My name is Ellen Ruben, and I design leather handbags and shoes in Tel Aviv, Israel. I live in a colorful neighborhood filled with veteran craftsmen, designers, artists, actors and musicians.
My story as a designer began at a crossroads in my life: I had been living in Jaffa and working as a video editor, but I was hungry for something different. I quit my job and set out on the road, not knowing where I would end up. After three weeks staying with friends in Chicago, I flew to New York for a visit. New York struck me from the first second I got there; my “visit” became a stay of six years. One summer, a friend came to visit me. During his stay, he noticed my obsessive urge to feel almost any material that I passed. One morning, he took me to Parsons The New School of Designand said,”This is what you have to do: study design and meet interesting people!” Within a few days, I applied for a course in shoe design.
After graduation, I was frustrated by the fact that the instruments and machines required for making shoes were no longer available to me. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop creating, so I bought materials from leather and supplies shops and went home to play with them. Suddenly, bags were the answer: they were much easier to make at home, and they didn’t require any special machinery. Over time, I refined my practice. Then one day, a friend introduced me to someone who worked as a stylist for TV shows in LA. She saw my designs and took some samples; thanks to her, one of my purses was featured on the last episode of the TV sitcom Frasier.
A short while later, I fell in love with an Israeli guy who was visiting New York, and I decided to follow him back to Israel to start over. I took my designs to several boutiques in Tel Aviv and worked to establish my brand. I also opened a concept store, which helped me gather the momentum and courage to finally begin my first shoe collection. I opened my Etsy shop in 2014. Etsy taught me that the world is bigger than I thought; alongside industry giants and chain stores, there is still a place for us independent designers. Being independent designer allows me to be original and strengthens my belief that there isn’t just one method — and that you should always bring yourself and your way to the table.