What Comes Around Goes Around
When Yael Shenberger, the head designer for ATA, speaks about clothes, it’s very similar to the way culinary purists discuss food. She speaks about sustainability, locality, our carbon footprint, and social representation. “ When we see clothing as only a commodity, we forget it’s relationship to the people who produced it, to the place that it came from and its relationship to us.” It is with this spirit that businessman and restauranteur Shahar Segal decided to join forces with Shenberger and relaunch ATA, the iconic Israeli clothing brand.
Founded by the Moller family in 1934, ATA was the first Israeli company to design and manufacture textiles and clothing locally. Originally, industrialists from Czechoslovakia, Erich Moller and his cousin Hans founded ATA in Kfar Ata near Haifa, expressing a time in Israel’s history that reflected economic pragmatism, liberal Zionism, and social evolution. In its founding days, ATA functioned as a textile company and by the 1940s, ATA began to produce simple, functional, and well-made clothing that represented the Israeli worker. Unable to keep up with competitors in the clothing industry, after 50 successful years, ATA closed its doors in 1984.
Years later, inspired by an exhibit he saw at the Eretz Museum, Segal felt that there was a space in the market for clothing that was locally made and represented the everyday Israeli. With the help of one of Israel’s most well known costume designers, Yael Shenberger, he set out to make his vision into reality. “When we started with the template of ATA we had to deconstruct the whole image, which included its values, and reconstruct it to represent modern society.” With that in mind, Shenberger and Segal agreed to do replicas of a few of the most iconic pieces that came from the original line. To do so, Shenberger got her hands on the patterns of the clothing that ATA produced to be placed in Aliyah care packages for new immigrants in the 1940s and 50s. Among the white Shabbat shirt and the worker's shirt, the package included the well known Ben-Gurion pants, so-dubbed because of Ben-Gurion’s outspoken fondness of them. Shenberger sought to create these replicas with adjustments to modernize them, then preceded with a line of original pieces that reflected the garments’ history and the modern Israeli worker.
When I ask Shenberger how the ATA of today can be a true reflection of what Israel and therefore Israelis are today, she responds astutely. “When I make clothing, I don’t look at the clothes, I look at the person. Whether it’s the Israeli 60 years ago that worked in a kibbutz, or the Israeli today that works in a company, Israelis are always hard workers; they are always on the move and they live dynamic lives – the clothes they wear must be presentable, comfortable, and malleable.” This ethos, along with the general philosophy of function over fashion, echoes the vision for ATA distributed throughout their marketing campaign: “ The originality of the clothes is the person that shows them and the way he decided to wear them – almost without knowing.”
As they veer away from the throes of trends and allow the consumer to insert their sense of style into the clothing, ATA is creating a canvas in which the modern Israeli can define what clothing and sense of style mean to them, individually and collectively. Perhaps this isn’t fashion in its traditional sense, but in today’s society that is so empowered by information, knowledge, and experiences, ATA provides a space for the person to insert their individualism and originality into the garment providing a place where history and modernity collide. After all, ATA is clothing for the people, made by the people.
ATA, 93 Allenby St, Tel Aviv (03-9060223/facebook/ata)