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Israeli jeweler brings her ‘fantasy’ to NJ
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Israeli jeweler brings her ‘fantasy’ to NJ

As a huge fan of the romantic, Victorian-style jewelry fashioned by Israel’s Michal Negrin, I jumped at the chance to cover the opening of her new store in Garden State Plaza in Paramus.

New Jersey’s largest mall is now home to a store exclusively dedicated to the designer’s lines of jewelry, clothing, accessories, and home decor. It is the first of 24 stores owned and operated by Michal Negrin USA Inc. to open in the United States, with the next one expected to open in Manhattan’s SoHo district by the end of the year. (Other Michal Negrin stores are owned by independent distributors, including one in Atlantic City’s Pier Shops outside Caesar’s Palace, and others in Boston and Los Angeles.)

The timing of the opening, Friday evening, June 21 — just a couple of hours before the start of Shabbat, and continuing through Saturday — presented a bit of a challenge for me. But since Shabbat didn’t technically start until after 8 p.m., I figured I could make my preparations before heading out to the store. So I arrived at 5 — wearing my favorite Michal Negrin necklace and earrings. I guess I wasn’t the only one to make special accommodations to be able to attend the opening — I heard another shopper say she had already set her Shabbat table!

Oren Heiman, an investor representing Michal Negrin USA, told me Paramus was chosen because Bergen County is home to affluent Jewish, Asian, and Israeli communities, a good source of potential customers.

At the opening, surrounded by people chatting in Hebrew, and listening to Negrin’s remarks initially presented in Hebrew (while trying to translate them in my head), I indeed felt transported to Tel Aviv.

But although all her products are made in Israel, nothing in the store — apart from a few decorative ritual items and the new mezuza on the entranceway — specifically shouts Israel or Judaism. The bases of Negrin’s jewelry, all handmade, are made from a mixture of metals coated with brass, lace, or leather combined with glass beads and Swarovski crystals.

“Live the Fantasy” is the designer’s slogan, and Negrin, who grew up on a kibbutz and is the great-niece of Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion, told me through a translator, “I try to live like this every day.”

To be sure, the wearable works of art fashioned by Negrin are a far cry from the image of the kibbutznik working the fields and settling the land. But they are beautiful and made in Israel, so for me, at least, her fantasy is alive and well.

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