Nili Lotan FALL 19 Interview
Words by Elizabeth Clarke
Effortless, understated, and meticulous, Nili Lotan creates modern silhouettes in luxe fabrics that make women feel seriously good.
Elizabeth Clarke chats to the Israeli designer about her eponymous label, and the Australian beach holiday she is dying to have.
Who is the Nili Lotan woman and how has she evolved since you founded your label in 2014?
I started the collection with a focused capsule of six pieces which I thought were essential to a woman’s day-to-day: three casual pants, two jackets and a skirt. Since then, I’ve grown the collection to a full lifestyle brand that can take my woman from day-to-night. The women I see around me, for example in TriBeCa where I live and work, are all renaissance, multi-tasking, metropolitan women. I wanted to tend to their needs, as well as my own, so I have given them a full wardrobe that can fit more than one occasion.
How do you describe the Nili Lotan aesthetic?
Effortless, nonchalant, minimal, sophisticated, rock n’ roll, with a touch of sexiness.
Tell me about your time in the Israeli Air Force. Given your brand’s strong military aesthetic and your ID number that appears on your label, it must have been an integral time in your life.
For better and worse, the military is an ever-present presence in Israel, so it’s something I grew up with and that has visually influenced me. My inaugural collection was a focused capsule of six pieces influenced by my then-husband’s air force flight suit and I always have a variation of army-green or utilitarian military influence in my designs. The military is also where I learnt to love the desert. I was based in the Negev Desert for two years and fell in love with the vastness of it. It’s a magical place - minimalistic, dry, hot and primal.
You have been sole designer and CEO of your brand from the very beginning. You are also a mother. How do you find balance in your life?
It’s always a difficult balance. I started my business in TriBeCa specifically because I wanted to be close to my daughter’s school. I would drop her off in the morning, and she would come in the afternoon and do her homework at the Atelier while I worked. When I was working for other brands, especially during the 1980’s, maintaining any sense of balance was much more difficult and the environment was not so kind to mothers. I have a lot of young mothers working for me now, and it’s extremely important for me to create an environment that is accommodating to that.
What is your design process? It is always the same or does it evolve?
My design process is very much intuitive. What do I want and what I am feeling for, at that very moment. I go back to core references and influences such as 1970’s rock n’ roll, art, an idea of the American West. I start from mood boards and fabrics and go from there, and many times a collection builds upon the thought process from the previous collection.
Are there any key pieces over the last 14 years that remain favourites for you?
The Cropped French Military pant has been with me since my very first inaugural collection, so it’s very much a Nili Lotan classic.
In the age of online shopping, how important is bricks and mortar to a fashion brand?
Both are important. I purposefully open my stores in neighborhoods where we can become a part of the neighborhood and women’s lives. It’s a great vehicle to communicate with my customer directly - to bring her into my world and for me to be part of hers.
You don’t advertise or shoot campaigns. Was this a conscious decision at the beginning?
When I started my brand, I was small and financed the business myself, so big campaigns were not something I considered. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to grow my brand without print advertising and campaigns, so it’s just been my MO since. I do engage with online advertising which is essential to connecting with my customer these days.
Have you visited Australia?
I have not but would love to. I grew up next to the beach in Israel overlooking the Mediterranean, so beach culture is very much a part of my identity and in that sense, I think I would feel right at home in Australia. It seems like a stunning country.
Why do you think the brand resonates so well with Australian women?
We express ourselves through the clothes we wear, reflecting our own personal style, mood, or attitude. My brand philosophy is to create timeless, effortless pieces that give women the means for their own self-expression and I think that’s what women in general connect to with my brand. Specifically, I think the Australian woman connects to the sense of effortlessness that is very much a part of that beach culture - the idea of being chic and put together yet maintaining a sense of cool and individuality.
What is next for Nili Lotan?
To keep growing at my own rhythm and pace and continue to nurture this brand that I love. I’m always thinking and working towards the next thing, so you will just have to wait and see.