EcoWalk. Urban Folk Wear Designer Alina Zilberman a.k.a. “Shantimama”: Linen is a very special fabric.
“Linen is a very special fabric. It is organic, eco-friendly and completely biodegradable. It also has some natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. “
As usual, can you tell us about your journey into the industry fashion? Did you always wanted to be a fashion designer? How did the idea and concept of Shantimama come to fruition? My journey into the fashion industry has been quite unusual. It started behind the computer desk and then went through India and Israel.
My childhood ambition was to be a vet, but I qualified and got a job as a computer programmer. A few years later, I realized that I was stuck in a dead-end job and was actually close to being depressed. To get a better understanding of myself I bought a one-way ticket to India. This trip lasted for three years and I came back a new person – more free and able to do what I was passionate for, rather than what I have to.
In Israel, when I was already married, with a small daughter, I started a little shop on ETSY, where I sold harem pants. My taste in clothing had not changed, I was still dressed in the shanti style, like back in India.
I can’t sew, so I have always cooperated with dress-makers, thanks to whom my project took off. I made simple designs, chose fabrics, took photos and ran the shop. The rest was done by professional dress-makers.
Our clothes appealed to many people and we had our first customers. I was able to call myself the owner of a small business.
A few years later I started thinking of designing a collection of clothes – I was sure that clothes design was what I was really keen on.
I had already decided on the style, fabrics to use and who I was going to sell to. I knew what kind of people I needed to make my idea come real. I was lucky to meet really skillful people – a constructor who helps me with clothes patterns and dress-makers who make all the Shantimama clothes.
That is how I became a clothes designer, not actually planning to – just following my heart.
What is your favourite part about being a designer? Do you have a favorite moment in your design process? I am passionate about fabrics. I can spend hours tirelessly searching for them. My favourite site is a fabrics factory and its warehouse. I myself import all the fabrics we use now into Israel.
What do you wish people knew about the fashion industry? What do you think is the most common misconception? My example shows that anyone can start a clothes brand, even though you don’t have a degree, just a lot of enthusiasm. What is crucial is your ability to learn: the fashion industry is not an easy business.
What is your brand’s philosophy? Is there anything people find characteristically original about your designs? What elements of design are included in each collection? Shantimama is all about personalized approach, comfort and social responsibility and sustainability.
I cater for each customer, taking into account people’s body type and appearance. I believe that everyone can find colours and shades which really suit them and reveal their natural beauty. So, our brand doesn’t have stocks and our colour palette is so wide.
My idea of design is comfort and functionality, I prefer A-line clothes, straight and simple cuts and multi-layer outfits.
I aim at producing high-quality clothes which emphasize people’s individuality and help them to live in harmony, as well as minimizing my impact on the environment. To achieve zero waste production I am planning to start a line of accessories made of fabric waste: belts, bags, purses.
I believe in sustainability. In a world full of disposable items, we are eager to create clothes which can be handed over to the next generation.
Each item is made in the south of Israel. I have a small team of skillful employees and I have made quality my main priority. I thoroughly check and choose all our fabric suppliers.
What is the timeline from having an idea to actually creating the product? Shortly describe your design process from mood boards to picking out fabrics to production. This is a problem, to be honest. First of all, I am a wife and a mother of three young kids. I have to fit my job in between my family commitments. I have decided, though, that I don’t need to hurry and achieve impressive results to soon. I am working at my own pace and enjoying the process.
I break down one great task into several smaller ones and deal with one at a time. For example, I set out to design my first capsule collection from linen. I found a quality supplier, selected the fabrics and brought them to Israel. My designs were based on the features of this fabric. Then my constructor and I worked together to turn my designs into patterns. Next, samples were made and displayed in the shop. That is it.
We make all our clothes specifically for each customer. We are not in mass production.
Where do you find new ideas and inspiration for your collections? I am inspired by people of different cultures. I study traditional dresses from Asia, Europe and Japan, for example. Then I take one of the silhouettes as a basis for my design, combine and adapt them to our everyday life. That’s how the Shantimama style is born.
How durable are your products; is it possible to increase their longevity? I am literally obsessed with making clothes that can last. Clothes you’d rather get tired of than wear out. So, I put a lot of emphasis on fabrics. Linen is a very durable fabric, which only gets softer and nicer after washing. I don’t aim at ultra-trendy designs. I’d rather do something which will stay in fashion forever. The high quality of sewing makes sure that our items last.
What lead you to create linen designs specifically? Linen is a very special fabric. It is organic, eco-friendly and completely biodegradable. It also has some natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It protects your skin from ultraviolet rays, lets your body breathe, doesn’t get static electricity. You feel comfortable in linen clothes even in hot weather.
Besides, linen clothes don’t get dirty too fast. This is because a linen surface has a lot of smooth fibers which resist dirt.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work? I am getting ready for a new purchase of fabrics, selecting new colours and textures. This always makes me excited and inspires to create new designs.
What item in stock is your personal favorite? Is there a particular item you love to wear yourself? My favourite is harem pants which I’ve invariably been wearing for 13 years. These are the most comfortable pants in the world. I like wearing them with a long tunic (Nero) of thin linen. Such outfits are a must for Israeli hot weather conditions, they feel comfortable and authentic.
What style habits should every woman break? I think its individuality rather than fashion that every woman should be driven by. Women had better think of what cuts and colours suit them and of how to express their unique beauty through clothes instead of blindly following the fashions.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company? I have learned that the right team is the key to success. It’s essential to find like-minded people. Mutual support and cooperation are crucial.
In your opinion, how has your work evolved since you began your own label? When I started my business, I had to learn from scratch. From clothes design, collection making, team building, financing and accounting to export-import operations, marketing and sales. I knew nothing at all. I did some courses, consulted experts, read professional stuff. I appreciate it that other designers supported me and shared their knowledge and experience.
Is there anything you learned about your customers since you have started Shantimama? My customers are mainly people who believe in spirituality and self-realization, they seek harmony and inner peace, value quality and people’s work. The like minimalistic and authentic styles, they support slow fashion and conscious consumption.
What are your plans for the nearest future? Do you have any exciting upcoming plans that you would like to share with us? Most of my customers are from America, Russia and Europe. But I think it’s time we entered the Israeli market. We are planning to take part in fairs, liaise with stores and meet people face-to-face. I am really looking forward to it.
What is your biggest challenge as a handmade shop owner? My major challenge at the moment is building a great team.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when starting a fashion label? I would advise myself to trust intuition and rely on the Universe, which knows precisely what you need and when you need it.
What is your perception (thoughts) about the future of ethical fashion and eco-brands globally? I think people are getting aware of the fact that this is the only solution to our problems and the only way to save the planet. Ethical manufacturing, conscious consumption will soon be a norm, not an exception, in all areas. To have less of the better is a slogan which I believe will appeal to a lot of people.
From your point of view, how has being a designer changed your life? I am engaged in what I have a passion for, which gives me a lot of joy. Problems occur, naturally. But I am lucky not to have to make myself get out of bed in the morning. I enjoy every day of my life I like building my brand and finding creative solutions. What gives me enormous satisfaction is seeing happy customers. At such moments I realize that it’s worth it.
What superpower do you wish you had and why? I would like to be able to take everything in my stride, stay calm and always be “shanti”. It is not only me who can benefit from that but people around me as well.
Please share your mantra with us. A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.
Please tell us one surprising fact about yourself. Once, years ago, I asked my granny what she would like to be if she could go back in time. She said: a fashion designer. I thought then: what a strange job, so far from me… My granny had, unfortunately, died before I set up my brand. And now I think differently of this job.