Toddle to The Beach with Ugly Duckling

Interviewing Gal Angel, the designer and founder of Israel’s unique beachwear brand Ugly Duckling, was like a dip in the sea: refreshing and fun. Gal hosted me in her studio – which happens to be her home as well, and she told me the story of her label, her family and her artistic approach. In a nutshell: “At least 70% of one’s life should be spent on the beach.”  

Your studio is incredible! I love the way you made it so homey, yet professional. Looking at your mother’s sketches on the wall it seems like you were born into fashion.

Yes I was. My mom wasn’t a fashion designer but a sawing women, and a teacher of sawing. She made all her clothes, and ours as well, when we were kids.

Did she try to teach you?

Sure she did, but I wasn’t interested. A few years later when I showed her my first designs she was shocked. She said “wow, you are so brave, that you dare to do something that you never studied! And you are so good at it!”.

So you didn’t study fashion, ever?

Never. I did a technical course, but my real school was working for an Israeli fashion house. I prefer to teach myself. I think the best way to learn is to do the work and pay attention on my costumers need.

Why did you decide to design focus on swimwear?

I love to go to the sea, I think I spent most of my life on the beach, and I just never found myself the perfect bathing suit. When I decided to found my own label, there were so many fashion designers, but no swimwear.

What is your approach when you are designing a new model?

My main approach is beauty. I always try on the prototypes, and I’m not a model myself – big ass and small boobs. I want my designs to fit perfectly on any type of body.

There are lots of ladies like this abroad as well… are you selling internationally?

Yes, in the past two years I do – in Europe and in the States. The fashion scene here in Israel is really special, lots of good things are happening here, but we are a bit isolated. So I recently decided to put more energy in the online marketing, especially for abroad sales.

How did the name “Ugly Duckling” pop into your mind?

When people ask me why do I have to have the word “ugly” in my label’s name I always tell them: eventually the ugly duckling turned out to be the most beautiful one. The name came to me on a class of my course, where we needed to prepare a logo for our future brand – this was ten years before I created my label. There was a lot of brain storming about the name, and suddenly it popped into my mind that I actually have my name already.

I can see you are designing dresses as well…

I have about three models which are so popular that every year costumers requesting them. So I always create them in different colors, made of different fabrics. I also add some new models as a part of a limited edition collection. My swimwear line is different. My costumers know that if they miss a new model, they cannot have it next year. What always connects all the seasons and all the models is the vintage-feeling.

You also have a lingerie collection. Are people comfortable buying lingerie online?

Sure they are, because they know that they can send it back and ask for a different size, if it doesn’t fit. Most of my costumers are young and very fashionable mothers, and they simply don’t have time to go out shopping. So they buy online.

Did you set someone as an inspiration? I know Lea Gottlieb was the queen of beachwear in Israel.

She is an inspiration to me. What she did is amazing. She was the biggest exporter of Israeli fashion, and she was designing beautiful things. At the beginning it really was like art. I also love Betty Page, I adore her.

Every collection has a special theme?

Yes, last year it was Olympics, and this year it’s super heroes.

What do you think was your greatest achievement as a professional? 

When Tel Aviv celebrated it’s 100th birthday the Israeli Embassy in Vienna invited me to participate in a fashion show, that was really cool. In Israel I’ve been in several magazines. Last year I had a two page article in HaAretz featuring my designs. Oh, and my swimwear appeared on the Vogue Italy online as well.

So what‘s next for Ugly Duckling?

My plan is to build an online store on my website. I just don’t feel like opening a physical store, I think that’s not me. When a company is growing it’s very important to be faithful to the roots, so you won’t loose the costumers who like the way you are… and also to bring new ones. I think the most exciting brands came from a small group of people who understand fashion and who has an impact on other people’s style. But the important things is that while we are growing we must keep the identity of the origins.

All Instagram photos are taken by me at Gal Angel’s studio. Follow me in Istagram for daily eye candy from Tel Aviv. All other photos are from the official Ugly Duckling catalog, 2013 summer. Ugly Duckling by Gal Angel Online StoreUgly Duckling by Gal Angel Official Facebook PageUgly Duckling by Gal Angel Official Homepage

Follow me for daily updates on my Facebook page. It’s a fun and growing group. Visit me on on Twitter and Tumblr as well. 

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