Isaac Mizrahi

The designer is on a single-handed mission to amuse America.

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Illustration: Rob Kelly

Isaac Mizrahi has done much to democratize fashion without sacrificing style. With lines at both Bergdorf Goodman and Target, as well as a show on the Style Network, Mizrahi, 44, could have turned into some terrible haute couture parody by now. But his curiosity and blessed sense of humor won't allow it. He has just launched a new magazine, Isaac's Style Book, a compelling blend of beautiful sophistication and down-home irreverence (the tone is get-off-your-ass-and-make-it-yourself).

Isaac Mizrahi has done much to democratize fashion without sacrificing style. With lines at both Bergdorf Goodman and Target, as well as a show on the Style Network, Mizrahi, 44, could have turned into some terrible haute couture parody by now. But his curiosity and blessed sense of humor won't allow it. He has just launched a new magazine, Isaac's Style Book, a compelling blend of beautiful sophistication and down-home irreverence (the tone is get-off-your-ass-and-make-it-yourself). If the Brooklyn-born Mizrahi has one overriding message in all of his endeavors, from feeling up unsuspecting actresses during red-carpet interviews at the Golden Globes to designing cute outfits for women on a budget, it is to just grab—or grope—life with both hands.

Is there a novel that epitomizes fashion for you?

Vanity Fair by Thackeray. It's about people who go way in and way out of fashion without even trying. The lesson of Becky Sharp is that you play the game, and that's what fashion is. And the more you like the game, the better you are at it. Through most of that book, that girl is on the eve of ruin, and she sleeps well and she wakes up, and she's—you know, vicious. It's a really good lesson, and it's extremely modern.

What was your reaction when Robert Best was voted off Project Runway?

Oh, wait—is he the one who said he hated me or something?

He said that working for you was a difficult experience.

Well, that's because he is a really difficult person. I don't know what to tell you. He had to be interesting. Everybody has to be interesting in some way, and so he chose to be rotten and say rotten things about me, and that made him interesting for about 15 seconds. [Laughs]

Did you watch the red-carpet coverage of the Emmys?

I never watch that stuff.

Why not?

It's this thing that has air quotes around it. People aren't really talking about anything; they're talking about nonsense. And if something real goes on, if something actually happens, a thousand publicists bristle. And then they call you up and say, "That was bad. I don't want you to do that again."

I loved what you did at the Golden Globes.

Me too. I felt like, America's really bored. We have to do something. I thought my shtick that night was boring. I thought they were going to cancel me for the Oscars—it became this crazy thing. By the time the Oscars rolled around, I was so scared of publicists. They would say to me, "Oh, no, no, no—she's really classy. She won't talk to you." I guess I'm not classy? [Laughs]

Jesus Christ.

I know, I know! It was so crazy. But fine. You know, crazy and fine.

Do you own any clothes that you dearly love but never wear?

I have custom-made shoes, and I don't really wear them, because my feet are so unaccustomed to wearing tailored shoes. I have very, very, very high arches. If I show them to you, you're going to scream. As a ballet dancer, I could have leapt to the top of the Empire State Building. I wish I could wear high heels. I have several pairs and I'm made for high heels. My foot is like a Barbie-doll foot. I can run down the street in high heels.

What's your favorite cheap store other than Target?

Pearl River! My God, those gongs.

What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

Shut off my television. I sort of have a sleep thing.

You have problems sleeping?

Yeah. Stopping smoking has helped me more than anything.

How did you quit?

With Mark Morris, the same day. Basically it was like stopping smoking with Jesus Christ. I'd say, "Mark, Mark, I'm freaking out!" And he'd look at me and say, "Listen to me. Listen to my language." [Grumbles] Don't tell me about your language.

Language?

Like [Imitates Morris]: "I no longer smoke. I didn't say that I didn't smoke." [Screams in anguish] It worked.

Isaac Mizrahi's fall line and his Style Book are in stores now.

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