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October 17, 2017
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Roomeur Pre-Fall 2013. Image courtes of Roomeur.

For new fashion labels, the gates of the luxury fashion industry rarely open to those who knock. But with a couple of honorable mentions in trend-oriented publications like T Magazine and Style.com, and a pre-fall collection that speaks for itself, Roomeur already seems to have its foot in the door. I can confidently say: Roomeur is the label to watch in 2013.

Omer Pozner and Hagit Kassif of Roomeur.
Photograph courtesy of Roomeur.

Let's face it: there are many talented (young) designers who can create beautiful clothes. But very few designers are able to think about their collections on an intellectual, thematic and/or contextual level. One might not consider this to be a necessary requirement for fashion designers - after all, they're not poets or philosophers. Yet, it's this approach that takes clothes beyond the visual and injects life into a collection, creating a personality and giving clientele something to, well, dream about. Interestingly, those that do this best are the fashion houses that run the industry. And for such a young label, Roomeur's approach to its work is very mature.

Roomeur was founded by designers Hagit Kassif and Omer Pozner. The duo met while studying at Fashion Design at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel. Initially, they didn't take to one another, but grew to become best friends and business partners. They shared a dream that they wanted to fulfill together: to move to New York and start their own label.

But after graduation, their paths diverged - Pozner went to work for Elie Tahari and eventually became a soft pieces designer and head of the embroidery department; while Kassif worked with Diane von Furstenberg and eventually pursued an MA at the Royal College of Art in London. After six months of studying, Kassif - underlining that this was an instinct she couldn't ignore - called Pozner and told him, "It's time to quit his job and make our own line." And the rest, as they say, is history.

What primarily drew me to Roomeur's collection is its contemporary blurring of several opposites: traditional and edgy, feminine and masculine, embellishment and simplicity, softness and hardness. When executed with thought, the end result is a dynamic and multi-dimensional body of work. With the recent rise of the androgynous model and the transcendence of gender in both menswear - as seen recently in several collections at London Collections A/W 2013, where Erin O'Connor closed for Hackett - and womenswear. 

I caught up with the duo while they were creating their next collection - using quality Italian fabrics, the collection is being produced in both New York City and Israel - for an intimate and in-depth conversation about Roomeur's creative process and their vision for the label.

Alina Kulesh (AK): It seems that Roomeur was formed after a certain epiphany: "Quit your job, this is it." What pushed you both to stop everything else and commit to starting Roomeur?

Roomeur: It was a combination of a few things. This was always our dream when we were students, and it was clear that it was just a question of time. Before starting Roomeur, we were both at a stage where we were happy with what we were doing but wanted to create more, and wanted to have the freedom to do it. 

We wanted to go all the way with our vision and aesthetic without having to compromise our design, which is something that happens when you work for someone else; we felt that we [had] a strong vision that [had] to come out. 

...fashion is sometimes going too fast, caring more about the latest trend instead of focusing on the creative process, concept and innovation. The personal "touch," or signature, is almost lost today in an attempt to satisfy commercial demands.

AK: What elements do you both bring to this fashion label that aids in its uniqueness and fresh approach to fashion? 

Roomeur: What aids us in designing for this label is, first, a perfect creative dynamic working with each other. We have similar aesthetics but we see things in different ways, and incorporate each other's points of view when we design. We both bring our worlds to the table and inspire each other.

For example, one of us can start working on a sketch or an idea for embellishment, and then the other one will get inspired by that and give it a new twist, which is something that only someone who is different from you but understands you perfectly can do. Also working opposite someone gives you the opportunity to be in constant dialogue and get an outside perspective on what you do, which we believe leads to more creative results than working by yourself. 

AK: Can you describe each of your own personal styles? Do any of these elements transcend into the recent Roomeur collection?

Omer Pozner: I am always fascinated by juxtapositions of the traditional or classic with the edgy and unexpected, for example taking a stiff or rigid material and making it look soft, or using a soft fabric, normally used for draping, and making it seem constructed. While working I always have in mind a very feminine silhouette but combining elements from the more masculine world of tailoring.

Hagit Kassif: I am very detailed oriented and fascinated by creating unique embellishments - largely inspired by geometric figures and ethnic culture. I draw inspiration from 1920s-50s tailored garments that I find both sophisticated and ageless. By taking all of the above and giving it a "street" twist, I create my personal aesthetic.

AK: What are your views on the current state of fashion and its role in our culture, and how does Roomeur fit into this? 

Roomeur: We think fashion, probably now more than ever before, has a prominent, central role as a cultural touchstone, reflecting trends and shifts in culture. Like everything else that happens in the world today, we feel fashion is sometimes going too fast, caring more about the latest trend instead of focusing on the creative process, concept and innovation. The personal "touch," or signature, is almost lost today in an attempt to satisfy commercial demands. Roomeur is trying to keep a strong identity, which we feel is unique, and incorporate it into our designs. We always try to combine influences from contemporary culture with historical influences.

AK: How would you describe Roomeur to someone who has never seen a collection?

Roomeur: It's hard to answer that question... fashion is visually based, and difficult to define in words. In our vision, we are committed to a strong, sophisticated, feminine silhouette, using historical, ethnic influences that are adapted and translated into slick, modern designs, using high-end fabrics and new fabric treatments. 

Rumour has it, for your next collection you will be sending Frida into "outer space": what can we expect to see here?

AK: Who is the Roomeur woman? 

Roomeur: The Roomeur woman can be every woman who loves fashion and has a strong sense of personal aesthetic, who is edgy and daring in her fashion choices, but at the same time understands the importance of timeless style. 

AK: Frida Kahlo seems to have been at the centre of your Pre-Fall 2013 collection.  What is it about Kahlo that inspired you and how did this inspiration find its way into your recent collection? 

Roomeur: Frida Kahlo was ahead of her time, in the sense that she expressed post-modern ideas long before that term even existed. If we look at her art, we can see that she believed that our personalities are not fixed, but rather invented. She appears as a man, as a woman, as a monkey, as a deer, and so on. Her eclecticism and her strong personality were manifested not only in her art, but in her personal life as well. She literally created herself as a work of art, in her fashion choices, and the strong colour palette she used in her clothes, her art and her home.

We were inspired by all of that, by her free spirit, her courage to do things that defied conventions, and the fact that she never compromised her art or her personality and held her own next to Diego Rivera, who was much more famous than her at the time. We incorporated into the collection many of the elements that are so identified with her, from the colour palette to contemporary adaption of the flowers and geometric ethnic embroidery on her clothes. Kahlo's spirit found its way into every piece in the collection.

AK: Rumour has it, for your next collection you will be sending Frida into "outer space": what can we expect to see here?

Roomeur: You will have to wait and see. [They smile.] For now, all we can say is that the Frida DNA will still be there, but this time in a more futuristic and darker take. 

Roomeur Pre-Fall 2013.
Image courtesy of Roomeur.

AK: I can tell that Roomeur is very much about risk-taking. That see-through dress with the two black panels is very brave. What is Roomeur's relationship to risk-taking?

Roomeur: Fashion is about experimenting, and there is no way to experiment or get to new and interesting places without taking risks. We think it's important to keep doing that in every new collection, especially when designing a luxe brand. Fashion is about pushing boundaries and pushing yourself to new and exciting places, and we believe that no one understands this better than the women who care about fashion and wear luxe brands.

AK: There is also something very ageless about Roomeur's last collection. Was this intentional? 

Roomeur: Very intentional. We believe in a combination of being edgy, independent and unexpected, as well as having a sense of timeless style. All of these things are the result of one's personality, regardless of who you are, what you do or what your age is. Fashion is just a way to express that personality, and this is something you can do at every age.

AK: What is the next step for Roomeur? And what are your hopes for the label?

Roomeur: We just started Roomeur, and like any young brand we hope to grow and expand, in order to reach the kinds of women we created this brand for. We're planning to stay true to our vision and not compromise our ideas and the places we come from, and hopefully it will resonate with other people. We hope that along the way we will have the opportunity to collaborate with interesting people from different areas and mediums, from both in and outside the fashion world.

Ultimately, our goal is to express and develop our aesthetic vision in every way we will be able to, from producing a big fashion show that will put forward the Roomeur aesthetic, through collaborations with other areas of art designs, and of course through our collections. There is still much to do!

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