Marking her first step into the world of fashion by stealing her grandmother’s and mother’s clothes along with some pieces she found at flea markets Dafna Cohen created her own clothes. Her interest in fashion started at an early age. However, her designs didn’t receive much appreciation as vintage was rare in 80’s Israel where she grew up, and she would often get punished by getting kicked out of classes in high school, because of her choices of attire.
After her mandatory military service, she travelled around the world on a spiritual journey to discover the hidden meanings in things, surroundings which she said shaped her into the kind of person she is today. It was her stay in Japan that led her design approach. She is inclined towards a geometric, minimal approach combined with using different prints and materials together influenced by various cultures. After her travels, she studied fashion design at Tel Aviv where later she side-stepped her field into product design.
Her fast-paced life in Israel led her to make a life-changing decision to move to Italy where she started her brand “Daphne Couture” a custom made handbag design company situated in the north of the country. According to Dafna, she started the brand after realising the need to bring out something unique and custom made for women. She believes that women should be able to express their femininity without hesitation. The products are handmade by craftsmen who are carefully selected. The bags are well adapted to today’s modern, hectic life and can hold an iPad, tablet and other personal belongings. Encouraging women to invest in a product that is much better quality than a cheaper buy but is also long lasting in a way that you change and grow with you is the ideal of the brand.
So how did this brand start for her and what really bought her to where she is now? We asked her and this is what she had to say:-
In what ways do you think Daphne Couture stands out as a brand, is what do you feel input into your bags from your own creativity?
Individuality, Unique, very high quality, a combination of strong geometric form and colourful patterns. Timeless accessories made with a deep concept which represents my philosophy as a designer and as a leader.
Who in the fashion industry did you look up to growing up? In what way did they influence you?
Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler Jean Paul Gaultier, and Vivianne Westwood were my favourite fashion designers. Well, I grew up in the 80’, I used to listen to punk and new age electronic music so I consider myself as a radical one (for where and when I grew up). I loved most the fact that they created something different and with very strong looks. I think it is one of the best periods in the world of creativity both in music and fashion, something that was far away from the mainstream. Me, as a teenager, who couldn’t afford much, use to make my own unique outfits from second-hand clothes that I bought in the flea market in Jaffa and altered them because I was sooo skinny …42 k”g…
At that time there were only a few stores for vintage clothes in Tel Aviv. wearing my own style was taking too much attention, people used to laugh at me on the street and my mother got crazy from my “ old style”….people used to take pictures of me and I was really pissed off with that, I always use to tell them :
“Why do you want to take my pictures? Because of my clothes? Take pictures when I will do some to impact in this world!!!” (That was of course before the internet and selfie time). I didn’t realise that this is going to be my life’s journey. I’m a designer but through this very long process, I become a life coach especially for change and jumping into fear. So my vision is to promote my messages through my creativity.
What kind of message would you like to give to your customers through your designs? Do you feel creativity can have that power?
My slogan and also the name of my book (that I’m Writing about my journey in Italy and game that I’m developing for kids and adults based on my experience) is “ I was born to be me“ It means I’m perfect as I am and what is important is quality, not quantity!!! Be who you are. When you know your real self you have the ability to create your own style, your own look and this is real freedom. When people have less, they appreciate much more of what they have. We have become a sick society; we have no time for anything, everything is moving too fast so we forgot how to create relationships and communicate. This has to be the base for everything. And the best relationship is our relationship with ourselves!!!!
Art as daily life. We are educated to think that the place for art is in the museum but actually the biggest victory of art is to be used as a daily life item. It is very important to me to create my items according to this philosophy. Artist and designers can impact society, we are the culture ambassadors and we can lead towards different customer habits. Manufacturing fewer products but to a very high quality, which can support this idea.
What do you think about the Israeli fashion scene now and how is it different from the time you were growing up?
Israel changed a lot since I was young and it has become a very modern country but there is no dress code like in Europe. I’m an outsider this is the truth and since I have not lived there for the last 10 years I’m not aware of the fashion scene, I try to avoid what is happening outside my world, I haven’t watched tv for the last 35 years not even the news in order to stay original and this is an aspect of all my life now. I’m keeping my mind as clean as possible.
What colours, textures really move you and you feel you love to work in?
I’m a pattern addicted from a long time ago, patterns represent for me the essence of nature. Probably this is why vintage is natural for me since I was 15 years old. I believe that the many travels I had in the past to a lot of countries and cultures around the world, affected me, especially the time I was living in Japan. I’m very attracted to geometric shapes, and strong colours are my cup of tea. I love the combination of putting together different materials As far as I’m concerned all the colours are mine!!! Especially I prefer strong tones of colour I believe that colours create joy and happiness.
Why did you choose to work in Milan and build your company there?
Creating handmade accessories in a world of mass production is almost impossible today, and especially in Israel. So I had to choose between changing professional or changing the market. I’m a dreamer I believe the more you like what you do the happiest you are so I choose to change my marketplace. Italy was always my dream and being an Israeli I consider myself as a kind of ambassador to bring different work habits and especially the message that” everything is possible”…I started my life over in Italy at the age of 39!!! Italy is a place that has the best artisans in the world alongside a very rich culture.
Inspiration is everywhere here and it is also a place that offers a very different way of living to something much more relaxing. Compared to the hectic life that I had before in Israel. I see Milan as a centre that I can meet and be inspired from people all over the world who come here for exhibitions and it also serves other parts of my belief system, to lead to the message of love and acceptance, diversity and unity.
What is the most important part of your creative process?
I see creation as a bridge between spirit and material. To create an idea into a 3-dimensional product is a very long process that many people involved in it. The most important thing is to know how to make decisions technically and aesthetically, and to have a great relationship with the people you work with. It means needing to be very flexible all the time, and to have a lot of patience and respect to a different culture from your own. I believe that everything is energy so if my products are made with love, my customers will feel that and then they will be able to appreciate the work behind the products. It is very important for me to create a beautiful product but it must be also very practical to use. Because besides being the creator I have to give a great service. Customers are the most important part of the process so that’s why I named the first model Regina – that means queen in Italian.
All in all any true creative as Dafna is knows that if you want to make beautiful products that people really desire you have to give if yourself. truly open yourself up and give your creativity freely and right form your heart. Creativity is, after all, is one of the most healing things we can do.
Visit her website .daphnecouture.com
Portrait Giovan Battista D’Achille