Just don’t expect the designer to be spewing tips about the keto diet, TRX training or burpees, when he officially launches the New Balance x Isaac Mizarhi Live! collection. A natural performer, Mizrahi has done a one-man cabaret, “Project Runway: All Stars,” an annual narrative for “Peter and the Wolf,” and has just released his memoir “I.M.” with Flatiron Books. Some of that on-stage sheen has come from nearly 10 years of air time, selling on QVC.
“People tell me, ‘Oh my God, you’re such a good salesman. I just show up and I talk about the product, which I really like. By the way, I’m not talking about ballgowns or about ironic twists on whatever. I’m just talking about these clothes that I think are well-thought through, and valuable because of how great they wear, how long they last and what they mean in a closet, as opposed to other stuff that’s so puzzling. It’s really straightforward,” he said. “That’s what I do. I just show up and I talk about stuff. I also talk about my favorite flavor ice cream and my dog. I talk about all sorts of other stuff. It just happens to work.”
Teaming with New Balance made sense, due partially to the fact that he has worn the brand’s sneakers for years. Mizrahi blended athletic looks into his signature runway collection years before others considered it a thing. In 1994, the designer paired a teal and purple striped down parka with a lavender taffeta ballgown-skirt for his fall collection. Aware of ath-leisure’s rapid growth, the designer said “it almost feels impossible to do any kind of chic, relevant clothes” without New Balance in the mix. His “booming” ath-leisure-inspired SoHo collection was another factor, Mizrahi said. “I don’t really love the word ath-leisure. I think of it as the other pole. She either dresses up or she is dressed in these wonderful clothes. It’s the other thing that women do. It’s what most women do most of the time. That’s why it fits so perfectly.”
While some may not associate Mizrahi with athleticism, he appears to be part of the 23 percent of Americans who meet the Centers for Disease Control for getting enough daily exercise. “I have this leg workout routine, because I have a bad back and weird knees. The other thing that I do is I try to swim a lot. The thing I take the most pleasure in is yoga. I do yoga once a week with a trainer. And I do yoga on my own a lot because it keeps me feeling good,” Mizrahi said.
Declining to comment on projected volume, QVC’s vice president of apparel, Rachel Ungaro, said QVC continues to try to go after products that customers are asking for – in interesting and exclusive ways as is the case with Mizrahi. Working with New Balance was a first for QVC. As for whether this launch is part of a larger strategy for QVC to work with brands like New Balance, she said, “When the opportunity is right and it presents itself correctly then we’re always interested at looking at opportunities like this. But they have to be right and authentic.”
Ungaro said, “They approached us together. The whole idea was that Isaac is so good at color and print, and that was something that New Balance was craving. We really felt that putting these two partners together and creating a collection that fills white space for Isaac would be the perfect storm.”
Executives at New Balance declined to comment.
While he hasn’t visited CBT Architects’ futuristic headquarters for New Balance in Boston, Mizrahi said he is “enthralled by the amount of development and care that goes into everything they do.” He added, “Maybe that’s what makes this a good partnership. We always overdevelop stuff. We under promise and we over-deliver. That’s the idea behind Isaac Mizrahi Live on QVC — and with all of my licenses. I wasn’t exactly surprised by the quality of the product, which I’d been a patron of for a long time. It’s a confirmation of something.”
Striving for $7 billion in sales by 2023, New Balance has a deal with Mizrahi through this year. The QVC tie-up gives more price-conscious shoppers the chance to buy into the brand. Mesh lace-up sneakers, a pullover hoodie, a striped racer-back tank, high-waisted ankle leggings and printed crop leggings are among the items retailing between $25 and $55. Online shoppers also have the option of buying the designer’s new athletically leaning items in six payments. Mizrahi said, “New Balance has never been on QVC. It’s such a great opportunity for the customer, because she has never had the opportunity to buy it with such accessibility — just right in her living room.”
For added inclusivity, the apparel ranges from extra small to extra-extra large and the sneakers include medium or wide options from sizes five to 12. The products’ duplicity appealed to Mizrahi. “I love the style relevance of it. Yes, absolutely a woman works out in these things and its performance. I just like it because it looks so darn cute,” he said, singling out a sneaker with an espadrille-like base as a favorite. “It defies. You could definitely wear it as a performance shoe but you could totally wear it to work. There is the wonderful sports bra-meets-tank top piece that starts the whole layering process whether you are going to be working or to go running.”
He continued, “I’m looking at it as one layer in her wardrobe. To me, it’s the most important layer. It’s for everything. You wear it for every single thing in your life. The only thing I wonder about is, ‘What’s left after this?’ It seems so relevant to me that other things might seem obsolete. What else do you need besides this wonderful stuff?”
With Mizrahi’s collaboration with New Balance ready to launch on Sunday, the designer is at home in West Chester, Pa. Mizrahi routinely travels from New York there for his two or three weekly appearances. “I have a little place there and I get driven. It’s a family thing at this point,” he said. “It’s part of my life — only because it’s been such an important part of my business.”
His New Balance connection also borders on kismet. “I’ve been wearing their sneakers for so long. It’s kind of like a manifest destiny on top of everything — like a great coincidence,” Mizrahi said.