NEW YORK — Count Isaac Mizrahi among those who have declared 2009 as a time for change. After six successful years hitting the affordable fashion mark at Target, Mizrahi is on to Liz Claiborne, a company anxious for a design bull’s-eye.
It’s been nearly a year since Claiborne revealed plans to install Mizrahi as creative director. Thanks to his vaultlike contract with Target, which expired at the end of last year, the designer was barred from talking about his new gig until now. Certainly Mizrahi has his work cut out for him, coming aboard what many in the industry have characterized as a seriously troubled ship. It’s no secret that Claiborne’s once indefatigable better business has been suffering on the sales floor over the last decade, losing orders with its bread-and-butter department stores such as Macy’s and Bon-Ton.
So why leave Target’s plush pastures to tackle Liz’s considerable challenge? Anyone expecting full, juicy disclosure will be disappointed in Mizrahi’s murky-at-best response: “I just feel like spiritually it was time to, like, move,” he says. “I just thought I had this really great opportunity. No other reason than that.”
Of course, the assumption is that more than spirituality played a part, particularly after Mizrahi adds: “I would still be at Target if I could because I feel like I created this big thing….”
Timing aside — the Liz deal popped up just as Mizrahi was renegotiating his Target contract — one can only guess at the details. Regardless, Mizrahi considers his time at Target well spent. “The Target thing was not dumb at all. That was the smartest thing,” he says. “I remember when I did my first show where I had, like, $3 things mixed with $3,000 things. I was going to call it ‘bipolar shopping disorder’ and the people at Target were like, ‘Oh. Could you call it something else?’”
Whether or not Mizrahi coined the term “high-low,” he certainly blazed the trail for the modern designer-mass collaboration, and elevated Target to a fashion destination for the budget set. Liz Claiborne is undoubtedly expecting similar results — but in a more return-to-glory fashion.
“We had to find a way for both the consumer and the retail trade to stop and reconsider the brand,” says Liz Claiborne Inc. chief executive officer William L. McComb of the decision to hire Mizrahi, which was spearheaded by Dave McTague, the group’s executive vice president of partnered brands. “We knew it would take somebody who was not just an extraordinary designer, but somebody who could create an amazing amount of intrigue and buzz and give people this reason to say, ‘Oh my God, I need to take another look.’”
The firm, whose sales for the nine months through Oct. 4 fell 6 percent to $3.07 billion compared with sales of $3.27 billion in the same period a year ago, did not disclose first-year projections for the Mizrahi-designed Claiborne collection. McComb prefers to focus on sell-through rates anyway. “We got to a point where our sell-throughs were not sustainable and we were ashamed of them,” he says, noting that, for now, the collection will stay in department stores and Liz’s 92 outlet stores. “I want our wholesale partners to say that their retail sell-throughs are impressive, because that’s the consumer voting.”
Thus the measure of success will be if Mizrahi recaptures lost customers and draws in a new clientele, many of whom probably don’t remember the label and its late founder’s heyday. It’s a tall order, not only because Liz has been mired in bad product for awhile, but also due to the fact that the company was built as a bona fide designer label for Middle America, something that’s hard to find in fashion’s current polarized world — one that Mizrahi helped create.
To wit, that’s exactly where Mizrahi sees potential. “I’m trying to shift the paradigm once again,” he says. “The Target thing, that’s thinking very high and very low. But now there’s this whole other cultural thing that’s taking place before our eyes, and it’s only accelerated because of the terrible economic thing we’re going through. It’s like, I believe firmly in the middle now.”
Which is not to say Mizrahi is no longer about a dichotomy. His own ready-to-wear collection is still very much a priority. He’s planning to show during New York Fashion Week, possibly at the tents in Bryant Park, though the location has yet to be determined. Meanwhile, the fall Claiborne line, which Mizrahi says is also rooted in color, will be shown in an intimate cocktail presentation. A full-blown show feels “a bit pretentious” at this juncture, he says.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews