NATALIE PORTMAN: A DELICATE BALANCE

Byline: Karen Parr

NEW YORK — Isaac Mizrahi feels that for once, a starlet has been rightfully compared with Audrey Hepburn. That actress is 15-year-old Natalie Portman.
“In Natalie’s case, it rings true,” Mizrahi said. “Not just because the bone structure is similar, but because of this exuberance married to fragility.”
That is the Portman aura. Mizrahi, who used Portman as a model in the first campaign for his bridge-priced Isaac collection, calls the quality “birdlike.” Infused into the petite actress is both a delicacy and a darkness. Her roles have ranged from the unassuming teen love object of Timothy Hutton in “Beautiful Girls” to a tough street urchin in “The Professional.”
Portman will appear in two upcoming movies — in Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!” with Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close, and in Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You.” Each is slated for release in December.
Aside from her busy career, Portman lives what would be considered a pretty normal teenager’s life — she attends public school, wears blue jeans, plays with her dog.
But beyond that lies a sophisticated fashion sense. She has opted for Prada at such occasions as the “Beautiful Girls” premiere and recently attended the Prada store opening here, calling the clothes “sinful pleasures” and stressing that Miu Miu was an “affordable luxury.”
Portman also wore a specially made blue organza Tocca dress to the MTV Movies Awards in Burbank, Calif., last summer. Tocca designer Marie-Anne Oudejans said the dress had to be cut smaller than usual, because of Portman’s tiny stature. She is not much taller than five feet.
When Oudejans met with Portman, she found the actress to be self-assured.
“She came here with her parents,” Oudejans said. “I had a feeling she was extremely sweet and nice but is already a strong personality, knowing what she likes and what she doesn’t like.”
Part of what distinguishes Portman’s style is the unexpected mix of the sophisticated and the playful.
While glamour may be her forte one moment, she might sport what Mizrahi calls “some funny bag” the next. She once popped into Manhattan’s hip American Festival Cafe carrying a vinyl Sesame Street backpack.
Mizrahi praised Portman’s strong sense of style: “She once had a really good corduroy jacket, with leather trim, some old thrift thing that I was ready to rip off her back and copy.”
While Mizrahi said “the bum look” hints at inner anger and is hip with teens right now, with Portman, the anger isn’t there.
“There’s a whole trend of kids sitting on the street who look crusty, like bums,” he said. “The crustier they look, the chicer they are. Natalie doesn’t look as angry and aggressive as other teens.”
The photos that came out of the Isaac shoot were meant to represent a snippet from a woman’s life, Mizrahi said, rather than the perfect hair, makeup and pose.
“One is encouraged to find the inner star, the beauty within one’s self,” Mizrahi said. “Natalie could represent an emotion instead of a pose.”
The campaign garnered critical praise from the advertising community as well. For example, Lynn Giordano, chief creative officer of Gotham Group, said the Isaac campaign was one of her favorites of the season last spring, “because of the way it uses Natalie Portman. It’s very reminiscent of an early Audrey Hepburn look. The slogan, ‘Inside Every Woman Is a Star,’ is an extremely flattering and pleasing statement to a woman.”
When the Isaac collection finally reached the consumer, the industry buzz was that the clothes drew an audience too mature to identify with the childlike Portman. The campaign eventually changed to another model for fall — 30-year-old actress Diane Lane — but Mizrahi said the reason he stopped using Portman as part of his overall advertising plan was not as a reaction to her youth.
“The concept of the campaign is that it’s a portfolio of different women,” he said. “I didn’t really want a central figure.”
Still, Mizrahi emphasized the Portman shots because they were “so beautiful.” And, he said, he would love to work with her again.

Breaking Through features women from various fields outside the fashion industry whose personal style has had some influence on today’s fashion. It is published as a special supplement three times a year and a column appears in WWD monthly.

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