OUT OF THE BOOT Federica, a Fashionista in Tel Aviv

federicaBy Simone Somekh*

It’s 8:29, and Federica Manasse is in a hurry.
“Hold on, hold on one second,” she says on the phone, running out of breath. “I need to get on the bus.”

As soon as she pays her ride and finds the last free seat on the bus, she wears her earphones again and starts talking as if there had been no interruption. It’s probably the espresso shot she regularly has that makes her so active in the morning. “We have an event coming up next week, there’s so much work in the office right now,” she says. “After work I have to run to Hebrew class. They usually give me a lot of homework.”
“And then?” I ask. “Are you going home?”

“No,” she quickly replies. “I’m going to a party.”

Welcome to Federica Manasse’s life. 23 years old, born and raised in Rome, she moved to Tel Aviv earlier this year, after joining a Masa internship program. She had always wanted to make aliyah, but also intended to “do it properly,” as she stresses. Therefore, after she completed her degree in Fashion and Costume Sciences at La Sapienza University in the Italian capital, she grabbed her thick resume and flew to Israel, where she spent her first months learning Hebrew, traveling around the country, and interning at a fashion PR company.

“Out of 90 participants in the program, 40 of us stayed in Israel,” says Federica. “For me, it wasn’t so hard to adjust to this new life. Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city.”

A cosmopolitan city ― which offered Federica a job in the fashion industry just weeks after she had officially become an Israeli. The young fashionista is currently working in the marketing and public relations office of Yaniv Persy’s newly launched luxury jewelry line.
“My favorite thing about fashion is organizing events,” she explains. “And, of course, the adrenaline preceding a fashion show.”

Federica claims she inherited her passion for clothing from her grandmother, whom unsuccessfully tried to teach her to sew, but yet managed to transmit her the love for the field. Today she shops both in Rome and Tel Aviv (“I mostly wear in Tel Aviv what I buy in Rome, and vice-versa,” she confesses), and is often mocked for being too stylish in situations where fashion plays a very mere role. “Every time we would go hiking in the Negev desert with the Masa program, I didn’t have the right clothes for the occasion, so everyone would make fun of me.” Italians will be Italians, as they say.

A few nights later, I meet Federica at Kuli Alma, a hip and vibrant bar in South Tel Aviv, the heart of today’s art scene in the city.
Sipping a Mojito, she confesses two things about Israel she’ll never get used to: the pasta and the cocktails. “Israelis can’t do neither”.

From the smile that lights up her face, however, I can tell she loves it here.
“I already have my secret spots ― my little coffee places, my unique clothing stores,” she says. “But there’s always something new to discover in Tel Aviv.”

*Simone Somekh is a student at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and works as a freelance writer. Shirly Piperno, fashion styling and communication student at Istituto Marangoni, London, contributed reporting.