Israeli designer Tal Arbel spent three years in a small Italian village mastering the art of leather shoemaking.
Today, several years later, she’s now the proud owner of Norman & Bella, an exclusive leather shoe boutique in the heart of Jaffa’s fashion scene.
“My inspiration for my designs changes in every collection,” Tal says. “I love seeing that the small alterations in each design, from new textures to the type of leather, completely changes the look of the shoe. In the summer especially, I’m inspired by the bright colors of Jaffa’s Flea Market and the Mediterranean Sea. My inspiration is everywhere in this town.”
Tal couldn’t be more right about her collections; each shoe in her beautifully designed boutique looks as if it were tailor-made for a queen, carefully crafted and cared for until it met her creative vision.
“All of my shoes are manufactured in Israel, but the leather comes directly from Italy. I go to Italy every six months to hand-pick the leathers. I feel deeply involved in each step of the process, which guarantees that each shoe is made at the highest quality.”
Originally from the Tel Aviv suburb of K’far Saba, Tal’s family is very supportive of her work and creative ambition. Her twin sister even comes into the studio every week to assist her.
“The name ‘Norman & Bella’ is partially named after my father, Norman. He has always supported me in my fashion career and I can’t imagine having my store without him. The name “Bella” comes from the time I spent in Italy. While I was studying there, my teachers often called me ‘Bella’ since my last name is ‘Arbel’, so I decided to name my studio after these two important pieces of my story.”
Tal’s face lights up when asked about Jaffa, the chosen location for her praised studio.
“I’m deeply in love with old cities, such as Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa. In fact, Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa may be the only three cities in Israel that thrive on the balance of rich history and modernity. It makes the atmosphere feel almost mythical. Yes, all of Israel is biblical, but I sense it much more in Jaffa.”
Tal also feels very connected to Jaffa’s diversity, and finds inspiration in the fusion of cultures that influence Jaffa’s rich atmosphere.
“Just on Norman & Bella’s block, there are Israeli, European and American residents, many of whom are living very creative and unique lives. It’s so stimulating to constantly meet locals who have chosen to live in Jaffa in order to be a part of its unique culture.”
Jaffa’s designer community is very close as well, Tal says.
“There are so many designers here in Jaffa, and we’ve been able to form a close knit community that’s very supportive of one another.”
She feels especially close Kav and Ma’ayan Paz, with whom she shares her studio space.
“It’s incredibly inspiring to be amongst such creative and interesting thinkers,” Tal says. “Jaffa is a designer's heaven, and I’m not surprised that so many have chosen to open their stores here instead of Tel Aviv or other places.”
Contributed by Lena Elkins