Jewish fashion designer Elie Tahari is thrilled to be a proud New York resident, but said Monday night he hopes to someday make Israel his permanent home.
“My heart belongs to Israel,” said the designer and tycoon The Algemeiner, adding that he hopes to retire in the Jewish state. His comments followed the screening of his documentary, Elie Tahari’s United States, at the Sephardic American Federation of Sephardic Jewish Film Festival in New York.
The documentary highlights how Tahari built a billion-dollar fashion empire after growing up in a refugee camp in Israel, living in two different orphanages and eventually arriving in New York with less than $ 100 in his pocket. He also recounts the various jobs Tahari did – which included milking cows on an Israeli kibbutz, washing cars, and then working for an electrical contractor in New York – before starting her career in fashion.
Tahari is credited with creating the pioneering sheath top and tailored dresses for women, and is one of only three designers to build billion-dollar fashion empires that have spanned more than four decades, alongside Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani. .
The film includes interviews with others in the fashion world who praised Tahari’s achievements, including fellow designers Nicole Miller and Dennis Basso and Jewish New York Fashion Week creator Fern Mallis.
“This is the story of a man who started out of nowhere, which is the definition of courage, who is reminding us of what America is, where anyone can knock on the door and the door will be open,” said the producer and director of the film. David Serero.
After the screening, Tahari talked about his love for New York, its people, his energy and how the city inspires him during a question and answer session with Serero.
He later said The Algemeiner that while New York influences his work, his experiences in Israel “have shaped my life”.
“Growing up in an orphanage with difficulty [and] with little means it makes you stronger, ”he explained. “At the time, I didn’t know my life was hard. I just thought it was normal to be like that. But as you grow up, you realize it [during] hard times and hard you get stronger.
He described his drive to keep pushing for more in the fashion industry as “definitely” an Israeli part of him.
“My education was such that nothing was easy. All you have to work for and you have to be ambitious and hungry, “he said.” They told me I have a loaf in each arm and one in my mouth and I’m still hungry. They described me like that. I’ve always been hungry for more. “
Born of Iranian parents, he also spoke of being a proud Sephardic Jew, saying Sephardi families “stick together” and “keep their traditions stronger” than others. He said his own family gathers every Friday night for Shabbat dinner.
Tahari said he visits Israel twice a year and still has a family living there. His favorite aspect of the country is the people, she said, and admitted that even after all these years in New York, she prefers to speak Hebrew to English.
The documentary explored the centrality of the family in the life of the designer. When he first moved to New York he was so poor he slept at the YMCA, he showered in the locker room and eventually had to sleep on a bench in Central Park. However, after earning $ 1,100 in his first year in New York, Tahari sent it back to help his family in Israel instead of using it to support himself. He only felt truly fulfilled in his life once he was able to bring his entire family to America, he reflected in the film.
Speaking of his sense of family now that he is a father of two, he said: “I got married at 50 and thought I had everything, but I had nothing until I had children. [and] I have learned to appreciate life. So it took me many years ”.
The 24th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival will run through April 7 at the Moise Safra Center in New York City.