Style: Q+A with The Hellers

October 29, 2008

Brother-sister duo Dania and Yoram Heller know how to keep it in the family. Their LA-via-Tel Aviv-based clothing line The Hellers, may cover vast distances (and cultures) but it doesn't keep them from creating modern styles in retro-fitted deadstock fabrics. Juxtaposing east with west in not just their California-bred styles but their Israeli fashion experience, the Hellers have managed to make jewels from what most would consider played styles. We talked with them over the phone—in a conference call crossing nine time zones—to see how they make it work.

How did The Hellers get started?

Yoram Heller: When Dania was twenty-six, she decided she wanted to go back to fashion school. We’ve always had this kind of relationship where we complimented each other really well. Right when she was finishing fashion school I was finishing at NYU and then there was this kind of phase where she came back to LA and was figuring out what to do.

Dania Heller: I was home in LA working at a jean factory…

YH: She’s a lot better then working at a jeans place. So we just started doing some stuff on our own. I would say in earnest, it really started in March of this year while I was visiting Dania after her move to Israel. That’s when we decided to really focus on it.

Israel is where you find all the deadstock fabric that you use?

DH: Tel Aviv has these amazing stores that are from the forties and fifties, and they have been passed down from generation to generation. There are material stores with amazing materials, and it’s just so inspiring. I use a lot of jacquard and polyester left behind from the early eighties. The cool thing about Israel is that it’s so close to Europe, so they get all the deadstock from there.

YH: I think what happens is they have all these extra materials- whether Swiss or German or Italian—and there is a non-competitive clause in their contracts where they can’t sell these extra materials. Israel is the second closest thing to selling in Europe so it all ends up there…

DH: It’s funny because in Tel Aviv if there is a hit, then everyone copies each other. I feel like I find all these materials that I haven’t seen anyone using, like they were experiments that didn’t work out.

When you find a material do you automatically know you want it to be a dress or jacket?

DH: In the end it becomes a multitude of things. There are times where I know I’m making a dress and I need to find materials that work for it and then I’m on a mission, and then there are other times it’s just your lucky day. I had this happen to me a few times where I designed the collection in my mind just from seeing a material that showed up. It helps me to decide what I want to do next.

Is that how you came up with the acid wash collection?

DH: That’s a whole other story. I wanted to do it for my final project at fashion school.

YH: It’s literally impossible in Israel to find acid wash. In LA there are like 45 places that do it, and they do it in half a day. When you go to Israel, and say, “I wanna do acid wash.” They’re like, “What? What is this!” They have no idea what you’re talking about.

DH: That’s what’s hard and amazing in Tel Aviv. It’s really small and people are not willing to try things that aren’t in the trend, but at the same time I think that’s why I can find all this stuff, because people don’t see how amazing it is.

You guys are pretty far away from each other, so how do you make this work?

YH: It’s pretty much split up in two. I’ve learned to trust Dania to the ends of the earth and she’s ninety-nine point nine percent of the time right. In terms of designing I’m more of a consultant then a designer. I know that I have a pretty good eye, so we’re usually on the same page. I handle the overarching business strategy and marketing sort of thing.

DH: I feel like we get more done when we’re not together too, because we have space to do what we need to do without anyone watching over. Then, when we’re ready, we get in touch. It works out really well. But it’s great when Yoram comes to Tel Aviv, because then we have a pow-wow session.

YH: There is a certain kind of trust that you can have with your sibling that you can’t have with other people. When you fight or have issues, you still know the next day you’ll be related to them no matter what. It’s not like "The Hellers" will ever literally end, at least not until one of us passes away.

Posted: October 29, 2008
Style: Q+A with The Hellers