Byline: Eric Wilson
NEW YORK — Parsons School of Design ought to consider offering alumnus Isaac Mizrahi’s new one-man play for course credit — it certainly tells more of the awful truth about being a fashion designer than a dusty old professor ever could.
“Les MIZrahi,” which has just opened at the Greenwich House Theater, recounts the designer’s childhood fantasies of becoming a fashion designer, his meteoric rise as a fashion designer and his ultimate failure as a fashion designer, complete with a demonstration of how he can sew an evening coat, make 60-second on-the-spot Oscar dress sketches and pick inspirations from a montage of old Hollywood movies.
The first words out of Mizrahi’s mouth onstage are, “Everyone hates me,” as he breaks into a revision of “Me & My Town” called “Me & My Show,” with the lyrics: “People forget me after all I’ve been through. My poor little ego, what can I do?”
But, please don’t think he’s bitter.
“I’ve actually been incredibly ecstatic,” Mizrahi says offstage the following day. “It’s the most fabulous and dreadful time of my whole life. It’s fabulous because there’s an incredible transformation taking place internally, and the most dreadful, because this is yet another opportunity to make a fool of myself.”
“Les MIZrahi” marks a sharp departure from the designer’s last public confession in the 1995 documentary “Unzipped.” The show, which Mizrahi wrote over the past two years since closing his signature business, is full of witticisms and self-deprecating humor, but this time around he’s pouring his heart out in person.
Onstage, Mizrahi says, “I don’t get fashion. I never got fashion. Obviously, I got clothes, but I never cared about anything so boring as selling them. The more I tried to do clothes that sell, the press kept ragging on me for selling out,” then he breaks into a version of “When You’re Smiling.”
“Here and there there’s a line that’s very funny, but perhaps not the most gracious,” Mizrahi said. “Honestly, it’s just a funny story.”
Some of his stories are scathing, like describing his employment for Calvin Klein, “where you can be three pounds overweight and stand there screaming about an idea and they will ignore you, then a skinny fag stands up in the back and says, ‘Calvin, we should do black and beige again,’ and they go running for the cutting boards.” He also rips into Helen Hunt for ordering a dress for the Oscars and then wearing Gucci, by sketching her with a jack-o’-lantern in place of her head — this after effortlessly sketching Audrey Hepburn’s features down to the clavicle.
“Fashion has been very central in my life,” Mizrahi says. “This show is not necessarily about fashion as it is about me. Fashion took a good 20 years of my life. That’s really what it’s about. People recognize me as a fashion designer. I think if I got on stage and talked about farming, they’d think I was crazy, but perhaps that will be my next show.”