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 Left to Right: Danielle with Sharon Tal, Head Designer of Maskit; Two-piece diamond and gold feather ring by Merav Rachmanov; FT&V jewelry photo shoot in Tel Aviv.


By Danielle Crittenden Frum

I’m writing this newsletter on the return flight from Tel Aviv. Already I'm missing the sun and youthful vibe of that city. I feel a bit like an old peddler, carrying with me a suitcase full of samples and wares. To visit new artisans, I've walked so much over the past 10 days that I’m actually limping. A twisted toe reduced me to hobbling about in my battered gym shoes . Fortunately Israel is a casual place. No one looked askance at my footwear, not even Sharon Tal, the stylish head designer of the Israeli fashion house, Maskit. 
Fig Tree & Vine is not yet a year old. We launched at Passover  2015 with a small, opening line of Jewish-oriented and artisanal products. I've been building our collections ever since. We offer an ever-growing array of beautiful items, curated from the most talented Jewish artisans and designers working today – many if not most based in Israel. After this latest trip, we have many, many more to offer. 
Among the highlights from Tel Aviv: One of my first shopping stops is always Maskit.  The brand's headquarters occupies a historic house in the American-German-Colony section of the city. As I wrote last week, the brand was founded in 1945 by Ruth Dayan, the wife of the great general and politician, Moshe Dayan. Ruth originally created Maskit to employ and empower impoverished immigrant women, by encouraging them to make use of their native arts. Maskit's iconic "Desert Coat" was adopted by celebrities worldwide in the 1960s. In 2010, the brand was revived by head designer Sharon Tal, an Israeli who worked for Lanvin and Alexander McQueen before returning home. 

I visit the store often to admire Maskit's long, flowing and perfectly tailored silk dresses. But this time, I was amazed by something new: housewares that Sharon, and her business-partner husband Nir, are creating in partnership with local artisans. Continuing the mission of the original Maskit, Sharon's leather-trimmed platters and serving bowls are handmade by Bedouin women in the south of Israel. I delighted in Sharon's ceramic candle holders and single-flower vases made from random desert stones. And of course there's Maskit's marvelous accessories, including leather bags embedded with patterns of beads inspired by the Dead Sea and lavish silk scarves printed with Sharon's own paintings. Currently, you can buy these items only at Maskit's Tel Aviv's boutiques -- or at Sharon's occasional North American trunk shows. We'll soon bring a selection to Fig Tree & Vine, where they'll be available to you without the air travel - or the risk of toe injury. 

More designer highlights: We’re expanding our collections of jewelry to include Tel-Aviv-based designer Merav Rachmanov. Merav sells her exquisite pieces only via private trunk shows on her visits to New York, London, and Paris. Now those pieces are coming also to Fig Tree & Vine.  Marev is curating a line for FT&V that will include some chic Jewish-themed necklaces and bracelets (think: a diminutive Star of David made of black diamonds - or see the two-part diamond ring, photographed above.) 

We're excited to welcome a collection of Judaica by minimalist designer Laura Cowan, whose work is exhibited around the world - and for sale here at FT&V.  Ditto fun, graphic mezuzahs by Dov Abramson. FT&V is right now pulling together our Purim and Passover campaigns -- stay tuned. 

"Dune" Passover plate by Laura Cowan; a playful mezuzah by Dov Abramson.

Many of you contact me about ideas for gifts, especially for bar and bat mitzvah teens. I kept that idea in mind throughout my trip. We've long offered men's tallitot, handwoven by artisans in the Ancient Jewish Quarter and the Negev desert. Now I've expanded that collection to include exquisitely embroidered prayer shawls for women and girls, also handwoven by Israeli artisans. They're so pretty you'll be tempted to wear them as wraps outside the synagogue too.  I found ancient Jewish coins -- set as 14k gold or sterling silver pendants and cufflinks -- at Ophir, a third-generation jewelry and antique store on Jerusalem's Jaffa Street. Back in the old Jewish Quarter I stopped by The Fifth Quarter, an artisan collective run by a very spiritual man named Yehuda Kremer. The Fifth Quarter serves as both a studio and gallery shop. Most of the time a scribe hunches over a desk in the middle of the gallery, patiently handwriting scrolls for mezuzahs and other religious documents. I’m always trying to find architecturally beautiful mezuzahs. Here I came across  mezuzahs carved from Jerusalem stone by Sharon Sadan: ancient materials, modern simplicity. We will start carrying those, as well as scrolls for all our mezuzahs handwritten by Jerusalem scribes under the observant eye of Yehuda.
There’s more still – but I won't announce all the surprises at once.  Our last working day in Tel Aviv was spent in a studio, photographing all the new products for the site – and even styling our first fashion shoot, thanks to my eldest daughter Miranda Frum. Miranda is a fashion model and journalist, who also serves on occasion as FT&V’s Fashion & Style Editor. Many of the new pieces we’re adding, whether jewelry or fashion, have been selected by Miranda herself, including some uber-fashionable Boho chokers by Yemenite jeweler, Ben-Zion David. We also had the fun of crafting a unique scent for FT&V with master mixologist Shahar Schwartz, of Perfuniq, in Jerusalem. Miranda asked Shahar if he could come up with a perfume reminiscent of sitting outside at a Tel Aviv cafe on a summer evening.

"You can always smell flowers in the air," she said dreamily.

"You can leave out the cigarette smoke," I added.

Shahar perused his Harry Potter-like shelves of potions. He mixed a concoction for us in a small vial. After a few sniffs and adjustments, he dipped a sample on a cardboard stick.

"Mmm," Miranda said. She passed it to me. I agreed: it smelt floral, hot, and youthful, like the city itself.

This scent will be available for our new exclusive line of candles, diffusers, room sprays and perfumes, all hand-mixed for our customers by Shahar.

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