70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel

The dandy fashionista 

Stefan Braun

By Gabriella Fenyves - 2018-03-30

Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

Stefan Braun, fashion designer of Tel-Aviv, was born in Pozsony in 1914. He learned the furrier craft from his uncle. In 1938, he migrated to the area then under British mandate.

 

I can imagine the dusty streets of the 30’s Tel- Aviv between the hot sand dunes, well-known from the descriptions of his contemporaries, a turn off for so many so quickly. The station in Yaffo, where the young man of twenty-something had arrived, shooing away flies, people sauntering along the Allenby trying to walk and behave as if they were not here in the Middle East but somewhere in Europe.

Tel-Aviv during the English Mandate

He was a trend setter. There have never been easier years for that. At the beginning WWII, later, after the founding of the young State, the patriotic wars deprived the inhabitants of this country of the hope for a carefree life. In the sense of a strange, inverted parallel, the fur coat business flourished in these bloody epochs, but by the time the good life had arrived, the business of Stefan Braun closed. We can say that he has sold dreams wrapped in his fur poems, a world in which it did not matter if it rained, or there was khamsin [hot sandy wind], humidity and forty degrees, the whole tiresome reality, but only one, the imagination and its great works counted.

His fur dreams are still exciting today

The dandy fashionista. Where were the trends of today, when we are not at all surprised if famous fashion designer turns out to be gay? At that time, he could still be sentenced to jail for his “sick inclinations.”

Stefan Braun was consistently there and then what and where he could not have been by any sober estimation: homosexual and world-famous furrier.

Boys on the beach

He was literally ahead of his times. In 1950, the creations of his fur salon were worn, not only by the wealthy citizens of our country, but by world famous celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, or Sophia Loren.

There have always been a lot of people around him

There existed a colorful, exciting microcosm around him. In movies and photographs, the luscious fashion trend maker of exquisite taste always depicted as he is arranging a coat of his on the shoulders of his female clientele, often still eye-catching even today, a celebrity surrounded by friends, in parties at bars and restaurants.

He arranges the fur on the shoulders of his female clientele with expertise

Women and men had enjoyed the company of this charming man. His home was the center of bohemian life, secret gatherings, parties, where the guests could be boldly themselves. It was not to be licentious, but a license to be free.

His home is the center of bohemian life

In the documentary about his life, his partner, Laci tells about these years, about their love, and about the bitterness when Stefan cheated on him, with new, younger and more handsome male lovers who followed him in the queue. At that time Laci had announced that he would leave and become a waiter on a cruise ship.

Collection of love letters

Unfortunately, Laci contracted a serious pneumonia before his boarding, and the unfaithful lover nursed the patient with astonishing devotion. When he was well, they got together again. The couple remained together, despite Stefan demanding full subordination and condemning Laci virtually as a slave.

Stefan and Laci

One of the interviewees, a relative of Stefan Braun, tells us about the wealth of décor in his salon - the furniture, the whole interior. I am surprised:  I have not heard anyone speaking of wealth in such a context for a long time, sounding like the opinion of yesteryear, unable to differentiate between spiritual and purely material wealth. The salon of Stefan Braun was not "rich" because of the cost of furniture, but by the taste, the sense of beauty and imagination, which is today the work of interior designers and designers.

The charmer

After the happiness of the bittersweet years, selling fur has become increasingly impossible in the 1980s due to animal protection organizations. Stefan was indignant though; he did not understand why there was no similar aversion to leather shoes. That did not help either.

The bittersweet happy years

The fur store, legendary for so many years, became bankrupt the 1980s and closed. Stefan Braun, who was then in his seventies, died shortly after 1990. He did not have any children.  His fortune, to the disappointed surprise of his family was left to his loyal, persistent lover Laci.

The legendary brand logo

“The purpose of life is to die,” my Hungarian teacher used to quote I do not know who, forcing me into a life-long debate. No! The goal of life - unlike according to that philosophy - is the utmost pursuit of our urges and desires at the cost of the least compromise.

 

Nothing supports that belief more than Stefan Braun's story, the man who knew what he wanted and could become it, too. He was able to transform, merely by his desires, the mere reality.

Stefan and a happy client

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