Bed, Bath And Bold

The powerful simplicity that designer Isaac Mizrahi brought to fashion now reaches to home accessories.

Focus On Home Decor

August 07, 2005|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

As much as he respects classical style, 43-year-old fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi doesn't mind raising an eyebrow or two. He is known for simple garments that often are as exuberant as their maker, laced with delightfully unexpected bold color, pattern, trims and combinations of fabric, like casual fleece with silk and wool.

The New York designer of haute couture made a daring segue to the masses two years ago with fashion for Target. So it came as no surprise when Target invited him to bring his stylish sizzle into the home this year.

Mizrahi's spring / summer home launch, an ambitious rollout of more than 200 products -- bedding, bath and kitchen goods, tabletop items, furniture, rugs, lighting and accessories, including blankets, polka-dot bowls and reversible gingham and tattersall place mats for pets -- has taken off.

His garments have a following of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Candice Bergen, Bebe Neuwirth and Diane Sawyer, and the move to Target added to his celebrity rather than tarnishing his image among high fashionistas. He says it's just "branching out, not selling out."

So at his last runway show of exclusive handmade-to-order clothing for Bergdorf Goodman, he had the chutzpah to show a $20,000 embroidered shirt with one of his $14.99 Target wrap skirts. His clients adored it.

His home collection features signature flowers on steroids in blazing bright colors that he describes as "a lot of fun."

"I don't want it taken too seriously," Mizrahi says. "I want to encourage people to surround themselves with fun, colorful things."

"It's all about color," agrees Charla Krupp, executive editor of Shop Etc., a shopping magazine published by Hearst that covers fashion, home and beauty. "Having his name attached adds an extra sexy zip." Krupp says his designs transcend age and generations, adding that "25- to 50-year-olds want something from Isaac."

Indeed, the versatile designer has many fans, some familiar with his alter-ego as a performer. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Mizrahi was drawn equally to performing and fashion, the latter of which had family connections. His father cut patterns for children's clothing; his mother was a stylish dresser. Mizrahi took mental notes on the frocks she wore by Geoffrey Beene, Norman Norell and Chanel.

After he graduated from the Parsons School of Design in 1982, Mizrahi apprenticed for Perry Ellis and later worked with Calvin Klein. Just three years after he launched his own company, Mizrahi was honored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as designer of the year in 1990.

He made his acting debut in 1993 in For Love or Money, playing a fashion designer. He was an alien in Men in Black and made a cameo appearance in Woody Allen's Celebrity.

Mizrahi starred in his own fashion documentary, Unzipped, which won an award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2000, he wrote and starred in a cabaret show, Les Mizrahi, and designed the costumes and sets. He has hosted a talk show on the Oxygen network.

The designer also is author of a comic-book series called Sandee, the Adventures of a Supermodel, published by Simon & Schuster and now in development as a film.

So, by the time Mizrahi hammed it up on a TV commercial for Target, prancing among models and belting out the tune I Believe in You, his face was more recognizable than Calvin Klein's or Donna Karan's.

Longtime followers of his couture line might well recognize the bold, graphic poppies that sprawl across duvet covers, pillows, table runners and plates for Target. The flowers date from a dress in his mid-1990s couture line.

Still, with all the electric style, Mizrahi understands that his designs need to feel good.

"Isaac links his understanding of comfort to his products, just like his clothes," says Julie Lasky, editor in chief of I.D., a critical magazine covering the art, business and culture of design.

"When we put him on [our May] cover with a part of his collection, it was so bright on the newsstand," Lasky says. "It's the brightness of the color in the midst of anonymous merchandise that draws you right in. It's not watered down. It's still very much Mizrahi. It looks good, and you feel like you're getting a bargain."

Indeed, the prices are on target, from $1.99 for a vinyl place mat to $249 for a white dresser. The sheer appeal of cheap chic makes the Mizrahi collection a perfect candidate for furnishing second homes because it looks great and is ridiculously affordable.

"I'm not an elitist," Mizrahi says. "I am a libertine. I don't know how you can only have expensive things in your house anymore. Not just because you can't afford them -- because it would be dull, like a catalog."

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