October 14, 1961– Isaac Mizrahi:
“Remember this: No one is looking at your imperfections; they’re all too busy worrying about their own.”
I would love to have my own line of fashion and lifestyle designs products, QVC show, spots as a guest on television shows, plus a gorgeous apartment, culled from 3 individual units, in Greenwich Village. Isaac Mizrahi has been at it for 30 years.
Mizrahi’s style is smart, timeless and very cosmopolitan. He has won the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America Award, plus a special one for his groundbreaking documentary Unzipped (1996).
He has dressed most of the notable women on our pretty blue spinning orb including Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama.
Talented Mizrahi was born in Brooklyn, the son of a children’s fashion designer. He attended NYC’s High School Of Performing Arts and Parsons School Of Design. After graduating, he was asked to be on the faculty of Parson’s.
Mizrahi had a role in the musical film Fame (1980), set in the world of his high school alma mater. He then had an apprenticeship with designer Perry Ellis who served as his mentor. Mizrahi was recognized as The Outstanding Student Designer at Parsons with Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta as the panel of judges. After graduation he went to work at Ellis.
In 1987, he launched Isaac Mizrahi New York with a store in Soho. The next year Audrey Hepburn wore Isaac Mizrahi for a Revlon lipstick ad. In 1990, he was given The Perry Ellis Award For Emerging Talent, presented to him by Liza Minnelli, the same season when one of his creations was featured on the cover of Vogue. Mizrahi introduced his menswear line in spring 1990 and he won his second CFDA Design Award.
Unzipped, the funny behind-the-scenes documentary that revolves around Mizrahi’s Fall 1994 collection where he combined a self-described Hollywood-Eskimo-Mary Tyler Moore Show look with Ouija board derived advice like “dominatrix mixed with Hitchcock” into a well-received collection. It opens with Mizrahi at his local newsstand. He reads reviews of the previous night’s showing of his Spring 1994 collection. The critical feedback, read in voice-over by Mizrahi, is tough:
“Was this collection half full or half empty? That was the obvious question after Isaac Mizrahi’s show Thursday night. What he dubbed a mix was more of a mess…”
Mizrahi is devastated by the assessment:
“I don’t take criticism very well.”
Unzipped shows him making his was out of an intense depression, meticulously planning a comeback as he scrounges for inspiration, finding it in a classic Hollywood film, and then his process of selecting materials, fumbling the execution of his vision, and then going back to the drawing board, again, again and again. It is an entertaining, yet powerful film.
Pretty Natalie Portman became the face of his low price clothing line Isaac in 1996. That project faltered, but he bounced back with that Mizrahi indefatigable spirit with a Mizrahi collection for Target that proved a big hit.
A decade ago, his own personality was on full display with the Style Network’s The Issac Show where he interviewed guests and gave fashion advice. Like me, Mizrahi is a real attention whore. He appeared as himself on HBO’s Sex And The City and Showtime’s The Big C, and he played a demented fashion reporter on the much missed Ugly Betty. He even appeared with the Rapey Von Tinyfingers on the first season of Celebrity Apprentice raising money for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I wonder why Mizrahi didn’t help you-know-who with his extra-long ties and ill-fitting suits.
His book How To Have Style (2008) provided funding for a certain young Presidential candidate, a junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.
Mizrahi is Creative Director for his Isaac Mizrahi New York brand and is hands-on with the design for all brands under his name. His collection offers women’s wear, shoes, handbags, accessories, men’s tailored clothing and men’s furnishings. Mizrahi has a lifestyle collection, Isaac Mizrahi Live! offered on QVC. That’s right, kids. You can wash with Mizrahi soap, towel off with Mizrahi plush bath towels and slip into your Mizrahi robe and slippers to watch him on Project Runway All Stars on Lifetime or The Fashion Show for Bravo.
An underachiever, Mizrahi can also act, sing and dance. He has a well-received cabaret act. He is a favorite of Woody Allen, appearing in his films Small Time Crooks (2000), Hollywood Ending (2002) and Celebrity (1998).
Mizrahi designed costumes for Broadway revivals of The Women (2001), winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design, Barefoot In the Park (2006), and The Threepenny Opera (2006). For the Metropolitan Opera‘s production of Orfeo Ed Euridice (2008), directed by openly gay Mark Morris, he designed the sets and costumes. Mizrahi directed a well-received production of Stephen Sondheim‘s classic A Little Night Music, plus designed and directed Mozart‘s The Magic Flute for The Metropolitan Opera.
His favorite show is, of course, World Of Wonder’s RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“People say, ‘You’re so good at selling’, but I’m offended by that. I don’t see it as salesmanship, which is when people try to sell you something you don’t want, you don’t need, or isn’t any good. If you have a great product that you actually are involved with creating, there’s no salesmanship involved.”
Mizrahi currently is a judge on Project Runway All-Stars. I think that he makes a fine role model for baby gays, especially those kids looking for careers in fashion design or who just need attention. He lives in that simple, elegant, apartment in The Village with his husband, Arnold Germer. I am a bit jealous.