שַׁעַטְנֵז: The Small Jerusalem Fashion Store That’s Redesigning, Recycling and Reviving

Shatnez, resembles the size of a 250 sq ft midtown NYC apartment; small, yet homey. Walking in, you feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a treasure. Tucked away shyly within the inner mazing of Binyan Clal, you just might find you’re next favorite piece to wear. Using second hand clothing, Tamar’s wonderful gift for re-purposing any material using her imagination, turns her secret corner into a gold mine of creativity.

Tamar recalls, “I said ‘Okay, Binyan Clal has a bad rap to it and there are a lot of negative stigmas towards it’”, and she’s right. Binyan Clal, once expected to be a central shopping area, easily bustling and accessible right in the center of the city, turned in to a project likened to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station — a complete failure. The desolate, eerie corridors display empty storefronts and leave you with a disorienting sense of direction. Among other things, the center’s lack of allure, appeal and aesthetics has led to the promising shopping center’s demise. As a result, the disappointing space has filled with small businesses from law offices to sex shops, leaving an icky feeling in your inner being when you first step foot in to the space.

Shatnez, which opened within the year, is located on the first floor of Clal Center.

Tamar though, has a different perspective on its prospects — and she’s not the only one. “There’s something happening here. I knew the food cooperative, B’Shutaf, who’s here on the 2nd floor, and I also know the guys from the Muslala project, HaMirpeset that they’re building on the 4th floor. I saw there is potential here to create a community. So I went on it.”

“Since then, I kind of fell in love with this place… There’s a sort of magic to it. Something great is happening here, because it really is a central location and it’s such a waste that it’s just sitting here and not being utilized. So it’s great being a part of the renewal of the space.” Tamar’s enthusiasm for Binyan Clal is shared by many other young residents of the city. The yearning for a re-birth, an awakening — a renewal — as Tamar put it.

When did you start designing?

I always used to make sketches and doodles, like I think everyone does. Then I learned to sew at the age of 20 and at my parents’ house there was a sewing machine, so I began making my own clothing for myself. I had started studying architecture at the time at the Technion, and I realized I didn’t enjoy it. So I took a year off to think about what I really want to be doing, and that’s how I got to fashion. I decided that instead of designing buildings, I wanted to design clothing. Second hand clothing, I started selling about 5 years ago when I was in my first year at Bezalel in 2009. I really enjoyed it, and only later integrated it into my design process.

What are you working on now?

Now I’m making a skirt from old shirts. Men don’t buy new clothing, and often like to wear a piece until it’s really worn out. For example, this is a shirt of my father’s and he has a lot of shirts he doesn’t wear anymore. That’s why I don’t do menswear because they wear their clothes so many times, until they’re worn out.

Tamar works on a new piece, taking used, worn-out pieces to make something new.

So I first iron it, and then I make the cuts. I cut it into whatever comes to mind. I try to do different cuts. Like this one is with the rubber here, and this one has the pockets here. Sometimes what’s nice about designing clothing from clothing, is that you’re restricted to the amount of fabric you have to work with. Sometimes it’s frustrating when you want to do something else that requires more fabric, but it’s also great, because it requires you to think out of the box. In design, when you have the option to do everything, and a million options, it’s hard to decide what you want to do. It makes, you think creatively, and because you have limited options you get to play with it. The dream for the future is to have this store filled with mainly things I designed. But I know this will take time, because I also do the alterations now, but slowly slowly.

Where do you live in Jerusalem?

Nachlaot.

I really love Jerusalem, even if it’s maybe not the smartest place to open a fashion store. But there always needs to be the first people to begin things. For example, in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk, there used to not be any bars or night scene. Then a few of the first ones, like the Shuka, opened about 5 years ago, and now people wouldn’t imagine the Shuk differently. In the beginning it took time, people didn’t know that there was a scene even — now everyone’s opening there, but if it wasn’t for the few first, then it never would have happened. Now it’s a little too much (laughs), but that’s beside the point.

Tamar Goldberg, the founder of Shatnez, posing at her work station in the store.

What do you like about Jerusalem?

I’m from Haifa. I came here a year before school started, and I really liked it. I really like all the different types of people, which is also part of the reason I called the store Shatnez. It’s very Jerusalem inspired in my eyes, the mix of differences between the kinds of people here. Which makes it harder sometimes, true, but it’s worth it — in my opinion.

Shatnez (or in biblical Hebrew, שַׁעַטְנֵז) is cloth containing both wool and linen (linsey-woolsey), which Jewish law, derived from the Torah, prohibits wearing. The relevant parts of the Torah (Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9–11) prohibit an individual from wearing wool and linen fabrics in one garment, the interbreeding of different species of animals, and the planting together of different kinds of seeds. (Source)

Would you say there’s a fashion scene here?

Not enough. That’s what’s missing from here in Jerusalem, designers who want to be here. Most Jerusalemites don’t buy designer clothing. They buy what’s cheapest, from China or something. For example, someone came to me once and asked me to do alterations on a shirt. I told her it would cost 50 shekels, and she told me ‘Why? The shirt cost me only 30’. People don’t understand that just because in China they make cheap clothing, it doesn’t mean it’s not work or easy to do as a solo designer. It’s frustrating.

Tamar Goldberg works on alterations in her small fashion store, Shatnez.

Why open a store in Jerusalem?

First, because I really like Jerusalem. Secondly, I do believe there is something here. There are a lot of students, and people that it matters to them. Part of the idea of Shatnez is recycling. To take clothing that are not being used and to make them new again is part of a green initiative as well to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Whoever cares about it, can appreciate it. The thing about second hand is that it is cheaper, and so it can work here in Jerusalem.

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