Parisian woman in the Orient

Valerie Abecassis in tel Aviv. Long dress by Rimmaromano , bracelts by Yael Salomon

A few months back I was invited to the studios of I24 for an interview .I had no idea what to expect since I only heard very vaguely about the enterprise and I was very surprised to enter the very impressive and sophisticated offices and studios .And even more so I was impressed by the team that waited for me and especially by the head of the team ,a tall beautiful and stylish woman ,Valerie Abecassis .
In the thorough briefing before the interview I found out a few things about Ms Abecassis too ,among which - that she was an editor at French Elle.
I thought that it's pretty amazing to do such a move - from one of the most established and influential magazines in the world to a pioneering brand new TV channel (although generously financed) in the Middle- East .I was also really curious to hear what she thought about Israeli fashion and Israeli magazines.
So I have invited Ms Abecassis for a photo session and an interview .
Valerie is already at the cafe ,having a coffee and some fruit juice ,looking really fresh in the early Tel Aviv sun ,dressed in a little Jill Sander dress and French platform shoes ,when I arrive.But since our main topic is Israeli fashion I brought her clothes of several Israeli designers that I thought would suit her. Some refer to her French actress look ,some to her Levantin/Oriental look and some to the sheer fact that she is tall and can "handle" certain dramatic outfits only tall women can handle well.

Dress - Rimmaromano , shoes - Dorin Frankfurt for Shoofra , earrings - Yael Salomon

She is very excited to "discover" the designers I brought and writes down some names. Everything is material for work. I love it .

Dress - Rimmaromano ,  earrings - Yael Salomon  , tea served at cafe Sheleg

M : So please tell me the exact definition of your occupation.
V : I am the chief editor of the daily show dedicated to culture and life style. My channel is an international channel,we broadcast all over the world,mostly for French audience and also English and Arab audience .But my show is only for French and English .We broadcast from Israel but it isn't only dedicated to Israel .My editorial line -  I try to link Israel to the rest of the world and the rest of the world to Israel.
I work for I24 which is a new channel , it exists for two years already .
My first consideration is - is it interesting .This is the most important .It's not Jews or Arabs or Muslims or politics ,but is it interesting ! Is there a story ? Can you follow it ,if my mother can follow it ,in France ,here in Israel, in Jordan ,in New York .If it's interesting you follow it .

M : do you have a certain way in which you want to show Israel ?
V :We must be honest ,the image of Israel abroad is catastrophe because everybody thinks that Israel occupies territories and has an awful army .Apart from this -nothing .Which is not true at all.The are a lot of things in this country ,especially culture ,because the culture here is very open. There is a lot of energy ,a lot of very good artists ,designers ,theater people ,writers ,cartoonists ,poets ,movie makers ,dancers ... There is a big mix between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs ,Muslims ,Christians .So there are a lot of stories . I want to explain to the world that here in this country it's not exactly what the other media says, and besides politics ,obviously , there is something else ,something cool ,creative , beautiful ,deep ,open minded,obviously left because culture is left all over the world . I want to show this .I want to show that in Sachnin there is a contemporary art gallery owned by an Israeli Arab guy ,that there is a Muslim Opera singer who appears in La Scala, that there are a lot of music groups that work together .There is 21% Arabs in this country and they can work and do interesting things . Or photography work that was done in the settlements , in the occupied territories , but it doesn't always have to be dedicated to the conflict ,to war ,it can also be just about life.
M: But do you also show the bad side of occupation , the problematic situation of the Arabs here , or do you avoid it ?
V : No ,I never avoid politics, my show has a little bit of politics ,but I combine politics with humor .You know ,I come from French Elle magazine and the motto of Elle has always been - be light on serious stories and be serious on light stories ,so I try my best to do that.We did a story about a family living like hippies in a settlement , amazing .
M : But this is very unusual , it's not like showing the main street in Hebron all closed because of the settlers.
V :In Hebron I haven't found anything funny, not funny - cultural .Any culture. There is no culture there . This is a dead place.
M : Have you been to Hebron ?
V :Yes, I've been everywhere . Two places made me very very sad - Nazareth and Hebron, because in both there is only God.
M : Well , maybe I have to correct the impression of Nazareth for you. 
V : There is a theater ,there is art ,I sent crews there to cover events ,but when I visited the city I thought that God was everywhere and it made me very sad . 
M: OK let's leave politics. So actually you have an incredible job !
V: Yes incredible , I'm very happy to have this job .
It's very intense. 

Dress by Dorin Frankfurt , shoes by Dorin Frankfurt for Shoofra , bracelet - Yael Salomon

M: How did the people from the channel "find" you ?
V: I arrived to this country 4 years ago ,at the beginning I followed my husband who was nominated as a cultural councilor/advisor  for the French embassy.For one year I was jumping between France and Israel ,I was working at the French Elle magazine at this time ,I was chief of the fashion news and the fashion pages.News ,because I'm a journalist ,I'm not a stylist.And I used my time here in Israel to do a city guide on Tel Aviv. It was a very good experience because it allowed me to discover the city .Where to go ,what to buy what to visit ,millions of adresses and I met lots of people so I was more involved. The book "Cheap&Chic" was published in France by a little house that belongs to Lonely Planet , Place Des Editeurs .
M: I wish I could read it , my French is not good enough..
V: So after one year I heard the channel is opening and I proposed a pilot. Sarah Adler , the famous actress was my guardian angel ,she agreed to do the pilot with me ,I thank her very much .The pilot was accepted and they offered me to do whatever I wanted.
I offered them the culture programmer with interviews of artists to show what's happening here.
M: How do you find your stories?
V: I work a lot .I read all the newspapers and a few online news agencies ,every day.I wake up very early, I can not sleep anyway , there is too much noise in Tel Aviv,( I haven't slept and eaten in two years..),I don't talk to anybody and I read and read.It's very hard for me to get all the information because I don't read Hebrew. So I copy the article and I Google translate and I try to catch if there is something of interest in it .
And I have a team ,obviously ,Israeli guys, so I ask them to check if a specific singer or artist is a good one .And they say sometimes No and sometimes I ask - are you sure ,because they are Israeli and they have prejudices or a feeling that it's not so interesting but because my job is to broadcast something outside my evaluation is different. For example a show at Masada , for an Israeli it's not interesting but for audiences all over the world it's amazing .My job is complicated because I try to be modern ,and get top stories for the people here and for my audience there.The motto of my show is - Here and There .
I try to give place to Arab stories too , Gaza , Ramalla , I want to give them a stage ,a microphone, but they don't want to cooperate with Jews and Israelis and it makes me very sad.
M: OK ,let's move to fashion . 
What do you think about Israeli fashion and Israeli designers?
V: When I was at Elle I came here for the Fashion week ,I couldn't understand why there are two fashion weeks in this little country ,why people are fighting and why is there such a mess. It was nice though ,not so professional but nice.Although the make up was not so good and all the models were Russian .
M : And you don't think it's good ?
V : I don't think it's enough . Look at the shows of Mr. Saint Laurant for example , such a mixture of models. You can have black people ,yellow people ,brown people ,white...
M : Did you say Mr. Saint Laurant ?
V : Yes ,I always say Mr. Saint Laurant. I have a lot of respect for him. He is not my friend. I covered all his shows ,I've been to his funeral,I even worked in the amazing show he did in 98 world cup, as an assistant ,since I wanted to be there and cover it. So I always say Mr. Saint Laurant ,I have a lot of honor for him. And he was born in the same city as me , Oran in Algeria.
So ,what do I think about Israeli fashion ? It's complicated for me ,because what are we looking for ? Are we looking to find the same things that you find in New York -Milan - Paris, which are the only 3 places for fashion or do we look for something specific for the country . But if your are looking for something specific for the country you have to admit that it's not your taste, it's not The Taste.
 You have to except all kinds of things: sometimes vulgarity ,some unstitched hems.It's the same for fashion ,design ,architecture and art : I like it when artists here use the little history they have ,48 ,you know it's very very young ,and mix with references from abroad.When artists use the very young history of this country with very old influence ,from 2000 years. Mix it with the modernity that is all around.I don't like it when they only focus on the United States, Miami style hotel ,or Cavalli or Dsquared2 for fashion at Ramat Aviv mall .I like it when people invent . For example the beige dress you brought me ,by RimmaRomano ,is very beautiful because it is piercing but it is also djellaba,it's silk and it is feminine.
Very well done ,very beautiful . This is what I like, this is an idea .
When I first came here I wanted to set a French Elle here ,a French magazine,  so I met a lot of fashion people , but there is not enough money and it's very difficult ,Israel is very small.
Designers have to work abroad if they want to survive.There is not enough people here.
I like Hed Mayner's style , he mixes military ,religious and lines from abroad. And the tailoring is very good.
M : Yes ,this is the most difficult thing in Israel ,cause you can have ideas but to do it well is difficult .
V : And fabrics , it's very expensive here.You have to bring it from abroad so the young designers are limited.
M : Until now I always avoided photographing people in Israeli designers' clothes, because if you dress someone in Jill Sander you can be sure she /he will look good ,which is more risky with Israeli designers
V : But you are right, It's better to show designers from Israel , and you know them .
I don't read Hebrew magazines so it's very hard for me to discover names.

M : This was exactly my next question. What do you think about Israeli fashion magazines?
V : I did a story with Liat Kopelman .She is the editor of Go Style and I love her style .She was like Mark Jacobs style when she arrived to my studio ,she was very pretty ,gorgeous  ,not skinny , she know everything and she is proud of her country and interested in the world.What i don't like about fashion people is when they are not proud of what they have  ,they are only looking at Milan or Paris.I did a story about a women's magazine from Nazareth , Rose .And I was impressed by the Israeli Arab woman editor. But apart from this I don't like too much the other magazines. I like it when visuals are full frame ,big spreads ,I like color, stories ,splash! I don't want to be nasty but the magazines I see here ( I don't read I only look at the visuals) the visuals are flat .Even the French edition of Haaretz is awful .If I had time I would have taken care of it .I would use local artists and let them shoot colorful stories .Fashion is sexy , beautiful , we have to love the clothes ,not just see it .
M :Why did you do this incredible change ,why did you come to Israel ?
V: It just happened and I followed. It's something that I've learned here in fact ,you have to follow the day. It's hard , sometimes I'm lost ,but I would be very very sad if I hadn't done it .
M : I also want to ask you what your dream is
V :Read ,talk and write Hebrew perfectly.This is my only dream because with this I will be the queen of the country.

Dress by Karen Oberson , bracelet - Yael Salomon

photography ,styling & interview - Miri Davidovitz
make up - Ondine Paz
Dorin Frankfurt - https://www.facebook.com/dorin.frankfurt
Rimmaromano - 72 Yedidya Frenkel st. Tel Aviv
Jewelry - Yael Salomon
Karen Oberson - 36 Gordon St. Tel Aviv
shoes - Dorin Frankfurt for Shoofra 
photographed at cafe Sheleg -  44 Ge'ula st . Tel Aviv

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