THE NEW YORK BEAT

ISAAC MIZRAHI: “I think clothes look younger and more fabulous if they’re somehow off,” Isaac Mizrahi said before his show. That’s a big statement coming from someone who in the past has been so vocal in his disdain for downbeat themes, resolutely refusing to tap into trends with even a hint of tawdriness — grunge, thrift, heroin chic .
It seems like quite a departure, then, for Mizrahi to tackle faded fabrics, off-beat combinations and even used fur, purchased in lots. But that is exactly what he did in his fall collection. Yet this wasn’t really an about-face for Mizrahi, because he took those elements of age and imperfection and recast them, not in an image of angst but as elements of inherent grace and strength, which can look smart, chic and current. The result was as interesting as it was beautiful — Mizrahi’s strongest collection in years.
Mizrahi was inspired by photographs of interiors in the book “A House in Ireland,” as well as by the famous New York City chronicle, Weegee’s “Naked City.” There was a dapper air to the clothes, even when they were cut in gray flannel that looked partly discolored and faded, as if by the sun. Isaac’s tailoring is never generic — it sports a nattiness that has sometimes looked out of step but now seems quite appealing. Coats were cut on the loose side, often with old fur collars, and Isaac went his own way with gender play, putting wide, faded trousers with long, wonderfully romantic crochet sweaters that could easily be worn sitting by the hearth in that old Irish house. As for the umpteen-ply cashmere Aran turtleneck — it wasn’t girly, but it sure was great.
Imperfection, however, has its limits. Many of Isaac’s glam gowns could have used another round of fittings, and the black mesh was a bit of a mess.
Still, there was cool glamour in sleek cutout jersies, and humor in a green empire gown with a geriatric mink bodice. And at a time when Lang and Demeulemeester knockoffs are everywhere, it’s not only refreshing to see a designer so determined to go his own way — it’s a relief.

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