Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History

The first-ever exhibition focused on Isaac Mizrahi, the influential American fashion designer, artist, and entrepreneur is currently on view at The Jewish Museum in New York until August 7, 2016.

Through over 250 clothing and costume designs, sketches, photographs, and an immersive video installation, the exhibition explores Mizrahi’s unique position at the intersection of high style and popular culture. While best known for his work in fashion, Mizrahi’s creativity has expanded over a three-decade career 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.

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 Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

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. Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

Behind the scenes with Tulip, silk crepe dress, spring 1992. Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

Behind the scenes with Tulip, silk crepe dress, spring 1992. Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

The Real Thing, Coca-Cola–can paillette dress, spring 1994. 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. Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

The Real Thing, Coca-Cola–can paillette dress, spring 1994. 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. Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

Behind the scenes, preparing the spring 2010 collection. Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

Behind the scenes, preparing the spring 2010 collection. Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

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?” Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

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?” 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 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.

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.

Beaux, choreographed by Mark Morris, San Francisco Ballet, 2012. Credit Line: Photograph by Marilyn Kingwill, image provided by ArenaPAL.

Beaux, choreographed by Mark Morris, San Francisco Ballet, 2012. Photograph by Marilyn Kingwill, image provided by ArenaPAL.

The museum gift shop always does an excellent job of creating fabulous items in conjunction with their exhibits. Check out (below) some of the fun Mizrahi-related items currently for sale. Be sure to view the complete collection at the Jewish Museum Gift Shop website.

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2 Comments on Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History

  1. Tammy
    March 20, 2016 at 9:30 pm (1 year ago)

    Looking forward to seeing this exhibition. Went to The Jewish Museum gala and heard Isaac Mizrahi speak–he did a great job.

    Reply
  2. David
    March 21, 2016 at 4:09 am (1 year ago)

    looks nice!

    Reply

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