It Starts With a Swatch

A fantastic survey of Isaac Mizrahi’s career is showcased in the newest exhibition at The Jewish Museum. Entitled An Unruly History, the ultimate showman is revealed through a stunning collection of iconic creations from his earliest work in 1989, to the groundbreaking collaboration with Target, to the various projects of the present day, not least of which is his relationship with QVC.

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The famous “Coke Can” dress.

From his earliest days sketching fashions in his prayer book to his education completion at Parsons School of Design he has been a force of nature with an insatiable appetite for every manner of cultural ephemera, voraciously consuming all forms of media, art, pop culture, sports and literature which are then translated into garments, costumes, sets and even performance direction. A unique and singular voice in the fashion industry, he was the first to allow documentary filmmakers into his world, creating what would become the entertaining and enlightening Unzipped in 1995.

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This prolific hunger has given him the ability to design innovative and imaginative apparel that is both practical and elegantly beautiful. While he has a keen eye for shape and proportion, most important to him is the pinnacle of color and all it conveys. Color is the bedrock upon which a collection is built.

He is also not shy about spreading his ethos around. His work with Target, JC Penney and QVC demonstrate his desire for democracy in fashion. As he states, “Luxury should be integrated. Even the fanciest people need things that are practical.”

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The exhibition is divided between three foundational units. The first is a wall that showcases his collection of swatches. A breathtaking display, there are hundreds of textile and thread samples, meticulously organized and catalogued by the designer.

The second is a sketch room with floor to ceiling fashion sketches from his career. These drawings are beautifully rendered and reveal his eye for the line and flow of a garment. Many of the sketched pieces appear in the exhibition.

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A series of coats created for the exhibition.

The final anchor is a high definition three screen presentation of a barrage of clips from his varied career, including runway shows, myriad interviews, cameo appearances in TV and film and theatrical work.

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The amusing and attention grabbing “Handbag Hat.”

There are plenty of ensembles to view as well and the curated pieces provide a sense of the evolution of one of America’s most formidable designers working today.

"Even the fanciest people need things that are practical." Isaac Mizrahi

Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History runs through August 7 and I highly recommend it. Learn more at The Jewish Museum.