“Culture knows no boundaries, it transcends them” — these words capture the true essence of ‘Yachad’, a collaborative initiative between India and Israel that celebrates fashion, art, and culture. Recently, as India and Israel completed 30 years of diplomatic relations, the Embassy of Israel in India joined hands with Indian designer Sahil Kochhar to showcase a special couture collection for men and women, inspired by the beautiful landscapes of Israel.
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Talking about the relationship that the two nations share, the Ambassador of Israel to India H.E. Naor Gilon told indianexpress.com that beginning from defence to the agricultural front, the two nations have established cooperative relations in diverse fields.
Calling this initiative a “first-of-its-kind”, he added, “We hope this project will open doors for future possibilities and collaborations between the people of Israel and India in the diverse fields of culture, fashion, and lifestyle. Showcasing Indian designs inspired by Israeli landscapes led to this beautiful project, which has further strengthened the close friendship and growing partnership between our two nations.”
From doing a fashion show — ‘Amidi’ — for unprivileged children, to creating murals of three Indian-Jewish actors to pay a tribute to them and for the empowerment of women, the two countries have done a lot on the cultural front. With many more cultural events and exhibitions in the pipeline, the nations are aiming to further strengthen cultural ties.
In an interview with indianexpress.com, designer Sahil Kochhar (SK) and Orly Goldschmidt (OG), Head of Public Diplomacy, Embassy of Israel in India, talked about the campaign, the couture collection, and the rich culture of India and Israel.
How would you define ‘Indianness’ when it comes to fashion? Do you think it has established itself globally?
SK: I don’t think there is any specific definition of Indianness; the country is very diverse in that sense. It has multi-ethnicities that co-exist all the time. Even the art and craft varies from the north to the south. From the best of textiles, the best of embroideries, to now the best of techniques, we are making a name globally and I am sure we are going to be much better in the coming years.
What led to the conceptualisation of this initiative?
OG:  The most important thing, for me, was to show Israel in a different light to people who can’t afford to visit the country. Also, the idea was to make it appealing to young people, so they can come and see Israel as it has a lot to offer, the world is not yet aware of it.
SK: The whole initiative — ‘Yachad’ — means coming together and aims at promoting both the cultures, especially the local artists and local talent which is very important, along with celebrating the 30 years of the long relationship between the two countries.
How, through your design sensibilities, did you manage to bring out the best of the two cultures as part of the project?
SK: Culture seeks no boundaries, it transcends beyond them. It is like art, you can enjoy yours but you can also cherish the other simultaneously. Both countries have rich cultures, strong identities, and strong cultural beliefs which cannot be blurred. With this collection, we were never competing but rather complementing each other. Because if you believe in one culture, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the other.
Tell us about the models you shot the collection with.
SK: Our idea was not to take a beautiful landscape in the background with a model in front. The only way to bring justice to the campaign was to bring out true talent from among the local people there. The models you see are local talent from all over Israel, including the younger generation from different walks of life, athletes, artists, surfers and the parkour community of the country.
How is this collection different from your previous collections?
SK: If you closely look at the artwork and texture, the landscapes do get reflected there. For the first time, we have drifted from the typical floral motifs that we usually do and have tried to bring in some landscape features as well. Even the texture, especially in prints for menswear has been inspired by Israel’s landscape. We also have maintained our brand identity as we are known for the signature piping and silhouettes which we have tried taking forward.
On what basis were the locations decided?
SK: When I started researching on Israel, the one thing that I learned was that the country has so much to offer and I could not resist exploring more. I wanted to extend the shoot and cover as much as I could, but we had limited time. Over the course of the project, I realised that every place in Israel has cultural importance. I discovered how many communities co-existed here with each place having to tell a story. Even the Dead Sea, where we shot extensively, has massive cultural significance.
But how did you bag the project?
SK: I met Orly at a fashion award show where she told me that with India and Israel celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relationship, they wanted to do something. She was impressed with our Gulmarg Campaign and it was there we talked about many things and the seeds of this collaboration were sown. This collection and campaign have been very special to me as it represents two beautiful cultures coming together.
OG: I have been very lucky to always work with people who care about what they do and put their soul into it. And that’s what I loved about Sahil. Whatever comes out of his hands is going to be the most perfect thing ever.
So Orly, what do you best like about Indian culture?
OG: It’s very difficult to define Indian culture because I think that I have not been able to see, witness, and understand the whole of it. But I love your food, I love the way people are very forthcoming, and we can talk about anything. But I would just say it felt like home to me.
Did you find any similarities between the two cultures, in terms of fashion, food, and people?
SK: In terms of fashion, the techniques of making bridal wear are quite similar to how we do things in India. In terms of culture, families come together for dinner and celebrate the evening, and the love for food makes us quite similar. Both nations are quite young, as we are constantly having technological advancements and people in both places are very warm and hospitable.
OG: Both nations have been ruled by the same people and they also have a very long interesting history that still influences us in many ways establishing an interesting connection between Israel and India.
Any concluding remarks?
OG: The role of the culture is to blur the political boundaries, people who have the same passion or the same interest will work together no matter what their political views are. People get closer through culture, fashion, and art.
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