Isaac Mizrahi Retrospective: The Lowdown!

If you love pop culture, you may know Isaac Mizrahi as a media personality.

You have seen him on Bravo’s “Project Runway: All Stars”, HBO’s “Sex and the City” and Showtime’s “The Big C”. You may have seen “The Isaac Mizrahi Show,” a TV talk-show that ran five seasons. But, you may not know much about Mizrahi’s fashion designer career.

Mizrahi Poster
Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History runs through Aug. 7, 2016 at the Jewish Museum in New York City
Now you can learn all about it! A new retrospective, “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History,” opened Friday at New York City’s Jewish Museum. The word ‘unruly’ could reference the designer’s seemingly untamable, curly locks. But it likely refers to his refusal to follow a traditional fashion industry path. That becomes apparent as you view the exhibit. It consists of about 40 “looks” – including clothing, shoes, accessories, and costumes.


Mizrahi wall of swatches
A wall of Mizrahi’s fabric swatches, arranged by color category
When you enter, you see a wall of fabric swatches. As part of his design process, Mizrahi attaches swatches of various shades and hues onto paper, arranging them by color category. One panel of different colored threads likely served as a sweater collection’s inspiration.


Mizrahi red thread panel
A panel of thread in different shades of red shows the designer’s attention to detail. Fashion experts say this panel could have served as inspiration for a sweater collection.
Items from the Isaac Mizrahi New York Clothing Label (1987-1998), exemplify how the designer broke rules. He mixed high and low. For his 1994 fall collection, he paired an orange silk taffeta ball-gown skirt with a white cotton t-shirt. (Innumerable tiny pleats gathered around the waistline provide remarkable volume.)

Mizrahi Orange satin ball skirt
Silk taffeta ball-gown skirt, cotton T-shirt, fall 1994
You see clothing from a variety of collections – including Mizrahi’s first New York collection show in fall 1988. Since that collection, Mizrahi has often broken rules by using unconventional materials: freight elevator pads and cans, for example. For one dress, he used aluminum cans cut into paillettes then hand-embroidered onto the piece’s silk foundation.

Mizrahi Coke Can dress
Aluminum cans were flattened and cut into paillettes before being embroidered by hand onto a silk foundation. Coca Cola can paillette dress, spring 1994
One room features costumes Mizrahi made for theater, opera and television, when other couture designers refused to do so. You may recognize the “C” sweater, Mizrahi made for Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Sex and the City” character, Carrie Bradshaw.

Mizrahi C sweater
Camel Hair “C” Sweater (2002),  worn by Sarah Jessica Parker on HBO’s “Sex and the City”
Finally, you’ll see a video playing clips of Mizrahi’s television and film appearances.But what really grabs you are clips from the designer’s fashion shows featuring Naomi Campbell, Christie Turlington and Linda Evangelista sauntering down the runway in the designer’s creations. They clearly show Mizrahi’s evolution as a designer that can only be described with one word: unruly.

Mizrahi Video

The Jewish Museum is located at 5th Avenue and 92nd Street in Manhattan. The exhibit runs through August 7, 2016. Admission is $15, unless you go on Saturdays. That’s when it’s free.





That’s the Lowdown!


5 thoughts on “Isaac Mizrahi Retrospective: The Lowdown!

    1. The idea behind “The Lowdown” is to entertain, inform and tell you about some free stuff! So happy you gained some new info. Please share with anyone that you think may enjoy learning more or might enjoy seeing the exhibit. It’s free on Saturdays!


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