In reflection of 2016 and moving forward into 2017, I decided it was important to share one of the best experiences in my life. First, I want to thank Scoop Charlotte for giving me the platform to share with their readers a journey that has made such a large impact in my everyday life. I hope that my story will encourage others to seek out new opportunities and to strive to make a difference in how they treat others.

Scoop Charlotte SHoot

Once in a while an opportunity that is truly a gift falls into our laps.

After a thorough application process this year, I was chosen from over 300 applicants to be one of 36 women to attend a fashion trip to Israel. The inspirational journey that would introduce us to the international center of high-tech innovation and fashion was sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP).

 

Entrepreneurial and Personal Reflection

The eight day trip offered many experiences related to the apparel and accessory design industry, with other significant visits to the religious site of Masada and the Western Wall. Wonderfully reflective seminars were conducted by the ever-so inspiring founding Director Lori Palatnik of JWRP and Adrianne Gold, Canadian fashion and beauty program host. These fashion gurus highlighted topics on reclaiming our dignity as women through self esteem and beauty in the glare of the media, the art of values, and gossip lies and lessons.

 

At moments I felt like a human sponge, visually absorbing the beauty and creative genius of the artistic designs through the designer’s eyes. I learned to focus on being present through the observation of how Israelis conduct their daily lives and lived out their beliefs. I am grateful for this reflective journey that provided me the insight to look within—as a 25-year veteran stylist in the fashion industry, my relationships with my spouse and children, my life and how my role in society may change moving forward.

 

The culmination of the magnificent experiences presented to our group of 36, including the seminars from numerous Israeli fashion industry speakers and designers, the bus/tour guide and the JWRP leaders was overwhelmingly satisfying.

 

Israeli Fashion House

Many of the buildings we visited are made of large off-white Jerusalem stone. The renovated Maskit, or first Israeli fashion house, was founded by Ruth Dayan who aided impoverished immigrants, eventually creating over 2,000 design and production jobs. Currently, the Maskit is run by fashion designer Sharon Tal who trained with Alexander McQueen of London. The fashion house was as much of a fashion museum as it was a workroom—where aspiring designers were as beautiful as they were eccentric.

 

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High-Tech Fashion Innovation

One of the most fascinating groups that spoke to us was the Fash-Tech, a community for fashion innovators and a co-workspace for female entrepreneurs, located in Tel-Aviv. Jewelry and fashion designer and entrepreneur Nitzan Kish has created modular self-defense outfits from an image processing software and 3D printer. She shared her story of previously being attacked and wanting to develop a product that could be used as protective clothing. Another gifted, high-tech designer, Tamara Efrat, combines the use of traditional smocking embroidery with computer algorithms based on a grid made of dots and mathematical research to develop handbag patterns. Efrat’s method results in the creation of beautifully designed smocked bags in various patterns that are unique to the handbag industry.

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Not only did I have the opportunity to hear and see the stories from this innovative think tank for women, but I also enjoyed an Israel Fashion Week Event with eight of the most influential designers in a runway show! I was front and center with one designer after another, witness to abundant talent as seen on the models strutting down the runway. An evening I may never forget!

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Care and Empowerment

Another impactful visit in our journey was to Beit Issie Shapiro, a center for the care and empowerment of people with disabilities. I was fortunate to meet with the center director, parents of students and a volunteer, in addition to activist Bella Tzur and adaptive clothing designer Sasson Kedem. The center is developing cutting edge techniques to share with other programs around the world. I was able to experience the Snoezelen room, a multisensory environment specially designed to deliver stimuli to various senses, using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, scents, etc. The snoezelen therapy is often used to stimulate a sense of balance for people who suffer with autism and other disabilities.

 

Amongst our group of 36 women was Mindy Scheier, founder of Runway of Dreams™ Foundation. Mindy works with Tommy Hilfiger designing adaptive brand clothing for children. She was motivated to design adaptive clothing because of her nine year old son’s desire to dress and wear comfortable and fashionable clothing; he suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Their adaptive clothing is soon to be released for adults. Mindy’s inspiring journey of how she is making a difference for so many children to feel no different than their peers was truly humbling. Her work certainly reminds us of how much good there is in the world.

 

More to Share

Having had the opportunity to be part of a hand-picked group of women with a similar love of fashion made this experience all the more special. I have so much more to share of this gifted opportunity of a lifetime—from the photo shoot, camel rides and delectable food to dancing, friendship and laughter. Personally, I fed off the energy of this spectacular group of women, and made the most of each day, despite the exhaustion of the long days on this far-away journey. I took it all in.

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The facilitators of JWRP have asked how I planned to take what I learned and experienced back to my family, friends and clients. I can say with confidence that within the past five months from my return, I give more thought to my actions and interactions with others. I continue to think about what type of difference I can make with others, whether it is with my family and clients, the community, or my volunteer work with Dress For Success. Since my incredible journey, I have been more open and reflective to things I may not have wanted to think about or acknowledge in our changing world.  I am trying to be a better listener with clients, as I often feel the nervousness of a new client when working with them. I want my clients to know they are getting the best from me in our time spent together. And, I am hopeful that all my clients will always feel loved and never judged.

 

In the past, I have made New Year’s resolutions that involved better health and fitness habits, eating less chocolate (but, why?!), etc.  However, my intention for 2017 is different.  This year, I am resolving to take five minutes before jumping out of bed to acknowledge my intentions of the day and focusing on the idea that whatever the day brings, I will make the best of it. Also, I am resolved to ask nothing of myself that is unachievable, and to always be reminded that if I put my mind to something, it is attainable.

 

I wish you only the best and what you wish for yourself in the New Year!

 

From my closet to yours,

Suzanne Libfraind

Personal Shopper, SouthPark