Born: October 14, 1961, Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Fashion Designer
Marital Status: Married to Arnold Germer
Education: Yeshivah of Flatbush, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, Parsons The New School of Design
“I don’t like people to feel completely described by the clothes they wear of mine. I want them to feel that they’re describing themselves.”
Isaac Mizrahi is one of the best-known fashion designers in the world. Besides being a runway star, his appearances on and contributions to various television projects has made his face recognizable to even the fashion illiterate. He has established himself as a prominent if somewhat flamboyant figure in pop culture.
Mizrahi was born in Brooklyn, and developed a love for fashion at an early age. Mizrahi’s father, Zeke, manufactured children’s clothes and encouraged Mizrahi’s love of fashion even going as far as buying his son a sewing machine at the age of 10. By age 13, he was making clothes for most of his immediate family.
After graduating from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing of Arts, he began taking evening classes at the prestigious Parsons School of Design. Some time after he became a full-time student at Parsons, Mizrahi landed a part-time job with the esteemed designer Perry Ellis, and worked full-time for Ellis after graduating.
In 1987 he started his own business with the financial support of family friend, Sarah Haddad Cheney. He made his clothes in a rented loft in SoHo. After gaining the backing of investors, Mizrahi gave his first major show in the spring of 1988. His line was widely praised for its fresh approach; it combined elegance with unassuming simplicity. He mixed unusual colors and made use of patterns, including tartan plaid, not generally associated with high fashion. He won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) award for best newcomer in 1988 and 1989.
Mizrahi’s popularity would continue to grow to the point where he was the subject of a documentary. The documentary, Unzipped, followed Mizrahi’s preparations for his 1994 fall line. Unzipped featured and interwove photos and home movies from his childhood with footage of Mizrahi preparing for the show.
Emboldened by his success, Mizrahi even penned a graphic novel, Isaac Mizrahi Presents the Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel. It tells the story of a beautiful girl from a small town who is discovered and becomes a model, but struggles with the hyper-competitive world of modeling and the dangers associated with it. Unfortunately, this wave of success was about to come crashing down. Mizrahi would have to shut down his business when Chanel, his main financial backer, pulled out because of inconsistent sales.
Mizrahi would have to endure further setbacks when he signed on to design clothes for Liz Clairborne in 2009. Although the line featured clothes for women of all sizes, races, and ages, it was basically a disaster from launch. At the time, Clairborne clothes weren’t featured in major department stores in major cities, making Mizrahi’s line very difficult to find. Mizrahi and Clairborne would eventually go their own separate ways.
In 2011, Mizrahi sold his brand to Xcel Brands, Inc. He remains a shareholder, creative director, and face of his brand. Mizrahi is also the co-host of Bravo TV’s The Fashion Show. The series focused on contestants competing against each other to create the best clothes with restrictions or stipulations dependent on time, resources, or theme.
Featured Image Courtesy of Vogue