Sapir Bachar, a fashion designer based in Tel Aviv, is inspired by the duality that is inherent to cultural concepts. Her designs explore the contentions between perfection and imperfection, humor and seriousness, and past and present, just to name a few. Her unique vision, coupled with an intimate understanding of construction and textiles, makes Bachar one of the most innovative emerging designers working. For her latest collection, she drew inspiration from a series of works by British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman called “Insult to Injury.” The Chapmans used eighty original 19th century etchings from Francisco Goya’s famous “Disasters of War” series, painting over the victims’ heads with cartoonish pastel faces. Bachar was curious to examine the opposing ideas of creation and defacement, and how the two can sometimes coexist.
The result of Bachar’s well-directed curiosity is a stunning collection that includes intricately beaded bodices, luxurious furs, and patches of leopard. Instead of traditional stitched seams, Bachar makes use of small metal hook enclosures to create a suture-like effect. Silhouettes like a peplum pencil skirt and a pink leather mini layered over a red maxi inject are as playful as they are flattering. One of the collections standout looks is a dress that features a basic white crew neck on top and a paint-like printed skirt on bottom. This idea of mixing high and low, dressy and casual elements is just another quality that fascinates Bachar’s aesthetic.
Your designs emphasize duality in cultural concepts like bad taste and good taste, perfection and imperfection, and so on. How do you find equilibrium between such opposing ideas?
I feel that more than achieving an equilibrium between the two opposing ideas or cultural concepts, it’s the tension and clashing between them that make the pieces work and perhaps its the uncertainty or blurred lines – where you are not sure whether you find it ugly or beautiful, high brow or low brow etc. that create a certain balance or equilibrium.
How do you work? Do you begin with a concept and then draft designs or the other way around? What is the most challenging part of the process?
I usually start out with the initial concept and then try to expand on that by searching for visual inspiration that I feel can magnify and serve the idea. Then I start looking for materials and fabrics whilst playing around with draping, sketching and creating combinations with the materials I have found, this process is quite a long, back and forth affair, and involves a lot of trial and error, tweaking the inspiration and choices of materials. As I progress I always try to take a step back to question my choices and see the bigger picture and most importantly to make sure the idea I set out to talk about is present in the garment.
Living in Israel, conflict is something you must encounter everyday. Has this conflict between ideologies, religions, and lifestyles shaped your thinking?
Living in Israel has undoubtedly shaped the way I think, and it does have a lot to do with the examples you mentioned. What I do feel has shaped and pushed me most as a designer is that, as an Israeli, I always felt like a part of some kind of cultural or design underdog, so I always felt a need to work harder, succeed and prove myself. Also the lack of materials and fabrics available in Tel Aviv always pushed me to think outside of the box and try and be creative with the materials I chose to to convey my ideas.
With such an emphasis on opposites, how do you keep yourself from seeing things as black and white?
Like I said before, though I do use and incorporate opposites in my work, it’s the grey areas I find most interesting, the blurred lines and the tension between two worlds that wouldn’t normally go together (but somehow coexist) is what I am usually drawn to.
Where do you do your best thinking? Is there a place in Tel Aviv—or anywhere else in the world—that is a source of particular inspiration for you?
My best thinking is mostly done in the midst of the creating or designing process, alone in my work room, with the mess of fabrics and sketches around me. I never can form an idea just in theory and always have to test it out or play around with it.
Who or what is your biggest artistic inspiration?
I know this an odd pairing of artists, but it’s Francisco Goya and Sofia Coppola that I consider my biggest artistic inspirations. What I love most about them is how they both try to capture beauty and aesthetic in unconventional ways, while not being afraid to expose their own fears and vulnerability.
What is the most thrilling aspect of fashion design?
The most thrilling aspect for me is the search and discovery of unexpected combinations that come with working with materials. This is what drives my process and enables me to form the ideas I want to convey.
Your attention to detail, like your use of metal hook enclosures as seams, is innovative. How do you always ensure that you are pushing boundaries?
I am always following contemporary fashion to see what is out there and what my favorite designers are up to, it is important to me that I am updated and aware of what’s being done around me in the fashion world. In the case of the metal hooks it was derived from the concept and inspiration of the project, its an interpretation of the visual material I was working with at the time (mainly the work of Francis Bacon). I am never really sure that I am in fact pushing boundaries, but it is always very important for me to that I try.
Your work draws considerable inspiration from art and literature. How do you ground such abstract ideas in wearable pieces without crossing the line into costume-wear?
Art as inspiration has become somewhat of a necessity for my work process; however, I do always try to keep in mind the women that would wear my designs, and what she would want to wear. This usually keeps my designs in the realm of ready to wear and couture. No matter how abstract or philosophical my concepts and ideas may be it is important to me that the end result is a sexy, desirable and cool looking piece.
Your website flows sort of like a mood board—with inspiration images meshed in with those of your own designs. Would you say this is a representation of your stream of thought?
The site reflects my work process more than it does my stream of thought. It was important to me to show the inspirations and materials that led me on my path because they are, for me, an integral part of the final collections.