“My design philosophy really starts and ends with the idea that your clothes should be about making you feel good. They should be pieces that you feel at home in,” says Israeli designer Nili Lotan of her eponymous label of 10 years. “The brand is about giving you those pieces that you can wear for many, many years that become like your second skin.” Don’t be fooled, however, by the simplicity of such a message. While Lotan’s line offers an endless selection of second skin separates, like cozy summer knits and jeans that mimic the perfect hue of vintage denim, the process behind their creation leaves no stone unturned.
From formulating her own cotton voiles to perfecting fabric colors “in the lab,” Lotan is meticulous about overseeing every step herself. Even the so-called “mistakes”—a loose button here or an off-kilter hand-blocked pattern there—are made on purpose. “I go to India once every year—I love it there,” she says. “Many people go there to manufacture, but some feel that it’s too cheap and the workmanship has too many imperfections, too many mistakes. I go exactly for that reason. I love those imperfections, and as long as they’re done by someone’s hands, to me, that’s what makes handcrafted pieces so beautiful and unique.”
Prior to the inception of her own company in 2003, Lotan worked as a senior design director for Nautica and Ralph Lauren, the latter of whom she credits with having taught her the importance of staying true to her own vision and identity: “Ralph Lauren drew on the references of all-American style, whether it was inspired by the Kennedys or by Native American Indian tribes. From working with him, I learned to identify my own references and experiences, from when I was five years old up til now, living between New York and Tel Aviv. I view these experiences as disciplines for my work, and whenever I begin a new collection, no matter what the message is that I’m trying to convey, I always present it in a way that’s familiar to me. In that sense, I’m not really looking to create fashion that’s on trend. I fully believe that clothes should be an extension of the woman wearing them, and they should speak to her story.”
In celebration of the warmer weather, Lotan will debut an exclusive collection of favorite pieces at her Tribeca atelier turned pop-up shop, which opens tomorrow, May 15, at 48 Walker Street. An extensive offering of summer whites in textured cottons and linens, striped t-shirts, army green cargo pants, peasant blouses, chambray shirts, and printed silk eveningwear for nights out comprise only a small part of the collection, and carry a dual sense of city cool and traveler’s ease. To Lotan, “this is New York and Tel Aviv, together.”
Accompanying the collection is a carefully curated assortment of vintage jewelry, art books, and wares that she has discovered throughout her travels. Each piece corresponds to a section of clothing, which is displayed across wooden tables and racks throughout the shop. At a first glance, the space more closely resembles a gallery than a clothing store. “I wanted to create a kind of room-sized mood board since many of the pieces were inspired by these objects. Like those pants, for example,” says Lotan, gesturing towards a folded pair of army green pants. “I actually sampled that color from the jacket of the book that’s right beside it. I wanted to share my inspirations with the women that buy my clothes, and through this shop, it’s almost as if you’re teaching someone how to create a collection from pictures, and from the objects around them,” she continues. “The customer can kind of become the designer. I like to share that idea as much as I can with people, and, in a way, this gives them a direct window into what I do and who I am.”
NILI LOTAN’S SUMMER POP-UP SHOP OPENS TOMORROW, MAY 15. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT HER WEBSITE.