It was just when we were about to shoot her second outfit that the bomb alert went off: a loud droning siren started to wail across the city to warn the citizens of Tel Aviv to run for cover. As soon as a foreign missile, in this case, one shot directly from the Gaza strip, enters the city’s airspace the alarm sounds, giving everyone ninety seconds to hide in a basement shelter or the stairwell, which we were told is the safest, most secure place in any building. Since it was Shabbat, most of Liat’s neighbors were home and found each other in the hallway. If we had drinks, we could have held a little fashion party there, because as my friend pointed out, there was a journalist, an editor, a jewelry designer, a blogger and a bridal designer in that stairwell. Oh and a dog! And for some this wasn’t the first time so things were a kind of lighthearted. I on the other hand sat on the steps holding my head and muttering desperate Hail Marys – everyone felt a little bit sorry for the poor tourist. “After going through the Gulf War, when we had to sit in a residential secure space with gas masks and carry the masks with us whenever we went out, I’m less scared,” says Liat relieved. “Today we have the Iron Dome to thank for taking down the rockets and keeping us safe.” When the ninety seconds are up, and you are close enough to the spot, you can hear a distant BOOM, indicating that the rocket was intercepted or exploded or dropped – I’m still not 100% sure what creates the sound. In any case, this was my third bomb alert this week and I’d just about had it.
Liat Topel’s mom is from Iran but has lived in Israel since she was a little girl. Her dad was born in Tel Aviv but his parents were Polish and German. “Most of the people you meet in Israel are a mix from a few places,” explains Liat. (Look up Zionism and Aliya!) “Once you are in Israel however, everybody is the same. But I have to say that the Persian cuisine is, by far, the tastiest! I hope my German grandmother doesn’t read this…” The family furniture business, Renby was set up on her mom’s side. “We import home textiles from the leading brands such as Missoni, Etro, Hermes and Frette. My curtains, pillows and linens are from the store.” And it seems that all the Topel offspring, including Liat has something to do with fashion. She has a couple of siblings who work in the fashion industry in China, a brother in the hotel business and Liat, the Chief of the Tribe, just launched her second line of jewelry under the name “DAJ Darya”. (DAJ stands for Design, Art, Jewelry, and Darya is the name she wants to give to her daughter one day. It has a few noble meanings in different languages.)
It’s kind of surreal to be taking pictures after a bomb just went off, but it’s much more fun than watching the news so we just went right back into it. We uncorked a bottle of champagne and gobbled down Krembos, Liat’s favorite dessert – “it’s only 25 calories!” She ended up choosing a few Gianni Versace pieces that belonged to her grandmother and matched up each outfit with a set of her own jewelry. While her first collection was completely custom-made and special order, her second collection was created “by the inspiration of ‘Drops Of Rain’”. Whoever purchases a piece will end up lending her name to it. (I am now the proud owner of the ‘Natalie Joos’ fringed, gold plated rain drop necklace! See if you can find which one it is!) “I believe in an individual world where everyone has their own, unique style as a different way to present themselves,” clarifies Liat. “Jewelry is a part of this presentation. This is why I refer to my work as Art. When I started my work I discovered that I combined both my grandfathers’ professions – one was in diamonds and jewelry and the other one in textiles. Funny no?!”