If there is one thing I've learned from Dania and Yoram Heller, whose trunk show we co-hosted this past weekend, it's that there is no one right way to run a clothing brand. In fact, the brother/sister team seem to reject most traditional ways of doing things in favor of what suits their unique circumstances and vision--and somehow, it works. Their first and biggest unique circumstance? Dania lives, designs and produces everything in Tel Aviv while Yoram lives, and does everything else, in Los Angeles. The two of them came together this weekend to show New York their latest collection and talk to us about how they're making it.
How did you decide to work together? Yoram: I had just come back from South America and she had just finished school in L.A. and we both ended up there at the same time and we’ve always had a similar eye and style and I think we just had very complimentary skill sets…I guess I like to talk to people..so it works out. Dania: That's exactly it.
What did you both do before starting the line? Yoram: I had just graduated from NYU, Dania went to Barnard and then moved to Israel and then went to Shenkar, which is actually the same school that Alber Elbaz went to, so it's like a really rigorous school.
Dania: I also worked in the high-tech world in online gambling in Israel. There was a website but then there was a recession there at a certain point. It was worse than it is here now, like bombings and everyone lost their jobs. I’ve never seen anything like it, like people who you would have never thought, like big CEOs. That’s around when I went into fashion and it's great, especially now I feel like it’s all come together.
What did you both study in college? Dania: Art history and then fashion.
Yoram: Entertainment, media and technology, international business and Spanish in Stern [School of Business]. Yeah me and Aziz Ansari--there's always one or two of us who don’t fit in.
How did you get the money to start the line? Yoram: It's been pretty interesting because it's been a very natural growth progression. We had a little bit of capital to start, but what we’ve actually been doing is building the brand pretty steadily and I don’t think we’ve gone about it in a classic way where you put a couple hundred thousand dollars into it in the beginning. We started in Israel and I have a theory that because it's so close to Europe, there's all this great dead stock fabric and you can get like 40 yards for pretty cheap and it's like this phenomenon in Israel.
So, what is it like having a clothing line in Israel? Dania: In a way, it's easier there. It's not as crazy as it is here. They only just started selling like Acne, Alexander Wang, designers like that this year. People understand fashion but they don’t really know the designers. It's a great place for young designers. I’m really excited now because we’ve gone online and the way it works in Israel is boutiques are very open. We don’t have to do everything a year and a half before. With online, we can have a different system where we can design something and people can buy it right away.
What's been the biggest challenge? Dania: It's hard to find materials in Israel that are in style in the colors we want. You’re sometimes dealing with people who don’t understand fashion at all. Though, the quality level is pretty good, actually.
Yoram: You only need a couple of really key people, great pattern makers. But once, Dania wanted to acid wash some jeans like four years ago and it was an ordeal to find a guy who would do it.
Dania: They would be like, “No one wants it now, it's not in style,” and I was like, "that’s not the point; it's gonna be."
How would you describe the girl who wears your clothes? Dania: A girl who gets it.
Yoram: It's an interesting question because I feel like I have the exact picture in my head of who that girls is--but it's so funny because, for example, we made this motorcycle dress that I thought was for, you know, girl in mid-twenties, great figure, and my best friend's mom came over and bought it for her sister and tried it on and it looked amazing. So, I think there's just a certain way to own it and I think really what it's about is having flattering cuts for women and making them feel comfortable about what they wear. I think anyone who tries our stuff and gets into the feel of it, that’s our customer.
What are you inspired by? Dania: I try to leave Tel Aviv before I design a collection and go somewhere. Though, this season I had very specific inspiration. I pictured a BBC production made in the '70s of something in the '20 or '30s in Britain. I just pictured someone who went to someone's castle, like The Great Gatsby but made in the '70s, so it has that kind of '70s feel. I pictured what she'd wear for day outside, her weekend wear, it's very easy. But, it changes all the time I think. I'm most inspired by street style blogs because what people actually wear isn’t what they’re told to wear. In Tel Aviv, it’s a different style than here; it's not as inspiring.
Besides selling online, are you in any stores? Yoram: We’re in like 20 stores in Israel. We were selling in London, Germany, Paris, L.A., but we kind of scaled it back a little bit. We found as such a small brand it was a lot to manage. It was making money just in one country, so we're really focusing on that and refining what we do and getting things solid and actually bringing it out here and now we’re really starting to roll into the United States.
Dania: We took a year or so to get production down and we got amazing pattern makers and amazing factories and everything you’re seeing now is at the highest level it can be and I think that’s what you don’t realize when you first get started--how hard all that is and now we’re ready and that’s what this whole party’s about.
Where do you see The Hellers five years from now? Yoram: Its such a time of change right now in the industry generally. I would ideally like to just have our consumer understand who we are and know where we are and to be able to knock down that wall and be able to sell directly to them. Dania: That's my dream.
Click through for photos from their trunk show at The Wooly!
**All photos by T.K. Stuart-Deely