Isaac Mizrahi, 2015. Photo Credit: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg
The Jewish Museum will present the first museum exhibition focused on Isaac Mizrahi, the influential American fashion designer, artist, and entrepreneur. On view from March 18 to August 7, 2016, this survey exhibition explores Mizrahi’s unique position at the intersection of high style and popular culture.
Isaac Mizrahi takes a bow on the runway with his models at the showing of his 1997 Spring collection in New York Thursday Oct. 31, 1996. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
While best known for his clothing design, Mizrahi’s creativity has expanded over a three decade career, moving beyond fashion to embrace acting, directing, set and costume design, writing, and cabaret performance. Beginning with his first collection in 1987 and running through the present day, Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History weaves together the many threads of Mizrahi’s prolific output, juxtaposing work in fashion, film, television, and the performing arts.
Behind the scenes, preparing the spring 2010 collection; Mizrahi’s design process is intense and at times hilarious, with many rounds of fittings and much impromptu experimentation. Credit Line: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg
The Real Thing, Coca-Cola–can paillette dress, spring 1994. The Coke can makes an improbable appearance on the runway: Mizrahi used an elaborate process to create these custom paillettes from real Coca-Cola cans. He worked with the charity We Can, which employed homeless New Yorkers to collect cans to recycle; these were shipped to the sequin-maker Langlois-Martin in Paris, where they were cut into paillettes that were then sent to India to be beaded onto dresses. The result is a high-fashion, nearly weightless modern take on a ubiquitous American icon. Credit Line: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg
Spring-Heeled Heels, leather, metal, spring 2010. Credit Line: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg
Mizrahi’s inventive and provocative style brings complex issues into the arena of fashion, igniting a spirited discourse about high versus low, modern glamour, and contemporary culture. His runway shows were cast with unconventionally beautiful models of all ethnicities, dressed in Star of David belts, Western wear infused handmade lace, Adidas sneakers in place of high heels, handbags worn as hats, or a humble cotton undershirt paired with a floor-length taffeta skirt. Uniting opposites is a Mizrahi signature, which can be seen in his many combinations of evening and sportswear, formal and casual, couture and mass market.
Isaac Mizrahi, sketch for Elevator Pad Gown, spring 2005. Credit Line: Photograph by Richard Goodbody, the Jewish Museum, New York
Isaac Mizrahi, sketch for Extreme Kilt, fall 1989. Credit Line: Photograph by Richard Goodbody, the Jewish Museum, New York
Isaac Mizrahi, sketch for Totem Pole, fall 1991. Credit: Photograph by Richard Goodbody, the Jewish Museum, New York
Mizrahi’s outsized personality, loquacious charm, and innate sense of timing have made him a beloved figure, appearing in living rooms across the country through his numerous film and television cameos, as a judge on Project Runway: All-Stars, and on his current show on the QVC network Isaac Mizrahi Live!.
Elevator Pad Gown, grosgrain-ribbon bodice, quilted silk and lamb’s-wool skirt, spring 2005. Workhorse elevator padding used by movers inspired Mizrahi. He appropriated the quilting technique, but elevated the shipping blanket in a patchwork of blue, green, gray, and silver silk Credit Line: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg
Blossom Blazers, double-silk gazar jackets with ruffle collar, silk crepe pants, spring 1991. “I tried to take the silliest things, like ruffles, and toughen them up,” Mizrahi notes. Here, ruffles are writ large, recalling the Elizabethan ruff and giving structure to a decorative element. The jacket was produced in pink, orange, or aquamarine. The aim was to turn a daywear blazer into an article of evening dress.” Credit Line: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg
Isaac Mizrahi was born in 1961 in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in a Jewish family, he attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush before transferring to New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts (he was a featured extra in the groundbreaking film, Fame, based on the school) and then Parsons School of Design. He entered the New York fashion scene in the late 1980s; his clothing line, Isaac Mizrahi New York, debuted at Bergdorf Goodman in 1986. In 1989 he received the Perry Ellis Award for Emerging Talent and was named Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Womenswear Designer of the Year, an award he won again in 1991.
Unzipped, a riotous, witty, and insightful documentary about the making of his fall 1994 collection, earned Mizrahi and the director, Douglas Keeve, the 1995 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. When his fashion house closed in 1998, Mizrahi followed other passions in theater and dance, designing costumes and sets for Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp and winning a 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design for a Broadway revival of Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women. In 2003 he was the first fashion designer to launch a line of well-designed, affordable clothes in collaboration with Target.
High/Low: a 2003 ad for IM for Target made the point. Credit Line: Courtesy of Target Corporation
Today he stars in Isaac Mizrahi Live!, a call-in home-shopping TV show that airs weekly on the QVC network. He also appears as a judge on Project Runway All Stars. Mizrahi has directed and narrated “Peter and the Wolf” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, directed and designed “The Magic Flute” and “A Little Night Music” for the Opera Theater of Saint Louis, and worked the red carpet at the Oscars and Golden Globe Awards. He is currently at work on a television series and memoir.
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET ; Program C: Beaux: Mark Morris. choreographed by Mark Morris, San Francisco Ballet, 2012. Lonnie Weeks and Pascal Molat at Sadler’s Wells, London, UK ; 2012 ; Credit: Photograph by Marilyn Kingwill, image provided by ArenaPAL.
Blackbird, Star of David belt, ostrich-feather hood, stretch wool jersey bodysuit, stretch wool jersey pants, suede and brass belt, fall 1991. Mizrahi irreverently puts symbols to work as part of the religious, political, and cultural mash-up of the fall 1991 collection. “If crosses are everywhere, why not make the Star of David ubiquitous too? Just another thing?” Credit: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg
Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History will be organized thematically, exploring key trends in Mizrahi’s work—from the use of color and prints to his witty designs that touch on issues of race, religion, class, and politics. The core of the exhibition will feature iconic designs from the Isaac Mizrahi New York clothing label (1987–98), the “semi-couture” collections (2003–11), and his trailblazing line for Target (2002–8). Continue reading