March 28, 2013

One day when Sharon Jerusalmy was Internet surfing, she came across the most surprising find: American pop icon Christina Aguilera was holding one of Jerusalmy’s handmade fabric fans. Not one, but three of the Israeli designer’s limited-edition hand fans accessorized Aguilera’s outfit in four episodes of the TV reality show The Voice.

A photo of Aguilera holding Jerusalmy’s fan style named “Stay Cool: Look Hot” was prominently displayed on the star’s Facebook page.

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“I didn’t even know about it until I was searching online and came across a picture of her and a fan of mine. I was shocked,” recalls Jerusalmy. “Then I investigated my orders through my online shop Etsy and saw where it came from. Her stylist apparently bought the fans without telling me what they were for,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

The former PR pro, now 53, knew the channels for getting celebrity product placements, but Jerusalmy had never expected such a thing to happen with no effort. It’s all been a big boost to her dream of making her Fancy Hand Fans, available in 27 designs, a must-have fashion accessory for their aura of beauty and romance.

Waving for a comeback

About four years ago, Jerusalmy decided to quit the world of high-tech PR and do something new. The idea for her fan company hatched at a hot, humid Tel Aviv café sidewalk where she was sitting with her daughter Rachel.

A fan for every outfit. Photo by Benny Doutsh
A fan for every outfit. Photo by Benny Doutsh

Most restaurants and homes in Tel Aviv are air conditioned, but not outdoor patios. Jerusalmy started fanning herself with a newspaper and thought that there must be a better way.

She recalled her late mother-in-law’s remarkable collection of antique hand fans and, with her daughter, started formulating a plan to make their own small business.

It’s been three years since the company started, and the small business is a labor of love.

“I really feel it is the time for the comeback of the fan,” Jerusalmy tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s ecological and it’s green. My fans are not plastic but are made of wood and cotton. These things are important to me. A good quality item is not going to be used twice and then thrown away. It’s something you can put in a bag and take out when you feel like it, if you go to a theater or somewhere where it’s really hot. I am very passionate about fans.”

Some 27 designs are currently available. Photo by Benny Doutsh
Some 27 designs are currently available. Photo by Benny Doutsh

There are other hand fan makers on the market, like the French firm Duvelleroy. But unlike the costly price of €2,000 for a model with real feathers and mother of pearl, a Fancy Hand Fan costs about $20.

They can be found at a dozen Tel Aviv boutiques in the spring and summer in Israel. The fans can also be purchased online through the crafty site Etsy.

Shy, but willing?

Some sources say that in 17th century England and Spain, hand fans conveyed an unspoken language — especially for young women looking to court men around the watchful eyes of the chaperon.

Jerusalmy and daughter Rachel, whose lunch launched the idea.
Jerusalmy and daughter Rachel, whose lunch launched the idea.

Fans allegedly could be angled in certain ways to communicate messages such as, “I am interested,” “Let’s meet outside” or “I am single.”

The notion of such a courtship language intrigued Jerusalmy, though she doesn’t think it will be revived in our more permissive times. She does hope, however, that fans as a fashion accessory will become just as prominent and important to women as bracelets and belts.

Her designs include retro styles, animal prints and pop fashion. She releases new designs every season and attempts to match them to the colors in stores and in peoples’ closets.

Jerusalmy hails from Manchester, England. She is a mother of two and grandmother to one, and lives in Tel Aviv with her French-Israeli husband, author Rafael Jerusalmy. He wrote Saving Mozart (Sauver Mozart) in French, soon to be translated into English. Both of them immigrated to Israel in the 1980s and met in a Hebrew language course.

Growing up in Manchester, Jerusalmy never actually saw the fan culture of the olden days. “Absolutely not – nobody was using fans back then,” she says. But if she has her way, everyone from America to England to Israel will be clutching one in the near future.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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