Clothing creator Aluma’s small studio is light-years away from the hustle and bustle of London Fashion Week. The independent businesswoman likes it that way and prefers the slower-paced approach she now gives to her designs. Living in Tel Aviv, Aluma credits her mother with bringing sewing into her life. At 14 she proclaimed there was absolutely nothing to wear in her closet. Her Mum respectfully disagreed, but said they could go to the fabric shop and that she would teach her daughter to make clothing from scratch. It took only a handful of sewing lessons for Aluma to realize she was hooked.
After making pieces for herself, Aluma began designing clothing for friends. One of them, an aspiring photographer, recruited her younger sister and classmates to model for a makeshift photo shoot featuring Aluma’s clothes. The younger girls went gaga over the pieces and asked to purchase them. Even the attendant at the shop where the pictures were developed wanted to know where the clothing could be bought.
“Much like today, my clothing sold by word of mouth,” Aluma remembers. “Even though I was selling items, going into fashion full-time didn’t seem possible. I simply thought it wasn’t a “proper” profession. While fulfilling my commitment to the Israeli army, I managed to get a job as a graphic designer. Working on the army’s magazine in that role made me think graphic design was what I should pursue in school, which is what I later did. But my heart was always with clothing design. One day a teacher, whom I really looked up to, caught me in the cafeteria and said I needed to follow my heart. Do what I loved, and I would succeed. So, in 1999 I packed my bags and went to London.”
Aluma enrolled in a course at the London College of Fashion. It was extremely intense; aimed at older students who were willing to dedicate themselves to study from 9 a.m. in the morning to 9 p.m. at night. After learning many aspects of the fashion industry, Aluma began working for London designer Julian Roberts. On the side she often took a large case around London to see which shops would consider selling her clothing. One boutique ended up buying everything during a stop. Several months later the owner called to say Madonna’s stylist had been in and purchased a few of Aluma’s belts.
Fast-forward a couple of years to Julian Roberts putting Aluma in touch with a public relations firm that was seeking emerging designers for London Fashion Week. Although her line has always been full of color, Aluma thought she should meet company representatives dressed completely in black.
“I went to H&M that very week to purchase a wardrobe I thought any young fashion designer should be wearing,” she laughed. “I had no idea what I was doing, but my handmade pieces caught the interest of both buyers and journalists. In a few months I had 15 shops across the globe placing orders, which included Neiman Marcus and Selfridges. It was definitely a situation of being in the right place at the right time. I was also very fortunate to be surrounded by people who showcased and supported my work. Eventually I also got to be part of Paris Fashion Week.”
It was in the midst of these successes that Aluma crossed paths with the man who would become her husband. She relocated to Israel in 2007 to be with him, and for the first time in years considered whether fashion was still her calling. Although she opened a physical shop in Tel Aviv, it became apparent that making clothes, not running a venue to sell them, brought her the most joy.
Admittedly burnt out; Aluma closed her store to focus on new twin boys. After she began making clothing for them, a friend recommended she open an online shop on Etsy. Aluma sold unique children’s clothes for several months until a former client reached out to see if there were any leftovers from previous women’s collections.
“It then hit me that I did want to make women’s clothes, but go back 10 to 15 years when I was doing things by myself,” she said. “Having an online shop changed my life because I can now make a living simply doing what I love. The feedback I receive from people who are wearing my clothes all over the world inspires me to no end. They give the pieces new life, and the constant support allows me to bring together interesting combinations of fabrics and put out really unique clothing. It’s a beautiful, supportive network that I’m grateful for every single day.”
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Images provided by Aluma