October 19, 2003, Updated September 13, 2012

Israeli designer Sigal Dekel’s fashions will be among those on display at Rosebud.History will be made this week when the first American boutique to exclusively feature Israeli fashion designs opens in New York City. In addition to selling Israeli-made ready-to-wear, the Rosebud boutique will also offer Israeli handbags, jewelry, gifts, music and artwork.

“It’s a concept store,” explained Fern Penn, Rosebud’s owner. “Israeli fashion is as good as any in Paris or Milan. Our point is to show people that Israeli fashion is not what you think – it doesn’t have to be ethnic – it can be elegant.”

A week before the grand opening of Rosebud, a 1,000 square foot gallery like space in the trendy Soho district, Penn is already on the go at 8 am.

“I’m heading down to the store soon, we have another shipment coming in. I have to go over the inventory lists, and so many other things. It’s a little crazy, but I’m told it’s like this before you open any store,” she told ISRAEL21c from her Greenwhich Village home.

However, Penn promises that Rosebud won’t be just “any store.”

“Anybody with a sense of fashion will find something at the store. Obviously, American Jewish women will be the base, but I think it will appeal to the general population,” she said.

Penn conceived the idea for Rosebud over a two year period after she felt the need to do something to help the Israeli economy. Penn and her husband Leslie began making frequent solidarity trips, and Penn began importing ladies hats from Israel to New York.

“We began doing hat shows at synagogues, schools, and then started going to Israel fairs that began to take place during the current violence when American Jews were no longer visiting Israel and Israeli vendors were trying to sell their wares in the U.S. I had started wearing some of the clothes I’d picked up during my visits to Israel, and I was always getting compliments,” said Penn, a former buyer for Macy’s and Associated Dry Goods.

“In February, I went to Tel Aviv and looked into the fashion industry there, and it was phenomenal. There was also high fashion giftware and accessories. I kept on bringing items home, until I decided I can’t keep selling things out of my house, I needed a store.”

The Penns scoured New York for a location, finally settling on the sprawling space in Soho. She also began working closely with Hanna Kamionski, the marketing director for consumer products at the Israel Economic Mission in the U.S. who helped Penn conact the designers she was interested in and helped with suggestions.

“There is beautiful merchandise in Israel,” Kamionsky told the Jewish Week, citing graduates of the Shenkar School of Design in Tel Aviv as being the leading lights in Israeli fashion. “Jewish women shop, they have wonderful taste, but a lot of them don?t know about these designers.”

According to Penn, Rosebud will be featuring 14 Israeli designers including Eliane Stoleru, Kedem Sasson and Ronen Chen. It was a labor of love to locate the appropriate designers, and the result of a great deal of browsing.

“I bought fashion magazines in Israel and browsed through them looking for the clothing that seemed interesting. Then I would ask Hanna for the phone numbers of the designers, she would also recommend certain designers. Between us, we honed in on who I should see. And when I was in Tel Aviv, I would go up and down the streets looking for boutiques,” Penn said.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the designers. Everyone’s been eager to participate – for them it’s an opportunity to be showcased in New York in Soho. And it’s a total collection -we’re like a boutique within a boutique – each designer gets his own niche,” said Penn. “In addition we’ll be featuring accessories, handbags, hats, jewelry, and a rotating art exhibit which will change every six weeks. We worked with a silversmith in Jerusalem who does Judaica and the result is some very unique giftware, and we’ll also offer Israeli chocolate, and the top ten selling Israeli CDs.”

Penn is taking her one-woman mission of exposing the world to Israeli fashion and design seriously, but insists tastefulness and practicality will be of the essence.

“There will be things for everyone – the clothes are for real people,” Penn promised. “Whether you spend $90 or $900, you will have something chock full of style.”

(Rosebud’s grand opening takes place on October 21 at 131 Thompson St., New York)

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