In the fashion world, there’s a sweet spot for designers somewhere between being outdated, too far ahead of a trend or too late jumping in. Beverly Luchfeld, a Teaneck-based designer of women’s Shabbos robes, is finding her niche, creating dresses that appeal to both longtime fans and a younger crowd guided by social media influencers.
Luchfeld began making elegant, long dressy outfits known as Shabbos robes 30 years ago. The popularity of the robes, worn by observant women to be comfortable yet beautiful at home for Shabbos, started to wane over the years as young women started dressing more casually. “Brides used to get Shabbos robes as gifts from their mothers and mothers-in-law, and young women emulated their mothers,” she said. “But then I saw the market changing drastically. Women found them old fashioned, part of the old guard. I had to redefine what girls wanted so I started making maxi dresses.”
While Shabbos robe as a concept was losing its luster, maxi dresses have skyrocketed in popularity. This summer, Luchfeld decided to reach out to younger women by bringing in Chaya, a savvy Orthodox student intern who knew what girls liked and how to reach them.
Chaya organized fashion shoots for social media, using her peers as models to show off Raza Designs’ summer line. She featured outfits that caught her eye and posed the models so they exuded a contemporary, fresh vibe. “I put dresses in the best light to appeal to any consumer,” she said. “Raza Designs has such variety. I picked the colors and prints I liked—there are so many different styles and patterns.” Chaya said her goal was to show the styles in a way that enabled girls to imagine themselves wearing those outfits.
With most of the students who wanted to be models off to Israel, Luchfeld and Chaya used mannequins to showcase the fall season’s transitional looks—cozy and comfortable but not too heavy—and the winter line with rich velvets and textures. “They’re comfortable enough for relaxing in, but I also have one to wear to a wedding,” said Chaya.
Luchfeld said that this year, her maxi dresses are perfect for those hosting outdoor minyanim at Rosh Hashanah and then serving a meal. “I know many people getting tents for a minyan with 20-30 people, and they are inviting some to stay.”
Luchfeld gets her design inspiration by looking at trends in the larger fashion world. Elegant clothing took a hit when the pandemic cancelled group social events, so Luchfeld began seeking a balance between not-too-fancy and beautiful. She loves styles that can be made modest by layering. “I meld what I think is in style and what customers would like,” she said. “But I’m not always right; sometimes I’m too ahead of the curve.” In the last few weeks, she has sold pieces she had for a few seasons that didn’t move but are now in demand. And she updates what has done well the season before. “I take best sellers and convert the fabrics,” she explained. “Last summer there was more gold, this year there’s more silver.”
She is seeing a lot of knitted tops and skirts now. Luchfeld only makes dresses, but is including some knits into the collection. While velvet was always a big seller, this year she is doing more of a variety of textures, fabrics and prints. She will modify garments for clients as everyone’s definition of modesty is different. And weather plays a role. In snowier climates like Montreal, women wear more midi lengths with boots so their hems don’t drag in the snow.
Luchfeld likes to include zippers for nursing mothers—but unless you needed that zipper, you wouldn’t know that was the purpose. “None of the dresses look like maternity clothing; you could wear them anywhere,” she said.
In the constant cycling of fashion in and out of favor, Shabbos robes are also making a comeback in Luchfeld’s home territory of Teaneck. She is seeing a growing Lubavitch community where women wear the robes and are influencing other women in the area. She’s also seeing girls come back from seminary where they began wearing Shabbos robes and want to continue.
Whether it’s a Shabbos robe or maxi dress—if you’re looking for long, beautiful and comfortable, try Raza Designs. Luchfeld said she is not taking custom orders now but she has plenty of inventory and it’s all on sale, ready to ship for the holidays. She suggests putting your size into the search engine on her website https://www.razadesigns.com to see what is available. To make an appointment to try on clothing call 917-586-1146. Luchfeld will explain her COVID safety protocols. Follow Raza Designs on Instagram @raza_robes.
By Bracha Schwartz