Hi, when Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquiere showed in his Spring/Summer 2000 collection a blouse framed with a Kafiya-fabric ruffle which was also featured in the U.S. Vogue - I bet you didn't realize that the first person to use this Beduine scarf as a fashion fabric was Israeli designer Rozi Ben-Yosef. Up to that point in 1967, the Kafiya was a Beduine Scarf, the roots of which goes back to biblical times. Israel's early settlers who regarded it as a local accessory which related to their middle-eastern cultural sources liked it and during the Palmach period it became the coolest accessory around doned even by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
In 1967, after Israel's exposure to the exotic garb of the Beduines of the Sinai desert and of east Jerusalem - Rozi Ben-Yosef, an innovator always on the look-out for new local textiles to work with, saw in the use of the Kafiya fabric also a peace gesture to Israel's Arab neighbours. She contacted an east-Jerusalem manufacturer of the Kafiya scarves and convinced him to manufacture it by the yard suggesting various new color combinations in addition to the black and white, and red and white existing options. The marvelous kaftans she had created from it, embellished by embroidery were a great success overseas, getting rave reviews and starring in the windows of "Bergdorf Goodman" and "Harrods."
Other Israeli designers followed in her footsteps and created various dresses and pants outfits from this lovely light fabric. One of them was Simi Lederman Elbaz whose kafiya's fabric Boubou Simi became in the 70s the hit of Eilat's Club Mediterranee's boutique. So popular were her colorful kaftans dipped in Eilat's shades of violet, turquoise, clear green, yellow, white, orange and red that when Paris couturieres Andre Courrege and Ted Lapidus visited Eilat's Club Mediterranee they didn't leave before tucking in their suitcases Simi's Kafiya Kaftans.
In the above photos: On top: a Sami Ben-Gad photo of Simi Lederman Elbaz's 1974 Club Mediterranee collection. Under it: A Ben Lam's image of Rozi Ben-Yosef's 1967 Kafiya fabric kaftans. Photos are from the album-book "שיכרון עיצובים - אמנות האופנה בישראל 1948-2008", "Israel Fashion Art 1948-2008" by Nurit Bat-Yaar, Resling Publishing.