Isaac Mizrahi: Unzipped and Unruly

Isaac Mizrahi: Unzipped and Unruly

"Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History", an impressive survey of Mizrahi's work spanning three dacades, was mounted at the Jewish Museum from March to August 2016. It featured a selection of dresses mostly from his high-end work, as well as costumes from his collaborations with choreographer Mark Morris, from his own staging of The Magic Flute at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and other projects in stage and theater. A tight grouping of accessories were also featured but separate from the clothes, allowing every piece tell its own story, without being just an adornment to garments.

This exhibit highlights the designer's humor, wit, and uncompromising spirit: Intense and saturated colors in refreshing combinations; the mismatching of pieces like a plaid down jacket as a top to a ball gown; elevator quilted pads made into a frock; boater hats made of cardboard.

An epaulet, that is commonly associated with army rank, is presented as a ghostly clear lobster.

Ah, yes, and the clothes were beautiful. We can talk about that all day, but its his serious attempts to provide amusement and show a certain newness that is different from the norm, that display the muscle of the designer, and this exhibit presented just that.


BABY BJORN Ball Gown, Fall 1998

Just add baby. An example of Mizrahi's wit and cheek: What could be better than a piece of accessory than to actually wear SOMEONE who matters to you.

Says Mizrahi, as featured in the exhibit catalogue, "The birth of a child should be integrated into a woman's social life".

BABY BJORN ball gown, Fall 1998.

THE REAL THING, Coca-Cola can paillette dress, Spring 1994.

Its the real thing. It is indeed, the title of this dress. Tight overlapping of round paillettes cut from Coca-Cola cans--collected by homeless New Yorkers (through the charity, We Can) and upcycled by a sequin-maker in Paris. Reminiscent of image appropriation in pop art, where images of mass culture is presented as the main vernacular culture, Mizrahi combines high fashion with mass imagery.

THE REAL THING Coca-Cola paillette dress, Spring 1994.

ELEVATOR PAD gown, Spring 2005

Don't be fooled. It does look like an authentic elevator pad or quilted shipping blanket used by movers, but this gown is made of fine silk with neon piping along the hem.

ELEVATOR PAD gown, Spring 2005.

Leather clutch with resin rocks, Fall 2010

You wouldn't have guessed. It is Mizrahi's painstaking process in recreating mundanity that sets his genius apart. Where others would have embellished such a bag with faux crystals with the intent to look like real cut gems, he had actual pebbles cast in poly-resin, and each were individually painted and buffed by hand, to make them look like ordinary rocks. 

Leather clutch with rocks, Fall 2010.

Click on the photos below for a full screen view

photos: © 2016 Arturo Veloira


Isaac Mizrahi (Exhibition Catalogue), by Chee Pearlman (author), Ulrich Lehmann, Kelly Taxter, and Lynn Yaeger (Contributors). 236 pages; Hardcover; 10 x 1 x 13 inches. Available at The Jewish Museum.


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