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Kogan, wearing Lia
Fashion is not the usual subject that comes to mind when people think of Israel. But if Tali Kogan has her way, it will be—at least in Chicago. The 33-year-old Israeli by way of Ukraine runs Tel Aviv Couture, a River North show room devoted to Israeli designer clothing and accessories.
Kogan, who moved to Chicago six years ago to study business and accounting, started the company in 2007 after casting about for something that would allow her to combine her knowledge of American and Israeli culture—not to mention warrant lots of visits back home. She noticed that her evening dresses by a fashion designer pal back in Tel Aviv were a big hit with her Chicago friends, and an idea began to materialize. Soon she was taking clothing orders back to Israel, and voilà—her new career took off.
Now Kogan represents 25 designers, including her fateful friend, who designs bridal and evening gowns under the name Lia, and Inbal Gvili, whose background in costume design and stints working for Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood are evident in her sweeping designs. Kogan doesn’t have any hard and fast rules about what to carry, but her artfully assembled combination of designers reflects a bold, unconventional aesthetic.
The budding entrepreneur never worries about a lack of talent—there are a surprising number of fashion designers in the tiny country, perhaps because of its dramatic landscape. “The country is just so inspiring,” Kogan says. “Jerusalem is so textured; there’s the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, and Tel Aviv, a mixture of modern and ancient.” Many pieces she carries are reversible or convertible, such as a striped sleeveless top by D and A that can be altered by wearing it backward or tying it differently. The reason? “Places in Israel are very small—there’s not much closet space,” she says, so one item has to do double or triple duty. The lesson for those seeking inventiveness? Less is more.
Tel Aviv Couture, 30 East Huron Street; 847-208-9850, tatyanafashion.com by appointment only
Photograph: Kendall Karmenian