?

I am Israeli-American. I was born in Israel and grew up in New York.

Part of the goal with the Gulf and other countries, is to reach women in countries such as Saudi Arabia for instance, that are currently undergoing major reforms with respect to women’s rights. While many women in the Gulf wear hijab or niqab in public, indoors they still want modest clothing. In the coming years, we will see women wearing more western, modest clothing designs as they did in Iran before the 1979 revolution. There is a trend towards self-expression and we see that in the Gulf. There is growing interest in modest apparel that is not religious or frumpy, but rather classic and regal.

Another major focus for consumers today is sustainability and preventing the further destruction of our beautiful planet. The apparel industry is one of the top polluters in the world due to its high use of chemicals and manufacturing some things like polyester, which requires huge amounts of water. I stay away from fabrics that are damaging to the climate and by manufacturing in New York, my company ensures that workers are not being exploited.

Modest, exclusive, luxury fashion. (Israel Kasnett/Amir Yahel Photography)

So where are things going next year?

I’ve seen a lot of research such as from Deloitte and McKinsey and many analysts predict the growth not only of online consumerism but of the modest fashion category as well. Now, during this Covid-19 pandemic, it seems online shopping has become more accepted, so number one, we are talking about online shopping continuing to grow. Modest clothing in general is expected to expand, especially as more Muslim women are shopping online and the world is more connected.

Could you see doing sales in the Gulf?

Absolutely. I believe I offer a valuable and desirable product and I would love to collaborate with partners in the Gulf and expand my apparel line and reach clientele there without the need for a brick and mortar storefront.

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