Isaac Mizrahi on This Week's The Fashion Show: 'It Was a Disaster. It Wasn't Even Funny.'
Last night's penultimate episode of The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection was fantastic. The final four challengers squared off in a challenge devoted to the purest muses around: the elements. Though the eliminated designer may have been a crowd favorite, Movieline friend Isaac Mizrahi told us exactly why he's happy with the verdict. Join us for a Q&A in which Mizrahi tells us about Iman's foreboding emails, Calvin's continued lameness, and his fight with Dominique that never made it to air.
The designers worked with elemental themes this week. Are you often inspired by fire, water, and earth?
I am, often. I'm often inspired by the idea of the sea or sea life. I'm often inspired by flora and fauna, often, often, often. I'm often inspired by the clouds, or -- so many things that come from the elements.
Did you then have high expectations for the designers, hoping they could match your creativity with the theme?
Well, you know, one interesting thing for me is that these designers are so different from me. I recognize certain things, but for the most part, they're just in a completely different mindset. I relate to Cesar in certain ways, and Johnny -- who was voted off. I relate to Dominique and Jeffrey to some extent. These are just examples of designers I've felt kindred with. They're so different. Every designer is so different. So far, I have to say, my expectations have not -- now, I did not fool myself to think that the designers would be perfect, perfect, perfect -- but the closest it came to being perfect in one collection was next week's show, the finale. In the finale, one of the three collections shown is almost perfect. Like, I almost could've done that collection. I swear to God, I related so much to it and was extremely happy about it. That's all I'll say. Up to that point, I felt almost as objective as could be about each and every designer. I didn't really have a favorite. It's funny, the first season, I kept going back to Daniella [Kallmayer, the first-season runner-up] and thinking she was my favorite. I never played favorites with her, but I did see her as someone who was more of a kindred. In this group of designers, I never found that person who was most like me -- until the finale. I thought one of the collections was completely, thoroughly great.
The House of Nami, Calvin and Dominique, won this week. Did you see this week as at all validating for Calvin's potential? Seems like the judges keep waiting for him to live up to his "potential."
Well, I'm going to start by saying the same thing I say about Calvin every week: I get a million tweets every week saying, "Can't you eliminate Calvin already? He's so obnoxious." And the answer is not yet. Every time he did a losing garment, he was on the winning team, or he wasn't the worst person on a losing team. So far he needed to stay in the competition. I will say, in the winning house this week, I did not think his clothes were the strongest. I didn't like them nearly as much as I liked Dominique's clothes -- except that one white thing that went to the mid-calf. That was dreadful. But I loved her black dress! We never got around to critiquing her black dress with the semi-hood thing. To me that was the prettiest dress in the collection. I loved that crazy top that she had with the shorts. We sort of had a fight about it, which they didn't show on the episode. Dominique was talking to us and kind of saying "minimalism" with air-quotes. I was so mad at her. I was like, "You know what, darling? You cannot use minimalism in air-quotes. Either you live in a box like a monk with no furniture and are devoted to minimalism or you like plain things that you pair. But you can't say 'I'm a quote-unquote 'minimalist.'" Tell that to Calvin Klein! Tell that to Philip Glass! But in the middle of this rant, I heard myself talking and it was like, "Isaac, you're an old man." She put "minimalism" in air-quotes, and that's what her generation should be doing. It's the next step after postmodernism. Now that you've mixed things up, you put everything into air-quotes. In the middle of that rant, I never got a chance to tell her that I learned more from her this week than she learned from me.
You'd agree, though, that Calvin strongly influenced the team's winning direction this week?
I will say that it was Calvin's vision, but if he were the losing team this week, he'd have gone home. I hated that pregnant thing so much. It was a disaster. It wasn't even funny. It wasn't even funny! It needed to be funny for it to work. Vision or no vision, he'd have gone home if he were on the losing team. I thought, weirdly, the vision of the collection was what didn't work. Them walking like zombies down the runway? I thought, "Come on. Move it along. We don't have all day here. This is not the Louvre. This is not the Metropolitan Museum of Art." In a way, what was kind of good about it was the palette in that it was easy to look at. So it was black, white, and camel. Oh gee. That's not the most visionary thing in the world. Calvin was going on about "feng shui" and how Earth was brown and black was water and white was sky. Big deal, it's black, white, and camel. That was not the best feature of the collection. The best feature was Dominique's clothes. Somehow as a collection, it just looked more sophisticated and better thought-out because of Dominique's clothes.
What happened with the losing team? I'd loved the both of them.
I thought that Cesar somehow had brought Jeffrey so far down that that's why they lost. It's like, the clothes of Cesar were just so pandering to me. "Oh, look, I can make pretty clothes! I can make women look pretty!" Eh, no. No, you can't. Unless there's some kind of irony or some kind of bold original thought, you just can't get away with it anymore. In the end, dressmaking is important, but not as important as design. Design is god. Start with "Design is god."
I want to rehash your comment about minimalism; I agree that the air-quotes thing is annoying. I hate when specifically defined terms become vague and misused. Like, what does "avant-garde" mean anymore?
Absolutely, but you see what I mean? It's infuriating, and yet my dear -- I don't know how old you are, because I think you're way younger than me -- but that's what it's about now! It's air-quotes only.
Also, I loved that you just used "Not even funny" as a critique. If you'd just used, "This wasn't even funny" as a full judgment one week, I'd have cheered.
Well, I have to say when I walk my dog Harry, and he does something bad like bark or jump at somebody, I say, "Not funny! Not funny! Rethink it! Not funny!" People think I'm crazy! "You're telling your dog he's not funny?" But to me that's the worst thing in the world, to not be at least amusing somehow.
Did you at all anticipate Cesar's departure? I always feel like the uber-professional contestants on these shows are doomed because they have less of a spark about them. They're not willing to please enough.
Actually, I think he was too eager to please. It's like, Cesar is a great team player. He's a great team leader. He's a great conduit for stuff. But whether he's the strongest designer in the room? I'm not sure. I'm certainly not sure. He's a great teacher. I think he needs to teach. But I did not foresee this happening. I was heartbroken. I do think he's great and deserves to compete, but he was in the losing house and one of them had to go. Now, the guest jduges Glenda Bailey and Gilles, Iman, and I were pretty unanimous in our decision that the House of Nami had won. Calvin did have that wonderful coat with the safety pin that I thought was quite nice. But that malignant dress of his and that, I thought, overwrought, over-thought white thing at the end that was nothing more than some drama with a fan? That didn't redeem it. He would've gone home, I promise you, if he'd been in the losing house.
You're pretty openly sore about his success so far.
I am! I'm openly sore. Before the episode aired, I got this email from Iman saying, "You know we're going to get smacked down [from viewers]." Half the people on Twitter love Cesar so much. But someone said this thoughtful thing on Twitter at the start of the episode, he said, "Cesar, beware the ides of March." I thought, "Oh no, someone told him." But no, he perceived that. He perceived the Shakespearean death knell before he went downhill.
I read that Iman didn't like the 45-minute extra challenge you tacked on for the losing designers this week. Did you like that idea? Reconfiguring a garment with very little time?
Iman hated it. She felt it was very mean to do that to them. I liked it! I thought, "If I'm going to be eliminated, I'd want to give it my best shot if I have an extra shot to stay alive." The reason we did it as producers and as judges on the competition show was because we really loved both of those designers. We wanted to be sure we were doing the right thing. Iman herself, though she didn't like it, she have been slightly relieved that within the constraint, Jeffrey pulled through even more than Cesar. Jeffrey, not being as good at construction, is better at thinking and listening.
I know that reality show challenges often have few parallels to the real world, but do you have comparable "Fix that dress in 10 minutes" horror stories from your career as a designer?
Oh my God! Oh my God. There was one fashion show I did a long time ago where we made these body knits that were sheer. They went under everything, like sheer hose as little tops. They were fabulous. They were very sexy, like you were wearing pantyhose for a top. As the girls dressed for the show, that hose started to run. They started to run, like stockings. It was one of the scariest moments in my life. We had to edit and change things minute before the show started. Then, literally three seasons ago, we discovered the heels on these shows broke when the girls walked quickly down a runway. It's one thing when you're doing the fitting in the fitting room, and they're walking back and forth studying them. But on the runway, it seemed like these shoes were just breaking and breaking. Literally at the last minute, the stylist and I had to restyle the ten looks. It was insane. We sat there and restyled things, we brought shoes we'd never shoes, added new shoes, and solved things really quickly. We salvaged what we could. It's thinking on your feet, darling, it happens all the time. You have to think on your feet because the show is starting!
Lastly, any further teases for next week's finale?
I just think the world will be rocked when you find out who won. It's going to be so exciting. So exciting.