Purses and Murses

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As designer Donna Karan once told a group of budding Israeli fashion design students, “It’s all about the handbags!” It’s a truism that Israeli designers have taken to heart for several years now, creating fabulous bags for women and men. In fact, most designers also take men’s murses into account – that’s purses for men – because Israeli men – like their European counterparts – have long worn some kind of holding accessory, whether slung across their chests or around their waists. And if they’re not wearing their own bag, they’re macho enough to carry their ladies’ bags, doing the schlepping for them.

A native of Argentina, Lydia Rener is an architect by training, turned bag designer with a store on Tel Aviv’s Nachalat Binyamin. Her take? Neoclassical industrial, using whatever’s out there, whether it’s cool bath mats or laminated lace tablecloths. Try a charcoal ribbed messenger bag, if you’re looking for something flat and simple, or a hard plastic handled tote for easy carrying.

Elanit Neutra is a lover of inner car tube rubber, for its unique marks, graphic elements and material can be easily molded into bags, baskets, wallets, belts and notebook bindings. So, it’s an ecologically preserved purse, always cool, and available online.

Handbag designer Gal Feldman imports leather from Italy and works with a local atelier, using much handiwork to design a wide range of bags and wallets. Our favorite? The rumpled leather ‘shopping bag,’ a Gal classic. Available in Israel, the U.S. and Europe.

For Yael Rosen-Ben Shachar, the Japanese concept of origami looms large in her handbag company that is called Kisim, the Hebrew word for pockets. Her style is informal but chic, with bags that are soft and natural, often curving to the body. Visit her store in Tel Aviv’s Gan Hachashmal.

The Guild, quirkily located in Tel Aviv’s central bus station, offers classes in shoe design — as well as bags, textile design and production — and places a strong emphasis on technique and design.