Isaac Mizrahi on This Week's Fashion Show: 'I Can't Vote Calvin Off.'


Bravo's The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection served up a highly stylish runway last night, and you could see the breathless shock on Isaac Mizrahi's face when he laid eyes on the competing designs. In a challenge devoted to wacky accessories, each contender produced managed to produce restrained garments. Unfortunately, one of the final five contestants needed to be eliminated, and a beloved competitor hit the road. We caught up again with Mizrahi to discuss guest-judge Simon Doonan, Calvin's terribleness, and why we shouldn't regret this week's verdict.

It was great to see you and the other judges beside yourself with admiration for the designs this week.

It was really a fabulous week. One thing I acknowledged on my blog was this crazy thing that Simon said to the contestants -- in a way, glamor and fashion can't exist without a certain ingredient of -- what's the word? -- eccentricity. In the end, unless there's some kind of eccentricity, there's no reason to notice it. A light bulb went on in the head of these kids, because from that time until the end of the series, the clothes get so good. It was so profound. Somehow Simon managed to say something there that most people can't often get into words.

Did you worry the word "eccentricity" would compel the designers to make clown clothes?

I was really excited because for one thing, Simon was kind of involved as a designer/critic. He gave them the challenge, he picked out the accessories, he oversaw the thing. He almost parented them this week. Then I thought that because he took an actual interest in it, they really loved this challenge. His interests spurred theirs.


Which of the accessories did you like best?

I think I liked the most difficult one to work with, Eduardo's feathered hat. I loved that feathered hat. So good. It's difficult to show off that hat because you have to do something really, really, really little with clothes. Like, if you wore a black turtleneck with it, you'd be done.

Did you have a least favorite accessory?

My least favorite -- I mean, I even loved the pig bag! I loved that big broach that Cesar got. I guess I wasn't necessarily mad about the cocktail hat with the bird on it. I have a special fondness for dada and Schiaparelli, and I felt like, "Eh? It's too dead-on." Nothing too artful about it, just mad.

This was the wrong week for Eduardo to turn out his same old ruffly dress. The point of eccentricity is to take a leap into the unknown, and he just didn't.

I agree with that, yes. Or just push something to the limit, you know? In some way, when he got that hat, it was almost again this kind of death knell getting sounded. That was really no way to make that hat work unless you did something exquisitely perfect. But it's funny, the top and pants that he did with the belt were exquisitely beautiful and perfect! If he'd just shown that, he probably wouldn't have gotten eliminated. It was that awful dress with the hat. I have to credit him, though: The idea for the dress was right. It was just the wrong length and something we'd seen him do a thousand times already. He had to think as an audience we'd be bored with those little cocktail dresses.


You and the other judges seemed conflicted about Dominique's showing this week. She made something that didn't exactly work, but it was functional for this challenge. Can you elaborate on that?

If you look at the House of Nami, it was so incoherent. When they finally had that tableau at the end though, it didn't not work. So what we were trying to say was, "We don't know why this works. All the parts were wrong, but somehow you made it work." This idea of a pig coat? A geisha hoop thing next to it? It looks like a costume party, but somehow, with the rest of the collection, the way it all split together, it looked like the the costume party collection. There's so much going on that it works.

Calvin pulled out a decent dress this week -- his best showing yet, as Iman said. I was pretty surprised.

One thing about Calvin is that -- I have to credit myself for a second, and we have to credit Iman and Laura Brown too. Talking about me as a critic, I don't like anything Calvin shows. Like, anything. But his clothes just weren't as awful each week-- or I could see objectively how people would like it. I couldn't bring myself to vote him off the show yet. People treated me like, "You've got to vote him off, you've got to get him off. He has a terrible personality, he's not working, he has a horrible personality, etc." That's all true, but I can't vote him off because his clothes aren't as awful as some of the other clothes. I don't like them, but they're not as terrible.

I don't like any of the clothes Calvin has shown so far. None of them. I don't buy it. I'm sorry. It's not enough to drape fabric around a woman. That's not a reason to make clothes. That makes you a creative child with bedsheets. But he has this way of presenting [this technique] as a world, and maybe someday he will grow into something great. Right now, the clothes don't not work. I want them not to work, and I don't like them -- I don't appreciate them personally -- but there's a customer out there. That dress he showed last night, the one-shoulder dress? It was good. It was really, really good. With Calvin, it's like, "If you can do something, then you should." Like, if you can put a shoe on a girl's head, then you should. But there isn't a reason for it! I don't think it's particularly artful or wonderful. It just doesn't not work as much as some of the other clothes. I don't think he's good. I just think he's not as bad as the other people who get caught. He's a good competitor. I don't think he's a good designer -- I think he's a good competitor. Dominique is a way better designer than Calvin. She doesn't know how to make clothes as well, but she thinks better. Her thinking is better. Someday if she sticks with it, she's going to be great.


You're right that Calvin was never quite the worst. I don't blame you for keeping him in.

It's true. He is the most obnoxious person though. I can't even stand to listen to his voice anymore. He is prolific because he will do anything. He has no point of view. "Oh yeah, I'll just drape this around. This is sort of pretty and it's toga-ish, and it's one-shoulder. I solved it." Well, no. There's no reason for it to be that way except that it's standing there in front of us and has a zipper. It's not hideous, you know?

Jeffrey was fabulous this week. That draped dress with the fun neckline? Very memorable.

So great. When that girl walked down the runway in that dress, everybody gasped. Iman wasn't kidding; she would've worn that dress.


His dress with the blue and green plumage was so necessary too. The burst of color was needed.

Absolutely! Absolutely. I also loved Cesar's thing. He almost won, actually. That's exactly who Cesar should be every week. If he were that designer every week, he'd be great. He'd make a fortune, first of all. Those clothes are so salable. That white dress with the jacket? Such a hot thing.

How do you feel about the final four overall? Are you confident that you've selected the right quad?

Well, knowing what happens in the next two episodes? Yes. It does reach this crazy creative crescendo. But at the point when we eliminated Eduardo, we were really scared. We knew he could make decent-looking clothes and they worked for a certain woman. But we weren't there conceptually. It was so hard because he's so professional! If you were casting a play, you know there's one actor who will memorize his lines, make his entrances when he's supposed to, and not be drunk, you rely on certain people like that. That's who Eduardo is. But the others had more juice as designers. You'll see, it works. We did the right thing.


  • KevyB says:

    This is the point where Project Runway derailed itself: always having to have the "bitch" at the finals. Like when they pathetically kept making excuses for Jeffrey to not go home to the point where they had to send four people to the finals because he obviously needed to be eliminated but heaven forbid the "bitch" get eliminated!!! (Thankfully, the new production company doesn't pull that.) With Eduardo having a couple wins under his belt, that really should've been his get-out-of-jail-free card for this week with a threat that if he makes the same dress again, he'll be gone. Because they haven't really threatened him over it, it's just been "Oh, that's kind of the same dress, wah wah wah." Meanwhile, Calvin's contributed nothing to the show, other than his attitude. They're stepping very close to Top Chef territory, where someone can be mediocre throughout the show and then step it up in the finals and win. Fashion doesn't need a one-hit wonder and neither do we.

  • Carol says:

    All I can say is that if Calvin goes we (20 of us) go , Calvin is a hoot he has us rolling on the floor in stitches every week. He is the only one with the personality to keep us tuning in. I am sorry no disrespect to the other designers but Calvin is just hilarious and its just natural.