Stepping off the plane in 1949 with her husband Armin, Lea Gottlieb had already survived more than anyone could ever imagine. While Armin was toiling at a labor camp, she and her young daughters, Judith and Miriam survived the Nazis by moving from hiding place to hiding place, all across Budapest. When the need arose to venture out, Lea always carried a bouquet of flowers with her, so when she saw a Nazi, she’d slip her head into the bouquet, and appear like a common peasant girl.
After the war, and once reunited with her husband, the two opened a raincoat factory in Czechoslovakia. But, like many other survivors, their hearts yearned for Zion, so, together with their daughters, they picked up what little belongings they had and moved to Haifa.
With money borrowed from friends and family, the Gottlieb’s plan was to open a similar raincoat factory and continue production. Not realizing that Israel only sees about 2-3 months of rain a year, the venture failed. Refusing to give up her entrepreneurial spirit and her plethora of water-repellent textiles, in 1956, with her husband’s help, Lea shifted from raincoats to swimwear and founded Gottex. Her designs were beautiful and distinctly Israeli, with her inspiration stemming from, “the golden yellow of the desert, the aqua of the Mediterranean, the pink of Jerusalem stone, the blue of Lake Tiberias and the greens of the Galilee.” Her innovative swimsuits (the first to use Spandex), were also adorned with various flower motifs, as an homage to the blooms that saved her life.
As of 2009, Gottex is worth an estimated 88 million shekels (US $22.6 million) and continues to set the bar for innovation in the swimwear market. Lea Gottlieb’s success story epitomizes so many Israelis in the Start up Nation precisely because of it’s unconventional beginnings and willingness to take risks, while constantly continuing to innovate.
In memory of the seventh year of her passing, and as tribute to her entrepreneurial spirit, I’m sharing up-and-coming Israeli Fashion tech startups that are harnessing the spirit of Lea Gottlieb’s enduring resilience to move the fashion industry forward.
Here are the six companies you need to follow:
Zeekit -Dynamic virtual fitting room, giving every person the chance to see themselves in any item of clothing found online. Like many Israeli startups, this one found its inspiration from the founders’ topography mapping in the IDF.
Donde – Have you ever seen someone wearing a beautiful dress but were too shy to ask where it was from? Me too! It’s the ultimate struggle. Now, thanks to Donde, you can search for THAT dress. By eliminating complicated filters and text searches. Think of it as mood boards come to life. (virtually speaking).
Twine -A proprietary and revolutionary digital on-demand thread dyeing system and a digital dye-to-match color application. This disruptive technology effectively eliminates the long, messy, cumbersome conventional bulk dyeing of thread that is common practice today.
Syte – This startup uses visual artificial intelligence to turn any online image of a fashion item into a clickable purchasing opportunity. Imagine being able to “add to cart” right from Pinterest! Dreams do come true…
Ask Lily – Ever dreamed of having a personal stylist only to check your bank account and realize you only have enough for that extra side of guac? Ask Lily gets you. With its AI technology that learns each user’s particular fashion style and preference, it helps you find your perfect clothing matches and saves them all in a neat little online boutique. Thanks, Lily!
EZface – There are two types of women in this world. The one who zealously collects every eyeshadow palette without abandon and the one who’s been wearing the same shade of brown and kind-of-brown since high school. (The latter being myself). For those of us who fall into the second camp, EZface is here to help. EZface lets you virtually try out new make up and hair color products before committing to them, IRL.
In memory of the incomparable Lea Gottlieb, z”l (September 17, 1918- November 17, 2012).