Family & Companions
Renowned as much for his outré, larger-than-life personality as his iconoclastic, ever-shifting clothing lines, designer Isaac Mizrahi achieved success both behind the catwalk and in front of the camera. After bursting onto the New York fashion scene in the late-1980s, Mizrahi's nascent design company was subsidized by French fashion powerhouse Chanel for six turbulent years. During this time, he increased his profile with acclaimed work as the costume designer for the musical special "Liza Minnelli: Live from Radio City Music Hall" (PBS, 1992), as the focus of the lauded documentary "Unzipped" (1995), and with an occasional acting job, as in Woody Allen's "Celebrity" (1998). A talk show of his own, "The Isaac Mizrahi Show" (Oxygen, 2001-03), a hugely successful clothing line for Target, correspondent work at red carpet events for E! Networks and serving as a judge on the design-competition series "The Fashion Show" (Bravo, 2009- ) kept him busy and in the limelight. As much a personality as a creator, Mizrahi had long since become a brand unto himself, as salable as any clothing line he could ever design.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Isaac Mizrahi discovered his life's goal when he was a teenager, designing and making clothes for his mother and her friends. He simultaneously nurtured his love of theater, though, by attending the High School of Performing Arts while taking night classes at Parsons School of Design. After graduating from Parsons, Mizrahi apprenticed with noted designers Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein and Jeffrey Banks before striking out on his own in 1987. Two years later, he was cited by The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) as the new talent of the year. Over the course of the next decade, Mizrahi expanded his empire, adding men's wear, eyeglasses and shoes to his line. He picked up two CFDA awards as "designer of the year" (in 1990 and 1992), and began branching out by creating costumes for ballets instead of simply dressing celebrities on red carpets with his high-end gowns. Mizrahi also designed the costumes for Liza Minnelli's 1991 stage show "Stepping Out" which netted him a 1993 Emmy nomination for the 1992 televised PBS special based on that production.
In 1993, Mizrahi achieved a dream by making his motion picture acting debut cast as a fashion designer in the Michael J. Fox vehicle "Life with Mikey." He subsequently enchanted viewers as the subject of the documentary "Unzipped" (1995), directed by his then companion Douglas Keeve. "Unzipped" traced the genesis of the designer's fall 1994 collection for which he drew his inspiration from such pop icons as Nanook of the North, Loretta Young in "The Call of the Wild," Elizabeth Montgomery in "Bewitched" and Mary Tyler Moore.
While "Unzipped" showcased him at the top of his designer-to-the-stars game, only three short years later, Chanel withdrew its financing of his business and his design empire collapsed. Mizrahi more or less withdrew from the public eye, although he did make appearances in three Woody Allen films: "Celebrity" (1998), "Small Time Crooks" (2000) and "Hollywood Ending" (2002). When he finally returned to the limelight, it was as star and writer of "Les MIZrahi," in which he distributed Rice Krispy treats to the audience while regaling them with autobiographical tales, name-dropping, a demonstration of his sewing ability, and the occasional song. The reviews were mostly positive; Variety noted that Mizrahi "exhibits onstage the same natural effervescence and neurotic appeal that made him an entertaining movie subject." In the meantime, Mizrahi attempted to develop his 1997 comic book "The Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel" as both a live-action film and an animated TV series, but neither project was realized.
As his fashion empire dwindled, Mizrahi continued to parlay his fame as a personality, starring in "The Isaac Mizrahi Show," his own talk show on the female-friendly cable channel Oxygen (2001-2003), in which he and a camera crew would often accompany celebrities on various excursions such as taking Conan O'Brien shopping at both Barney's. After receiving the Drama Desk Award for his costume design for revival of the classic Broadway play "The Women" in 2002, Mizrahi resurfaced in a major way in 2005 with the debut of a home collection at the ubiquitous retailer Target, and as the host of his own daily Style Network chat fest "Isaac" (2005 - ), in which he grew increasingly comfortable on camera, alternately fawning over, sparring with and skewering C-list celebrities (with A-list pals like Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker stopping by from time to time) and unctuous society and fashion mavens, quickly garnering a loyal cult following.
In 2006 Mizrahi was tapped by Style's sister cable network E! to provide coverage from the red carpet at various high-profile Hollywood awards galas, in the hopes his outrageous and uncensored personality would enliven the often leaden pre-ceremony proceedings. The gamble paid off in spades when during his first outing at the Golden Globes, the openly gay Mizrahi squeezed Scarlett Johansson's breast, looked down Teri Hatcher's dress for a hidden speech, asked Eva Longoria about her personal grooming habits underneath her clothes, asked a purse-less Natalie Portman what she would do if she needed a cell phone, credit card or condom, referred to Charlize Theron's character in the 2004 film "Monster" "a scary dyke with bad teeth" and otherwise caught celebrities off-guard. E! defended Mizrahi's outrageous enthusiasm, despite concerned celebrity publicists, outraged gay and lesbian organizations, and words of warning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences about the consequences for such tomfoolery on their red carpet.
In 2008, Mizrahi discontinued his eponymous clothing line at Target to begin duties as the creative director for the women's apparel company, Liz Claiborne. A disaster from the beginning, Mizrahi's Claiborne line suffered from poor execution, sporadic distribution and the growing financial troubles of the company. By the end of 2009, Mizrahi had ended his involvement with Claiborne. That same year, he returned to television for "The Fashion Show" (Bravo, 2009- ), a design competition co-hosted by Mizrahi and former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland, who was replaced by supermodel Iman in the second season. In May of 2010 he made it to the semifinals on the "Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational," a star-studded event on the long-running game show "Jeopardy!" (syndicated, 1984- ). Going up against the likes of actors Charles Shaughnessy and Michael McKean (who went on to win in the finals), Mizrahi's participation raised money for Good Shepherd Services, an organization aimed at helping at-risk youth. Mizrahi later joined fellow fashionista Georgina Chapman and host Angela Lindvall for the reality-competition "Project Runway: All Stars" (Lifetime, 2011- ), on which contestants from seasons past returned to the program to go head-to-head with the best up-and-coming fashion designers.
By Bryce Coleman
Cast (Feature Film)
Costume-Wardrobe (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Opened own design business
Won the CFDA Perry Ellis Award for new fashion talent
Garnered praise for his fall collection
Named CFDA Designer of the Year
Launched first men's collection
Designed costumes for Liza Minnelli's stage show "Stepping Out" performed at Radio City Music Hall; earned 1993 Emmy nomination for TV special based on this production
Again won CFDA Designer of the Year award
Made feature acting debut playing a fashion designer in "For Love or Money," starring Michael J. Fox
Launched a shoe line
Featured subject of the documentary film "Unzipped"
Created the costumes for the stage play "The Santaland Diaries," starring Timothy Olyphant
Made directorial debut on two episodes of the series "The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century" (PBS)
Was an interviewee for the documentary "Beautopia"
Chanel, his financial backer, forced closure of design businesses
Made a cameo in Woody Allen's "Celebrity"
Acted in Allen's "Small Time Crooks"
Wrote and starred in the cabaret offering "Les MIZrahi"; also designed the sets and costumes
Hosted "The Isaac Mizrahi Show," described as a documentary-style look at his day-to-day activities (Oxygen)
Designed costumes for the Roundabout Theater's revival of "The Women"
Wrote and directed two parts of "Chasing the Sun," a documentary miniseries on aviation
Appeared in Allen written and directed romantic comedy "Hollywood Ending"
Appeared in the documentary "Seamless"
Guest starred on ABC series "Ugly Betty"
Hosted the Bravo reality competition series "The Fashion Show"
Featured as a regular judge on "Project Runway All Stars" (Lifetime)