December 6, 2013 Sections
The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
TORONTO - His luxurious creations have been worn by A-list stars and presidential wives, but with his latest fashion endeavour, Isaac Mizrahi is bringing his brand of affordable chic to the masses north of the border.
The legendary New York-based designer was in Toronto in support of the Isaac Mizrahi Live! collection available exclusively at The Shopping Channel in Canada, which includes apparel, accessories and footwear for women.
Launching his first collection in 1987, the colourful, curly-haired designer is well-known for his classic creations worn by notable names like Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and the late Audrey Hepburn.
After partnering with U.S. retailer Target in 2003, Mizrahi is widely seen as one of the pioneers of designer collaborations. Mizrahi also embraced the "high-low" wardrobe concept when he presented pieces from his couture line with items from his Target range.
"When I think about it, the idea of looking at these style icons in the '70s and '80s wearing a Hanes T-shirt and a Chanel skirt and loads of pearls, there was something magical about that, something anti-pretense about that," said the affable, animated Mizrahi during a whirlwind press day ahead of his live appearance on The Shopping Channel.
"Everything's sort of democratized. And to me, it's the most sort of interesting and most beautiful, in the right sense of the word."
The mix-and-match mantra is one still maintained by the designer today with his Isaac Mizrahi Live! range which he said was focused on the "urbane woman" in need of must-have items to add to her wardrobe.
"We think of each piece that lives on its own and we think of it as a collection at the same time. There are things that work together, but obviously, each piece is essential."
Items in the collection range from around $40 to $229, showcasing a vast array of dress styles including peplums, sheaths, pleated skirt-dresses, printed paisley numbers and ladylike looks mixing leather and lace. Perforated pencil skirts, flowing tunics, animal-print-adorned blazers and pants, plaid-patterned blazers and trenches are also featured, with riding boots, wristwatches, leather satchels and quilted bags in the line to accessorize ensembles.
Mizrahi cited a host of varied inspirations for his designs, from his passion for blooms to the ballet to travels abroad. He sought to incorporate floral prints into looks for the collection, and also channelled influence from Art Deco with use of geometric prints.
While tapping into his own interests is key, Mizrahi said he's also reached the stage in his life and career where communicating with the person he is dressing is very important. This is why he said he values the feedback he receives when on air, discussing his brand with women.
"I think this kind of communication is a really important thing, and adapting the inspiration and adapting the luxury of ideas I have in a way that works into a woman's life, that solves problems instead of creating problems."
While his labels are now under the umbrella of New York-based Xcel Brands, Mizrahi has maintained an active and prolific presence with work within and beyond fashion.
He has designed costumes for the opera and ballet, opened a cabaret act, and will be returning to the judging panel for Season 3 of designer competition series "Project Runway All Stars." Following guest stints on "Gossip Girl," "Ugly Betty" and "Sex and the City," he added to his list of acting credits with a recent appearance on TV drama "The Big C."
Rather than viewing his projects as disparate, Mizrahi sees the interconnectivity between his various creative endeavours as a "synergistic building of inspiration," each feeding into the other.
"It's my responsibility to maintain a freshness as a brand, and sometimes, that means doing other things, like developing my television presence and developing my presence in the arts. And, darling, that's why I want to do, that's my instinct," said Mizrahi.
"I'm not coming at this from a position of branding like: 'What's good for the brand?' I'm coming at it from (the perspective of): 'That's what I'm most excited about.'"
With fall looming, here are Mizrahi's tips for women's styles to try for the new season:
1. Put your best foot forward. When it comes to footwear, Mizrahi said the elegant, ladylike shoe is a well-heeled choice. He suggested opting for a flat, kitten heel, driving shoe or another tried and true staple: the riding boot.
"There's nothing more kind of classic ... that has that kind of presence of a riding boot. Whether you wear it with a coat for everyday or yoga pants or with a cocktail dress with a riding boot and tights — so chic, right?"
2. Love skirts? Go long. As temperatures dip, expect to see hemlines do the same. Mizrahi said he think it's "fresh" to have slightly longer, knee-length skirts for autumn.
"First of all, it's fall, so you want to kind of feel a little bit cosier, and it's just been happening and happening and happening," he said of the trend.
3. Pick the right print. Whether it's florals, paisley, plaid or polka dots, Mizrahi suggested selecting the perfect pattern of your liking to incorporate into your wardrobe.
"The ones that look fresh to me are either the right scale, which I think if it's an animal print, it's slightly more exploded ... or if it's a paisley, there's some richness to it."