In September, Ilan Beja had big shoes to fill as he entered the role of Head of the Fashion Department of Shenkar after he replaced Lea Peretz, who served in this role for the past 22 years and truly made a name for the school worldwide.
Beja himself graduated from Shenkar in 1995 and worked for ten years as the Merchant Manager of Golf&Co and ten extra years in H&O as the VP of Merchandising and Creative Director.
During this time he kept being involve in Shenkar and even taught few courses.
We had the great privilege to interview him and to learn more about his goals in the new role.
We talked about Israeli fashion, formal education and his goals for the near future.
Here are his key takes on it:
Fashionating: First of all congratulations on this amazing achievement. We’re thrilled by the opportunity to have this interview with you.
Ilan: I’m very flattered you reached out to me and I’m excited to be introduced to your readers.
Fashionating: How did your love for fashion start? When did you realize you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Ilan: It was a process that started in my teenage years. The home that I grew up in always had an aesthetic and good level of taste, thinking about colors, shapes, and materials. Although both of my parents had nothing to do with design in their professions, there was something in the way they educated me that stuck with me. The materials they chose to furnish our home, the textiles, the feeling of old meets new, the mixing of Greek culture from which I came and the rooted Israelis we had become, the items from all over the world they collected, all those exposed me to observe, to be curious, to explore. This is how I came to love fashion, color, shape, and material.
Fashionating: You're stepping into the shoes of Leah Peretz who has successfully run the fashion department for 22 years. You are bringing with you a lot of experience and your own perceptions of the fashion world, what are you going to bring to the role? What are your plans for the fashion department?
Ilan: No doubt Leah is the one who brought Shenkar and the Fashion Design Department to the top ten fashion schools in the world. She is a muse to us all. I will continue to expose students to intellectual, cultural, and historical connections with the world's best fashion schools. I will strengthen my relationship with the industry through more collaborations and bring tech companies to see what we are doing. Today, the connection between engineers and designers is imperative. One needs the other. I'm more than happy to reach out to tech companies and spread our horizons and bring news of fashion and technology.
Fashionating: In your opinion- Are fashion schools still relevant? Is it possible to learn independently, then to start an Instagram brand and to succeed?
Ilan: Not only are they more relevant than ever but there is no other place like Shenkar that gives you tremendous exposure to culture, history, technical and technological tools, and opportunities to collaborate commercially, with the community, with the Israeli society, etc.
Last year we did a collaboration with Nudi jeans and a collaboration with the pro-Olympic athletes, sustainability courses and more. The students deal with burning topics in culture and society. It's impossible to do that alone. Even those who develop an Instagram brand and maybe succeed still end up taking pattern making classes, sewing, and designing in the Shenkar external evening classes. During our bachelor degree, we give dozens of other tools to succeed and prepare them to work in the industry, whether it's in an international fashion house, or opening an independent studio. Also, we believe in integrating into the fashion high-tech industry and just keeping an open-minded approach. We don’t want them thinking about closing their options and sticking to one role for their entire career.
Fashionating: Where do you see the global fashion industry going in terms of designers and retail, are we behind in Israel or at the same place as the rest of the world?
Ilan: As an integral part of the industry for the last 30 years and following with the new position, I have started to research meetings with very young and talented designers in the country. From what I’ve learned the difficulty is mainly due to the surrounding- trading conditions. They are extremely high so are rental and management prices, impossible taxes, zero support for manufacturers and young designers, expensive workforce, etc. Of course, most of them already have online exposure on social networks, but there's a long way to financial success.
Fashionating: What is your position on environmental fashion? Is it the place for fashion schools to change behavioral patterns in this matter?
Ilan: For sure. We must be involved in what is happening in the world. We currently have one major course and several additional courses that touch this matter directly. Also, in the student's final projects they choose to address the social issues that are most relevant today such as refugees, identity issues, gender, religion, and home.
Fashionating: Unfortunately, in the past few monthswe see more and more Israeli designers closing their brands (Yaron Minkowski, Michal Negrin, Medusa, Honigman, Lara Rosnovsky moved to Alembika) - In your opinion what are the reasons? What can Shenkar do or is doing to prevent this from happening in the future?
Ilan: I think all these talented people you mentioned have been thrown into a fast-changing era. And today it's not just talent that matters. Proper management, choosing the right people to have around you without any sentiments, technological relevance, flexibility, and creativity are the traits expected of both fashion designers and fashion business executives today. Don't forget that most of the golden years of Israeli fashion, in the 1990s and early 2000s, these designers were among the leaders in the field, earned well, and lead the way to their peers.
The fashion department gives and will continue to give additional tools for students to come out with design confidence, additional technology tools, and personal design style. They will be able to work with creative intelligence in whatever they decide. My last job was the H&O Group VP of Commerce. No high school curriculum teaches you to be both a creative director and a trade manager. Anyone with traits such as diligence, curiosity, flexibility, accurate detail vision along with broad vision, and excellent human relations can advance to any role he/she decides.
Fashionating: What is your definition of Israeli Fashion? and what is so unique about Israeli Fashion?
Ilan: I think Israeli fashion is a cluster of cultures that integrate together in an individual way. It can be the place you wore born in, the cultures you have experienced... and by the way, I find this search for the definition of Israeli fashion, fascinating as itself.
I hear many of the Israeli designers who are searching for their uniqueness. It can be for many reasons: the variety of fabrics in the Israeli market is relatively small, the opportunities in the beginning of a designer career... so designers truly look for the things that will differentiate them. This ongoing search and the reality in Israeli is what makes Israeli fashion so appealing even for the global market.
Fashionating: What do you wish for the new generation of Israeli designers?
Ilan: I wish them to keep being curious, and to keep involve creatively and culturally. Look at the changes you are facing today and know that each part in your life is just one chapter and not the entire story.