By Isaac Levy, Yvel Founder & Designer
When my wife, Orna, and I started to string pearls in our bedroom, the only goal that we had was to pay the mortgage on the 750 square foot apartment we had just bought. Orna was 23 and I was 25.
In order to start selling the pearls we needed a company name. Our accountant at the time suggested we call the company “Isaac Levy Jewelry,” so we did.
After a few years of working in our regional market – Israel; we decided to try our luck overseas. One of the first shows we attended was the Basel fair in Switzerland, which till this day is the leading international jewelry show in the world. We rented a 60 square foot booth and hoped for the best…
During the fair I saw a man looking around like he was lost. I looked at him and asked if he needed help. He looked at me and said in a very heavy Arabic accent, “I am looking for the Italy pavilion, and I am in the middle of the Israeli pavilion…,” as if the Mossad was after him.
I offered him to come to my booth and use the phone to call information and find out where the Italian pavilion was located. He looked at me suspiciously knowing full well that I’m Israeli. “Beti Betak,” I told him right away – “My home is your home.” (I spoke Arabic as my grandmother was born in Egypt.) He looked at me as if he was hard of hearing, gave me a big smile, and stepped into my small little booth.
At that time, I didn’t know that he was a member of the Abu- Dhabi Royal Family. He ended up buying our entire collection – 642 pieces!
After 3 months I called him to ask how he was doing with our jewelry collection. He asked me to wait a few moments, and came back to tell me that he had only sold 3 pieces. I guess he sensed my disappointment over the phone and told me, “Don’t worry Mr. Isaac. Call me next month after the shopping festival here in Abu Dhabi, and I will give you some great news…” So I did.
When he answered the phone, I felt there was a big problem. “Mr. Isaac,” he said “I think we should meet in Europe.” I flew to Italy to meet with him. “You are a nice man. You have a nice collection. Your prices are fair, and I like you very much.” “So what seems to be the problem?” I asked. “Your company, Isaac Levy Jewelry, sounds too Jewish,” he said. “You should do something about it.”
I flew back home, and told the story to Orna. She sat and listened very carefully and then replied “Yves Saint Laurent is a French company, right?” and continued “Why don’t we take our last name Levy, and turn it backwards? It will sound like a French company – Yvel.” I immediately fell in love with the idea and apparently so too have millions of Yvel fans around the world who we have served for almost 30 years.
The epilogue to this story is that thanks to that Arab man, Orna and I have managed to build a multinational, multi-million dollar company, with an internationally recognized brand name. Yvel is based in Israel and supports hundreds of Jewish families. Next month, from the profits of Yvel, Orna and I will be opening a school of jewelry in Nazareth that will dedicate itself to the Arab Muslim the Arab Christian and Jewish people from Nazareth and the Galilee.
God sure works in mysterious ways…