Spellbound - A joint interview with Israeli designer Dorin Frankfurt and her daughter Kianne

Written by
Sol Gruffy
"All the women in my family were feminists with red lipstick and heels". Dorin Frankfurt has been designing clothes in Israel for over 35 years. Now her fashion-forward daughter is infusing fresh blood into a capsule collection for the established brand

Everything about veteran Israeli designer Dorin Frankfurt is a bit witchy, in the best sense of the word. From her black raven hair accompanied by her eternal signature red lipstick to her solid self-assurance, one feels the moment you meet her. Our interview takes place in the eponymous name brand's factory in south Tel Aviv, and when Frankfurt tours the crowded corridors, she seems to hover on air, above all the women diligently working at the sewing machines who work for her. The fashion brand is known for its products being designed and manufactured in Tel Aviv. "This was the agenda of the brand from its beginning," explains Frankfurt. Now working closely with the iconic designer is her 27-year-old daughter, Kianne, a fresh graduate from the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design, who also feels strongly about local, mindful design. "It's beyond that," says Kianne, "It's a responsibility. My grandmother also promoted industry where we live".

Dorin and Kianne Frankfurt

So everything started from the grandmother.

Kianne: "Actually, more from my great-grandmother."

It's like a dynasty of witches.

"You have no idea just how much," Kianne whispers. "My mom knows everything; it makes me a bit nervous. Sometimes she calls me on the phone and asks point-blank ‘ Kianne what happened?' "How do you know?" I demand, and she answers, 'I just know." Kianne imitates her mother's tone and then erupts into laughter.

Dorin: "My grandmother was a feminist, and I'm talking about the 1920s in Israel, she was one of the founders of WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organization), and my mother was one of the founders of ELEM (Organization for Youth in Distress). All the women in my family were feminists with red lipstick and heels."

Did your mother and grandmother experienced difficulties as feminists during these times?

Dorin: "I don't think they felt it. They were very determined. My grandfather's brother was the chief rabbi of Israel, and my grandfather was completely secular, but he respected his brother and visited the Great Synagogue on holy days. My mother grew up with this duality."

Kianne: "To be a woman who ‘mistakenly’ has her own opinion is outrageous, so I'm sure that so many years ago it was outrageous as well. They just did not care."

Dorin: "My parents and my grandmother believed that everything was possible, my parents knew that we could do anything, they were wrong but it did not matter, because in their eyes, what they broadcast, apart from love, where you come from, and values, was that we could do anything."

Dorin Frankfurt by Asaf Einy

The clothing brand was established in 1983, when Frankfurt joined forces with Margalit Segal, who is her partner to this day. The two established their first factory in Ramat Gan and later moved to its current location in South Tel Aviv. As a central part of the brand's agenda, Frankfurt refused to transfer the factory to the Far East as the trend of most fashion manufacturers in Israel, despite the economic cost she has had to pay. She walks along the various corners of the factory, and though tiny, it is evident that there is not a single piece of fabric that does not sit elegantly in its place. "It looks low-tech, but everything here is very computerized and calculated, which allows us to work on 40 different textures in one season," she says. "My big plus is that I can hire local women who are the best in their field." "Currently, the factory is not at full capacity," Frankfurt gestures toward some empty tables." It's August now, and everyone has children and grandchildren, most of the workers are women, so therefore, they always have to run for pickups, to return home early. My employees are from all ethnic groups, from all nationalities. We manufacture during wars, we produce in times of distress. The people here get respect and they earn fair wages."

Has the decision to hold the factory in Tel Aviv for so many years caused difficulties?

Dorin: "Of course. This country is not inclined to giving incentives for local production. This agenda is something I grew up on, and I pass it on to my daughters. A country, in my opinion, cannot exist without art, design, and manual labor. There are people here with whom I have been working for 30 years, and our entire management has grew up in the factory, there are people here whose children work for us, sisters who work together.

Kianne: "The brand's shoes are made on the other side of the road on Shalma Street. We support them, too – even those who make the shoe soles for us...It doesn’t just start and ends here in the factory".

Dorin: "We have three fashion design schools in Israel, where will these students work later, in China? You cannot educate an entire generation to excellence without trying to think how to nurture these talented people."

"She is the fashion world's Yoda," Kianne adds. "Strangers contact her – 'Hey Dorin, I finished design school, can I come and sit with you?' And she does sit with them and spend time and sometimes I look at her, after three hours, and say – 'you know that someone has to get to work, right?'"

How do you think it is possible to strengthen ecological awareness among women in Israel, especially when there is tremendous pressure to maintain a relevant fashion image, and to consume as much as possible?

"Education. And I am not an educator. I can only teach my immediate family and of course the people who work here in the factory. There is not a piece of paper that is not shredded and re-used. The textile industry is very polluting. High-quality clothes are supposed to last in your wardrobe and make you happy for at least seven years. They are meant for the long-haul."

Kianne: "The fact that you have more items does not make you better. As a woman – most of the people working in the fashion industry around the world are women and mostly working in shocking conditions – as women, we need to join forces."

Kianne Frankfurt by Asaf Einy

This is not the first time Frankfurt has preferred to live according to her own rules beyond economic or social gain. When the brand encountered difficulties at the beginning, the partners decided to open a store in Covent Garden in London, designed by Israeli industrial designer Ron Arad. “Margalit and I opened our factory in Israel with a clear agenda of local production, but, at first, we didn't have any customers. I had to think about how to recruit customers, so we decided to open a store in London, and for 11 years we lived a month in London and a month in Israel and that saved us. But when the twins were born (Kianne and her sister Camea), I decided, with all due respect, it's all very interesting and cool, but I can't live like that anymore."

Kianne: "She took her amazing career, showing in fashion weeks, and just stopped. I can't say I would be able to do the same."

Dorin: "You could. So I was featured in Vogue and Marie Claire - wow. Then you have the day-to-day, and you get up in the morning and that's what you want? I'm not sure. What's important to me is the work, and when I was in England it was mostly marketing." But Kianne seems unconvinced.

Did you ever miss your mother in those years?

Kianne: "My mother is one of the most present women I've ever known. I never ate convenience foods. I didn't know what Coca Cola was. She would make us all that organic shit."

Dorin: "They were completely embarrassed in school."

So you never went to school with just a regular sandwich?

Kianne: "You have no idea. I didn't have a normal childhood experience, my name is Kianne, my hair is orange, I have a mother who can't be missed. In seventh or eighth grade I remember suddenly wanting to feel normal. Now I really appreciate it."

Dorin: "I grew up in the 50s with a name like Dorin. It's always hard to be a kid, it's hard to be young, and I've been told so many times – 'you'll miss high school.' So newsflash: high school was the worst. And being 27 is a nightmare."

Kianne: "I'm already waiting for when I'm 42."

Dorin Frankfurt FW 18/19 Collection

Kianne, who in her private life also did not move far from her mother, lives in the apartment opposite hers, near the Levinsky Market, not far from the factory they go to daily. It seems that in addition to working together with her mother, she also serves as a kind of muse that has breathed a new, youthful spirit into the deeply-rooted brand.

Has there been a significant change since Kianne began to integrate into the brand?

Kianne: "The only thing I think that has changed is that, if everything used to all fall on my mom's shoulders, that would not happen today. And still, everything must be run by her. I love her, but she is super controlling," she says smiling.

Dorin: "I've been working a lot less hard since Kianne has joined the company and much can now be delegated to her; the whole accessories division is hers – shoes, bags, and all the communications with the jewelry department."

Do you ever have arguments?

Kianne: "Never the kind of arguments that we return home and stop talking to one another. There can be friction, it is inevitable, but it's okay."

Dorin: "I have the natural ability to take in the whole gamut of people’s opinions, to give everyone their say. But the final responsibility and the ultimate decision is mine and mine alone. It's a democracy, but a rather dictatorial one."

Do you ever consult with each other about romantic topics? Or about personal matters outside of work?

Kianne: "I don't think she has ever consulted me, look, she has had about 200 husbands. And if I consult her? Yes...But I'm a pretty private person. So it depends."

Dorin: "I'm not one of those mothers who has to know everything, I'm not a very prying person, and even if I'm curious, I won't ask. I think we each have a need for privacy."

Kianne: "She'll just know."

Dorin Frankfurt

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