Soul – the Dictionary definition is an emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance.
Maital Levitan personifies this artistic practice with a body of work that reveals an emotionally charged narrative. She is a fearless storyteller producing bold designs that are relevant with a rigor of technical innovation and experimentation, as witnessed by two of her collections, What’s Left Behind and Culture Osmosis. Maital dedicates her practice with an artistic hand and is part of a new generation who emphasize new principles of design that transcend fashion as an art.
Seattle, Washington born, raised in Israel, and currently based in Rome, Italy, Maital navigated her road to fashion graduating from 2 prestigious fashion schools – an undergraduate degree from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv and a Masters in “high fashion” Haute Couture from the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome – yet first served 5 years in the Israel Defence Force as Captain and Commander of the air traffic control tower. After her military service, with a life long attraction to fashion, culture, and the arts, her journey led her to fashion design.
Culture Osmosis is a story about identity – a journey of discovering who we are, breaking the rules of tradition, finding our own way in the world, searching for meaning, belonging, and freedom.
Who is Maital Levitan? With family roots in Israel, she talks about her upbringing in both Seattle and Israel. “My parents moved to Seattle from Israel in their early 20’s to study and be with my dad’s parents who worked there for a few years at that time. During those years, I was born and later, my younger brother. My grandparents moved back to Israel and we stayed in Seattle. My parents always knew that they would go back to Israel since all our family was there and they didn’t want us to grow up without being close to them. Every year they said it’s time to go back but it was always delayed, and when I turned 7 they decided that now is the time and I started 2nd grade in Israel. I have amazing memories from Seattle and my childhood, growing up with close friends that became family, getting to know different people and cultures and traveling around the world from a young age. These experiences played a huge part in who I am today.”
Family matters to Maital. It is evident the influence her cross-cultural upbringing and family relationship have had on her work. She talks about her unique closeness and a recent loss. “Being the firstborn daughter and granddaughter, I was very lucky to grow up with 4 grandparents until the age of 28. I was very close to my grandfather who passed away and it was a big loss for me.”
When it comes to her art, there is a soulful energy of depth, awareness, and astuteness. Our conversation explores her design practice and aspirations for the future.
Many people don’t view fashion as an art form. Maital, what are your thoughts on fashion as an artistic expression?
I see fashion as a way to express myself through a story, an idea, and I do see my clothes as a work of art. My approach to fashion is more couture and high-end ready to wear. I always choose the best high-end materials, pay attention to details, and, to make each piece one of a kind, include a personal touch of artisanal work.
Do you see your design practice as sculptor in cloth? Are you a fashion designer or artist or are they the same to you?
Fashion is sculpture on a body but it still needs to be wearable in some way – that’s why design is different than art. There is always a person behind the product, so it’s always in my mind to create something desirable that people would like to wear and feel good and special.
Family and identity are of high importance to you and with the passing of your grandfather you transferred that loss into a powerful collection, What’s Left Behind. What was it about your grandfather that inspired you to do this collection?
After my grandfather passed away, I started reflecting on life after death. Dealing with a present and disappearing world, the loss, the feeling of absence, “something is missing” and the marks left behind – someone was here just a second ago. The memories, the pictures in the gold frame, the feeling of home, the old clothes and belongings that are still there. I was also inspired by the dandelion flower (saba – grandfather in Hebrew) that scatters in time and creates new life.
It’s fascinating that you create your own fabrics. How did you create the dandelion design?
I first created the design for the prints of the dandelion in different scales and then I printed it using screen printing techniques with flock. Using a laser cut technique, I created a big plastic dandelion and many small ones and embroidered everything by hand combining many feathers for the big one and metallic studs for the small ones.
I like how you go deep in your storytelling of what you want to convey. I see the menswear influence in this collection but also a softness in your technical process of layering, with a juxtapose in materials.
I created a tailored women’s wear collection combining both “old soul” fabrics and delicate sheer materials. Oversize patterns inspired by bedding and pajamas using monochromatic light colors with deep colors and gold. Creating my own unique fabrics by using tone over tone layering techniques with printing, embroidery and pleating – the pleated the fabrics were made in a special factory for all pieces with pleats and I used gold foil printing. I wanted to create clothes with their own soul, combining the past and present with a vintage romantic touch.
What was your technique in creating the Feather Coat and the Knitted Long Jacket?
I took feathers from old bed pillows and printed gold foil on some of them. Then I filled sheer organza with the feathers and sewed everything like a puzzle. And for the knitted long jacket I used knitted trims that I stitched as stripes to my printed flock dandelion organza fabric and combined hand knitted finishings.
Ahh, the use of feathers from old bed pillows, what an inventive idea to re-purpose!
Let’s talk about your Culture Osmosis collection. The story communicates how fashion can transform identity and culture. Just from the title and execution you appear to go deep, here. Tell us about your vision.
My final collection for my Masters, Culture Osmosis, is a story about identity – a journey of discovering who we are, breaking the rules of tradition, finding our own way in the world, searching for meaning, belonging, and freedom. Moving from place to place as nomads of the universe and part of a “global tribe”, mixing and blending, transforming and becoming a new version of ourselves.
Did your multi-cultural roots inspire this collection?
Yes – being born in the USA and moving to Israel, having a “global family” and a mixed identity, were inspirations for this collection. I combined the shapes of my traditional origin – Poland with the modern tailoring of the 50’s back in NYC. Mixing textures and fabrics from both worlds – flowers, stripes and checks with embroidery and patchwork techniques.
I particularly like your mixed use of materials, for example your hand made embroidered lace patchwork over the woven wool jacket. Stunning!
I used amazing couture fabrics from the best factories in Italy that create fabrics for all the big Maisons. I combined the fabrics in different ways – as a mix of color blocks or in the details and finishings. For two outfits I cut by hand different lace pieces and I stitched them by hand creating a flower patchwork. For one of the embroidered jackets I cut plastic flowers from an old tablecloth and I embroidered them between 2 layers of fabric using thread, beads and sequins.
What are you doing now? How are you going about finding your way in the industry? Are you pursuing an independent career or job opportunity?
I’m currently in Rome, Italy. I just finished my Masters degree in Alta Moda Haute Couture from Academia Costume and Moda, considered one of the best schools in the world. It was an amazing year in which I learned a lot, met amazing people from all over the world, touched the most beautiful fabrics in the industry, created collections in collaboration with big companies in Italy such as Ricami Laura and Valentino, presented a design that I made for Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence and finally presented my final collection in Milan during Fashion Graduates Italia. I learned that sometimes life can be unexpected and full of good surprises so I’m now looking for the next adventure and opportunity. In the near future I will do an internship at a big Maison and I’m also planning to create another capsule collection for sale. The plan is to have an international career in the fashion world and I’m really excited for the future and the opportunities that will come along.
I’d also like to point out in this age of environmental crisis, Maital’s sustainable approach to her creations goes without notice in her use of biodegradable materials such as wool, cashmere, and silk and up-cycling vintage finds.
Congratulations Maital Levitan on your journey so far! EDGE wishes you continued success with your intelligent and sophisticated approach to fashion, the world needs it.
More on Maital Levitan – https://www.maitallevitan.com/
- What’s Left Behind – Photography- Rotem Lebel, Stylist- Haya Vider, MUA and Hair- Tal Davara, Model- Maria Shainer for R&R by Roberto and Rotem.
- Culture Osmosis – Photography- Simone Ammendola, Stylist- Stefania Pelliccioni, MUA and Hair- Cosimo Bellomo, Model- Martina J for Nur Model Management.