SEVENTH AVENUE’S NEWEST RAGE, AFTER THE SMASHING DEBUT OF HIS COLLECTION.
Byline: Bridget Foley, April 1988
With the New York collections over, the talk of SA is Isaac Mizrahi, a 26-year-old alumnus of Parsons School of Design, former apprentice to Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein, a bit player in the movie “Fame” and once the Peck’s Bad Boy of Yeshiva Flatbush in Brooklyn.
Mizrahi’s collection wowed the crowd that packed a SoHo loft two flights up from the designer’s studio. Retailers left raving.
“Wednesday morning I read that I’m a star,” he said. “But I’m not. That will take a couple of seasons to determine — to see if I continue with artistic collections that retailers and their customers respond to, and that have a good sell-through.”
He likes the word “personage.” He uses it to describe a designer who develops a style with lasting impact. “I’m not a personage. Coco Chanel was a personage,” he said. “Calvin Klein is a personage. He can look back and know that he created a style, an image.”
While Mizrahi may be years from becoming a “personage,” he has a jump on many young designers, with a fashion background that goes back to his childhood.
His father was a children’s wear manufacturer, so Isaac had an early inside view of the industry, and his mother got him involved in fashion in depth. “She took me shopping everywhere, from Saks to Bergdorf Goodman to Loehmann’s,” he recalled. “Her closet was filled with Norells, Balenciagas, Chanels.”
While Mizrahi developed his taste level by observing his mother, he was also learning to sew, at first to dress the puppets he made. To help him along, his father bought him a sewing machine, and then various associated gadgets, including a ruffle attachment, which amazed the boy with its capabilities and triggered his interest in the construction of clothes.
However, even as they encouraged his creativity in fashion and music, Mizrahi’s parents enrolled him in Yeshiva Flatbush. There young Isaac was hardly a model student. He developed a repertoire of rabbi impersonations and drew fashion sketches in bibles. He was expelled a few times and suspended regularly. “They thought I was sacrilegious,” he said.
So, after each of his expulsions, his mother would unzip the high-style creation she had on that day, remove the red nail polish and jewelry, dig up some dowdy dress and go to the yeshiva, where she would shake her head and, putting on a pathetic look, make a plea for sympathy.
“Once the school took me back, we’d go back home, she’d change her clothes and we’d go to lunch,” Mizrahi said.
Scaasi says… “I’m old-fashioned. I just like to make women look good, and I like their husbands to say they look great in what they’re wearing….
“Doing the made-to-order is almost like being a psychologist — you see your clients almost naked from the beginning, physically and mentally. It’s a great responsibility, I have to tell you.”
— February 1989