Isaac Mizrahi on a 'Shakespearean' Edition of The Fashion Show

carnivalbarker225.jpgGuys, The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection is great. Iman melts mortals in a way Heidi Klum will never achieve, and Isaac Mizrahi gives spot-on critiques every single week. Following last night's "wedding" episode featuring a trio of gay couples (Hooray!), we're checking in with Isaac to discuss guest judges Johnny Weir and Rachel Zoe, that hideous menswear, and the greatest Shakespearean metaphors you'll read all month.

Isaac, you shared the panel with Rachel Zoe and Johnny Weir last night. How were they as commentators?

It was so great. So, so great. One thing that was great about working with Rachel Zoe was she'd arranged a hard-out of 8 p.m. So we really had to finish by 8 p.m., which is always our goal, but because she was pregnant -- or some commitment -- she had to be out the door at 8 p.m. It was great because it was like, "Uh, we're finished? OK! Bye!" No lingering, no reshooting, no correcting, no voiceovers, good-bye. Also, she's the most incredible stylist in the world, and when she says something, you listen.

I take it you love Johnny Weir as much as I do.

I don't know what makes him who he is, but he walks in the room, and you just feel like you're in the presence of a great thinker and artist. I love watching him skate, and he's a great skater, but why do we consider him this great tastemaking fashion person? Why? And it's a certain thing he exudes when he walks into the room. He encompasses fashion in such a crazy, deeply genetic way or something. When he says something, it's always incredibly smart and you just believe it because he's completely committed to that.

There's a frankness to him that's refreshing.

And he's so incredibly... humor-ful. Humor-ful? I don't know how to put that. He's a really funny guy. He's so committed to this thought of changing, changing, changing clothes every five minutes. Very exciting.

Judging didn't seem so difficult this week -- I kind of wanted a throwdown between all four judges.

It wasn't that simple. When you have an opinion it's sometimes so different from someone else's. I think, yes, we all agreed that the gay couple worked the least. But there was something about the second lesbian couple that really didn't work either. There was a moment where I thought for all that dressmaking and technique, they should've done better. And it wasn't as challenging. This has been a women's fashion show so far. One thing I will say that was one of the smartest things said all night -- Rachel said, "Calvin, you really have to figure out how to work with people. The news of your reputation travels like lightning in this industry." She's right about that. Somewhere, Calvin has painted himself into this crazy corner. I get all these tweets about, "Get rid of him! Get rid of him!" and while we're there, we really kind wanted to get rid of him. We thought, "If we get rid of him, we'll have some sort of fabulous reaction." But we just could not. His look was awful, but Cindy's look was ghastly. Things about hers were just unforgivable. The way she handled that black fabric? If this was a cooking contest, it'd be like if someone couldn't make a vinaigrette. That's how it came across with Cindy a little bit. I'm sorry she got snafu'd in this competition, and it was kind of Shakespearean that she knew, when she was working with Calvin, that she was doomed. Like Lady Macbeth -- "Out, out, damn spot" -- she committed a crime and won't ever live it down, you know?

Eliminating her was really terrible, because I love her. But even watching her pull that ring out of that little bag, it was very Shakespearean!


I agree that Cindy deserved to go home, but Calvin's Matrix suit is more fun to mock. It said "dorky monastery" to me.

I know, and the funny Korean guy who wore it said, "I could be serving sushi at my own wedding in that." Funniest thing he said all night. It was like a Benihana uniform. Black and red? It just didn't work. Seeing the drama go down backstage, it was like, "Calvin! What are you thinking?!" First, Calvin, listen. Second of all, you're wrong. Third of all, what? Who deals with people that way?

Can you gauge Calvin's level of self-awareness? Is there any there?

I have to say, living through it again and seeing what they edit and how they present things, you'll see maybe next week that he is contrite. He is trying. It gets more and more evident as we get into it -- next week you'll see. It was a little evident that he realized he was a monster this week. There was a moment. "Oh my gosh, I really am a monster." It wasn't even when we told him about it. It was in the midst of the whole thing he realized he was going down. There's a moment in the process -- maybe next week? -- where he goes, "I'm sorry, everybody. I've just been a prick and an idiot. I'm really sorry." There is a point at which he becomes contrite. I think maybe it's next week.

To continue this Shakespeare metaphor, until he apologizes, he's like Richard III. The unhinged fashion monster.

[Laughs.] Exactly! He starts to get insecure, finally, after all this time. You don't even want him to be insecure; you just him to be self-aware. Like Richard III, that insecurity is his Achilles Heel. But I don't want to give too much away, obviously.


Did you really want to give the win to Dominique?

I wasn't really so happy about that. I thought, "Yes, she needs to get the award because it's the least bad thing." But there was a moment we were going to give it to Eduardo, and I just couldn't. It was well-made for a 24-hour competition, and well-cut. But there was something common and dreadful about it. It felt like the worst kind of bridal party imaginable. I love that color, but that color, in that dress, on that girl was so tawdry to me. Somewhere we were considering giving him the award because of its execution, so go figure. I mean, what did we have to choose from? One thing that didn't get into the edit -- we taped a whole bunch of things that didn't get in, like deliberations -- but Iman said this incredible thing in the mini-deliberation we had. It set us up to think about the show differently. "You know, darlings: The thing they did get was it was about love." That's what they did get. When you think about that, and you look at Dominique's dress, you think, "All right, I get it." It's a plain, beautiful dress. But it could've been sheerer, or more glittery, and with more flight of some kind. It was too earthly or something. I'm happy because Dominique is a good designer and so cute.


My favorite terrible look was Cesar's. The bow tie? The carnival barker flair?

Yeah, unforgivable. Unforgivable. This is not the dressmaker show. This is The Fashion Show. It was such a clowny exit, a clowny look. That model was a cute girl, and she looked like a clown. That body, that girl -- she was a SILF [Sister I'd Like to...]. This guy in my gym told me this morning, "Those pants didn't look so bad. You were a little harsh on him." But you know what? You guys did not see it in person. It looked like a shower curtain. It really did.

Ever read that short story "The Yellow Wallpaper"? I felt like the creepy protagonist staring into those pants, finding horrible eyes and shapes in the print -- as I went mad.

I wish it was that deep! It wasn't deep enough. Nothing was changing about it. It was flat and awful, more so in person. On camera, it took on a kind of depth. But in person, it was the cheapest thing in the world. And the corduroy jacket? Paisley pants? At someone's wedding? I was almost offended. I don't know where he went wrong, but he went wrong to me.


  • AuntInAZ says:

    Great interview! I love Isaac's comments on Johnny Weir! This is one of the best descriptions of Johnny Weir I've read yet, "I don’t know what makes him who he is, but he walks in the room, and you just feel like you’re in the presence of a great thinker and artist"; as well as the rest of what Isaac has to say about my favorite skater.
    And I also love this description of Iman, 'Iman melts mortals in a way Heidi Klum will never achieve'.

  • parker says:

    He'd better mean next week regarding Calvin because I don't want to consider that he'll still be around two weeks form now.