5 Minutes With...Issac Mizrahi

The designer sits down to discuss his new Canadian collection Isaac Mizrahi Live! now available on The Shopping Channel and to share insights into his inspiration, modern muses and memories of nineties New York.

Issac Mizrahi Live! Collection

Issac Mizrahi Live! Collection

Thumbing through the rolling rack of pieces from Isaac Mizrahi’s new-to-Canada collection for The Shopping Channel, one immediately notices that the fabrics feel rather luxurious for their affordable price point. The grey sweater, above, feels cashmere-soft, silky blouses slide against a natty grey suit and the bags and boots are durable leather that’ll last.

Mizrahi was in Toronto to promote the launch of Issac Mizrahi Live!, his most recent venture after over 25 years in the fashion business. The collection includes mix and match daywear, bags, boots, scarves and watches, all curated by the man himself for the modern woman. “There’s an urbane, smart woman out there who needs these kind of things…I always say this about my work: It’s not always the edgiest thing, but it’s inventive and speaks to design. The edge is a woman-by-woman thing. It’s personal.” We spoke with the designer about his inspiration, modern muses and memories of nineties New York.

Isaac Mizrahi Live! Collection

Isaac Mizrahi Live! Collection

FLARE: Walk me through the design process when you’re embarking on a new project. Do you start with a moodboard, a colour scheme, a particular woman in mind?

Issac Mizrahi: I start with a lot of different disparate inspiration. I get very inspired by travels and by the flowers in my garden…I have a very extensive collection of [textile] prints in my archives and I also go to museums a lot. There was this amazing exhibition in New York of post-Impressionist paintings and the dresses they painted [Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Met]. It was so divine. So I get inspired and then I go to work and talk to my design team. They put together a moodboard and I contribute and we edit and fuss until we love it and then people start sketching and I sketch. It’s a dialogue.

FLARE: For this collection, what were some of the specific inspirations?

IM: Art Deco was one of the inspirations for the prints as well as certain florals we’ve been working on that look like late 1920s, early 1930s like that little matte shift dress [below]. From there it took on all these modern things, if it happens that a floral print lands next to a paisley and looks great, I’m not going to stop that. And then there the pieces that are timeless, like a driving shoe which I think looks so much more modern than a platform.

Isaac Mizrahi Live! Collection

Isaac Mizrahi Live! Collection

FLARE: Do you ever think of a particular person, celebrity or otherwise when you’re designing a collection?

IM: I always have a silent muse in my head, it’s really hard to say who they are. It’s almost asbsurd, like who is speaking to me in my mind’s ear about these clothes and who I end up seeing in these clothes. Some of the ladies I dress like Mrs. Obama or Zooey Deschanel, I just feel that they’re always present in mind and I think of them as modern muses for everybody.

FLARE: Let’s change track for a bit. There seems to be a nineties nostalgia going on with the Interview models covers and Calvin Klein and Christy Turlington back together. Could you talk about your experience during that time? What was it like for you living through it?

IM: It was a very big, important time and living through it, I promise you, I was not thinking I would look back on it fondly. I mean, I thought it was like do or die every single day. I felt like I was on the edge of something so remarkable and scary. And now when I look back on it, it was the funnest, best time in the world, you know? There was something terrifying and there was something thrilling because it wasn’t based on pulling strings or loads of money exchanging hands, it wasn’t so much about deals or creating a brand, we were doing what we were doing. Madonna came to a few of my shows because she really liked my clothes. Robert De Niro came to my shows because he liked models. So it was like a real scene…in those days it felt more mysterious, to me.

The Isaac Mizrahi Live! Collection is available at The Shopping Channel online at or via the new iPhone app ShopTSC.