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The Isaac Mizrahi Approach

"It Was Inspired by Fred Astaire"

Isaac Mizrahi reveals the sensibility behind his spring collection.

Brooklyn-born Isaac Mizrahi is, without doubt, fashion’s master showman. While most designers are content to express their considerable talents sending their creations down the runway season after season, Mizrahi is something of a modern-day Renaissance man. In addition to his two day jobs—designing Isaac Mizrahi New York and helming the creative revival of Liz Claiborne—he has headlined his own one-man off-Broadway show, makes a mean roast chicken, wrote a series of comic books (Sandee the Supermodel) and penned a style guide (How to Have Style), and designed costumes for Broadway (The Women, for which he won a Drama Desk Award) and the New York Metropolitan Opera (Orfeo ed Euridice). The man who helped make Target the capital of high-low chic when he launched his trailblazing line in 2003 proved amazingly prescient in identifying the of-the-moment trend long before anyone else.

Mizrahi’s personal story is just as compelling as one of those “fabulous” black-and-white films starring Joan Crawford or Carole Lombard that he can (and will) recite line by line. He spent much of his childhood staging puppet shows in his backyard and designing clothes for his mother’s friends. He went on to study at The High School of Performing Arts and Parsons School of Design before launching his own business in 1987. Mizrahi became a pop cultural phenomenon—and a household name—when he made the 1995 documentary Unzipped, which offered a hilarious and unvarnished look at his life behind the seams in fashion. While his own star continued to rise, his company faltered, and in 1998 backer Chanel shuttered his business. But that didn’t stop Mizrahi from finding other ways to express his creativity.

With his exuberant personality and encyclopedic knowledge of all things Hollywood, Mizrahi has become an entertainment personality in his own right. He had his own talk show for Oxygen; he’s covered the red carpet for the Today show and even tried his hand at acting (opposite Michael J. Fox in The Secret of My Success). Most recently, the designer served as host to Bravo’s The Fashion Show, where he mentored fledgling fashionistas and sent the less-than-stellar wannabe designers back to the drawing board.

When it comes to hitting his own creative stride, Mizrahi has served up plenty of sizzle for spring with a collection he calls “Astaire Case Obstacle Course,” inspired by Fred Astaire’s films from the ’50s. But it’s the women wearing his menswear-inspired looks and camera-ready dresses this spring who will feel like the real stars. Mizrahi took time out from his non-stop schedule to answer the questions from Gulfshore Life’s Style Council. “I believe fashion has to be gorgeous and colorful and fun,” he says. So do we.

What is it about Florida that you like best? How would you describe the style of the women here?Women here love color, and bright, optimistic shades and prints are a signature of yours. Why do you think women are responding so well tocolor and prints now?

My mother lives in Florida, so I am forced to love it. The thing about Florida is that most people are from other places, and the styles you see are influenced by the areas which they are from. It’s Southern-meets-Big-City style.

I think we all want something optimistic right now. I titled my fall show Smile for a reason. Clothes should make you feel good.

Your collection for Liz Claiborne is hot—even First Lady Michelle Obama has embraced the Liz collection. What’s the best part of dressing celebrities?

Michelle has worn my collection pieces as well. She is always smart with her wardrobe choices. When a celebrity wears something from my collection, my designs get even more exposure.

Where did the inspiration come from foryour spring signature collection?

It was inspired by Fred Astaire.I created a Hollywood soundstage for my show because a woman should look gorgeous walking through rain, wind, or up and down a steep staircase. Just like in the movies.

What are the essential items every woman needs in her wardrobe ?

A perfectly tailored blazer, mid- to low-size heel shoes and a minidress.

How do you define luxury? You are the hardest-working man in fashion. How do you do it?

Luxury is the piece you cannot resist buying no matter what the cost may be.

I actually never sleep. That is my secret.

Gulfshore Life’s Style Counci lLed by Denise Cobb, the members include Penny Anderson, Patty Baker, Mary Susan Clinton, Shirlene Elkins, Dawn Hoffman, Susie McCurry, Amy Oshier and Cynthia Sherman.

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