Isaac Mizrahi

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B. 1961

Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York

Awards: Council of Fashion Designers of America Award, 1988, 1989 Fashion Industry Foundation Award, 1990 Michaelangelo Shoe Award, 1993

Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Unzipped, 1995

He refers to his witty film, Unzipped, about one stressful season in the life of a fashion designer (himself, of course), as a "frockumentary." His comic book, Sandee the Supermodel, parodies the lifestyles of divas in demand. And his admitted love affair with Technicolor has given birth to such surprising pieces as a pink satin parka and colors he calls "Lorne Green" and "James Brown." The perpetually head-banded Isaac Mizrahi debuted his first collection in 1988, and fashion watchers everywhere fell in love with the man and his merchandise.

Fashion was in Mizrahi's blood. His mother adored and amassed fine clothing, and his father was a children's wear manufacturer. Young Isaac started sewing at an early age, creating clothing for friends and even selling to a few boutiques when he was just a teenager. He also studied dancing and acting, enjoying his years at the High School of the Performing Arts in New York City. After graduating from Parsons School of Design, he became an assistant to Perry Ellis, Jeffrey Banks, and ultimately Calvin Klein. By the time he reached the age of twenty-five, he was ready for fame and began his own business in 1987 with the money left to him by his father.

Referred to as "Le Miz" by Women's Wear Daily, Mizrahi produced high-priced sportswear inspired largely by the sophisticated pieces of sportswear creator Claire McCardell, and the classic style of America's pop heroines, such as Katherine Hepburn, Mary Tyler Moore, and Lucille Ball. But he also added clever twists of his own like his strapless ballerina dress in tartan plaid and his trousers, gathered at the waist like a paper bag. He was a master at putting together the most unlikely but appealing concepts, pairing sporty with dressy, pink and peppermint with peach, serious with fun. All of his original ideas were born of his love for American style, resulting in a witty and versatile clothing.

In 1992 the House of Chanel, who became Mizrahi's financial partner, encouraged him to produce a department store line, Isaac, introduced in 1994, but discontinued in 1997. Mizrahi preferred to create rather than watch the bottom line, and Mizrahi and Chanel parted company in 1998. Mizrahi told the public that he was going to Hollywood to begin a new career and, as of this writing, his name is appearing on some very chic, moderately priced shoes, sold through stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

No matter which career path Mizrahi chooses, his influence on American fashion will be felt for a long time to come. His ability to reinterpret classic pieces in ingeniously clever, yet wearable, ways will always be appreciated. See also: Perry Ellis; Calvin Klein; Claire McCardell; Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel.

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