STEVE MEACHAM: Israeli-born jeweller Zohar Edelshtein, who lives in the Blue Mountains, is one of just eight designers invited to display their work at the annual FOMA event
WHEN JEWELLER ZOHAR Edelshtein’s eight models – seven females and one male, all dressed in white (“the colour of peace”) – strut their stuff on the catwalk, she’ll become the first Jewish designer to exhibit at the annual evening FOMA fashion show.
FOMA – Fabrics of Multicultural Australia – runs multiple events each year, but this one, held at the Australian National Maritime Museum on December 2, is the main event.
Eight designers – who live in Australia but represent different aspects of the cultural kaleidoscope that make up our modern nation – have been invited to display the diversity of fashion influences from multiple waves of migrants.
They are not only under the same roof but have often been helping each other plan the stalls during the daytime “Cultural Exhibit” event where different cuisines, fabrics and fashions will be on display.
Designers in the catwalk presentation this year represent countries as diverse as Chile, China, Korea, Ireland, and New Zealand Maori – all of whom have been endorsed by the relevant national embassy to be invited to an event sponsored by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
However, it is the two Middle Eastern countries taking part in this year’s event at the maritime museum that best embody the FOMA philosophy. Lebanon also has a designer participating alongside Israel.
This is what makes FOMA special,” says Edelshtein, who was born and raised in Israel but now lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
“As humans, we all need to move into a peaceful existence, experience each other’s needs and cultures, and try to do the best by all humanity.
“It’s not possible to take part in a fashion show like this in Israel or other places in the Middle East. But we can do it here in Australia.”
FOMA was established in 2018 by event organiser and entrepreneur Sonia Sadiq Gandhi, chief executive of Gandhi Creations, to promote emerging fashion artists and designers from minority cultures.
“The brief is to provide a collection with a sustainable angle, which is sellable online and which speaks to the designer’s journey and their culture,” explains Gandhi, who was born in India but moved to Australia 20 years ago.
Each catwalk designer is asked to provide eight “looks” with an option to provide a modern take on a traditional outfit on a mannequin at the daytime event.
The brief is to provide a collection with a sustainable angle, which is sellable online and which speaks to the designer’s journey and their culture.
Call it “fashion diplomacy”, because it is backed by DFAT to encourage cultural and trade links between Australia and the countries each designer represents.
“The Israeli Embassy was very eager to participate as soon as we got the invitation,” says Hila Oved, spokesperson from the Embassy of Israel, Canberra.
“FOMA is a great platform to showcase the beauty, culture and diversity of Israel to the people of Australia, and to generate trade opportunities – especially in the cultural sector.
“Israel constitutes a wide range of ethnicities, nationalities and religions and since FOMA highlights the culture and flavour of every participating country, it’s a great platform for people to see Israeli culture from another perspective: design.
“Zohar’s design aesthetic brings in a flair of modernity with an element of her faith in her jewellery. Our stall will also have Israeli snacks and jelly donuts. It will be Chanukah time!”
Edelshtein’s opening outfit will feature one of the largest and most intricate pieces of jewellery she has ever created.
At first glance it looks like medieval chain armour, but it is actually fashioned on the ritual breastplates worn by the High priests in Solomon’s Temple.
Now represented by “the Western Wall” – one of the most contentious religious sites in the world – what remains of Solomon’s temple is part of a triumvirate sacred to Jews, Christians (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and Muslims (Dome of the Rock).
“The High priest used to wear a breast plate, adorned with 12 precious stones, signifying the 12 Tribes of Israel or 12 paths of spiritual ascension,” Edelshtein explains.
“The 12 tribes had their disagreements, like families do. But they came together and lived in peace. Hence the name of my collection for FOMA 2021: Tribal Peace.
“We too in the modern world are disconnected. But here in Australia, designers representing Israel and Lebanon can come together in a safe space.”
Details: FOMA 2021: Australian National Maritime Museum, 2 Murray Street,
Sydney, December 2. Daytime Cultural Exhibit, 11am-3pm. Evening Runway Show,