NEW YORK — Isaac Mizrahi continues to straddle the worlds of mass and class, selling off-the-rack fashions at Target and made-to-order at Bergdorf Goodman.
For his next project, however, the designer wanted to hit a spot somewhere in the middle, and so the idea of what he calls "semi-couture" was born. The collection of 10 pieces will launch exclusively at Bergdorf's in two weeks.
Unlike the custom collection Mizrahi launched at the specialty store last year, semi-couture features off-the-rack pieces in four sizes and wide, basted seams that will be finished for customers in just one sitting with a store seamstress.
"Semi-couture is the perfect thing," Mizrahi quipped. "You can go in and change a little something, and have it made to your body without having to wait for six weeks. It's like instant gratification for the couture customer."
Robert Burke, Bergdorf's senior vice president of the fashion office, said the store has been very successful with the made-to-order collection. "There is a consumer who wants one of a kind, but that same consumer also wants more immediate gratification," Burke said.
The semi-couture collection revolves around a double-faced wool denim and a gold brocade fabric sourced at Gandini in Italy. "I used to work with Mrs. Gandini in my various jobs and also when I had my own line," Mizrahi recalled. "I remember that she always had the most beautiful fabrics in the world. When I worked on this project, that made it easier. I don't have to beg a mill to finish something differently. Gandini does all of that for us."
Each piece is lined with a silk organza, and couture details include hand-stitching, crinoline and mesh underlays. Pieces include a gold brocade frock coat, a brocade cropped jacket, a brocade balcony dress, fine cashmere sweaters, a double-faced wool denim jacket and a pencil skirt.
Mizrahi president Jayne Harkness said the plan is to keep the venture very exclusive. That said, at retail prices from $2,800 to $6,800, semi-couture is more democratic than the made-to-order pieces, which retail between $6,400 and $30,000.
The new collection is to be presented twice a year alongside the custom collection and will hang together with it on Bergdorf's fourth floor.Burke declined to disclose sales projections for the collection, but said: "The Isaac customer continues to be very educated, and [Isaac] is such a recognized man. Because they have such an intimate relationship with the designs, my guess is that it will be equal in business or even more successful than the couture."
As for Mizrahi, he just wishes he could convince other companies to jump on the semicustom bandwagon.
"I am in the middle of doing up my house on the beach," Mizrahi said. "Every time I order a couch, it's 16 weeks away and I just want to faint. I want the couch now. I wish I could go into a place, and they would tell me, 'wait a week or two and then you'll have it.' This is what semi-couture is."
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