Isaac Mizrahi on The Fashion Show Finale: 'There was No Doubt in the Room.'
The second season of Bravo's The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection came to swishy, yet tasteful conclusion on Tuesday. Iman reigned over the final three competitors like her queenly cameo in the "Remember the Time" video never ended, and Isaac Mizrahi helped award his favorite designer a deserving victory. Once again we caught up with Mizrahi to discuss choosing a winner, his feelings about a third season, and what he helped teach Bravo.
Isaac, I'm already having Fashion Show withdrawals.
Well, imagine how I feel if you feel that way!
Let's start with the third-place finisher, Dominique. She'd really proven herself through the competition, and I figure it must've been rough to give her the bronze.
Yes. Somewhere, and I don't know why, but I expected her to do a little better than she did. I say this often, though they don't usually leave it in the edit: Sometimes a great designer isn't necessarily good in a competition series, a situation where they have to make nine looks in a week. I think in some ways she's better than her collection. If given time, she'll blossom into something unbelievable. She was the youngest person in the competition too, and you have to factor that in. She has a little more to learn. Jeffrey's not exactly an oldster either, but I think he's got a little more experience.
I think you and the other judges' excitement for her potential was palpable, though.
Absolutely. Through the competition, Dominique was -- how do I say this? -- trying a lot of things. She was experimenting a lot. That's great for a designer, but to some extent, she still doesn't have "it" yet. She doesn't have what "it" is. There are traces and glimpses of it, but there isn't a definitive Dominique yet. At one moment she's very eclectic, and at another she's very plain. I think once she gets it and hones it, I do think it's going to be very, very powerful.
Now, as for Calvin's second-place collection: How did this showing put a coda on what you've thought of him all season? You've called him a fraud before.
There are some things I really like about Calvin. I like that's he so entrenched in the subject of fashion, you know? I like that he thinks he knows what he's doing. That's a really great thing, to think you know what you're doing. In the end, it's what might make you more of a success than someone else. There's a kind of confidence that comes from God knows where. There are some things he does that I like -- he has sense here and there, but it's not my thing. It just isn't. I love what Jeffrey and Dominique do, but I don't love Calvin's "drape something because he can" thing. His designs don't seem as kind of pithy and pointed as his personality is. I don't think he knows enough to really be as -- what's the word? -- sort of pertinent. You know what I mean? You have to know what's out there. Every single thing. You have to know what's changed so that you know where fashion's going. I think he thinks, "I can take some fabric, swish it around the body, stitch it here, and it's finished. Look how great I am! How inspired I am!" To me, it doesn't work. It doesn't work that way. Like, people whose clothes resemble Donna Karin or something, or Yohji Yamamato, those people are very rigorous in the way they think. Every fold, every drape, and every zipper has a meaning. Calvin needs to look more; he needs to be more observant.
You're saying he exerts himself more than he expresses himself.
Yes. It's like that thing Fran Lebowitz said about modern-day kids, that they're so encouraged, and their feelings are so considered and encouraged. "Oh yes, you should express yourself!" Blah, blah, blah. In the end, everyone thinks they need to write a book or a blog. And not everyone needs to write a book or a blog! All ideas aren't that great. That's true about some people, and it's true about some designers. Not everyone needs to do a collection just because they can.
Last week you said the winning collection really spoke to you. Now that we know it's Jeffrey's, can you talk more about your personal reaction to his work?
Well, it's like seeing a movie you love or eating a meal you love. You think, "I could've made that." You liked it so much, you appreciated it so much, you appreciated it on such a level that it became yours. You owned it for a minute. There are several things about Jeffrey's work that do resonate with me. I think he might feel the same way about my work. The worlds aren't too far away from each other.
And your favorite look was that red drape-y dress?
Yeah. I think it was that red strapless dress. It was just great. I couldn't believe it came from a competition show where they had five days to make nine looks. I also adored the gray chiffon number -- it was a crazy dress -- with a fur piece around her neck. He showed it with a great pair of leggings, and I thought, "Oh my God, it's so fabulous." It was like a sweat suit, but it was like chiffon, but it was like an evening dress, and it just made me insane.
Without being contrived, no less.
No! It really worked. It walked and it worked. Nobody batted an eye except to swoon over how much they loved it.
Have you figured out what your favorite look from throughout the competition is?
I still think it was that dress of Jeffrey's, that white dress from the Simon Doonan challenge. That was the best thing we saw from the whole show. The second best was Dominique's look, that white organza cloud top over these kooky tailored shorts that were cut off.
How much did the contestants' previous work factor into the final runway judging?
Well, no doubt when you're judging a competition show about an artist or a designer or somebody who expresses themselves creatively, the entire picture needs to come into play. Even though it's supposed to be about that moment, you're only as good as your last collection. In the end, I thought that Jeffrey's collection was head and shoulders above the other collections. There was no doubt in the room that he was going to win. I think Bravo wanted a little more suspense and maybe they did built it in, but I think the minute everyone laid eyes on the collection, they knew.
How does the prospect of a third season feel different than how you felt about a second season coming off the first?
I will say that I am extremely thrilled with season two and I hope there's a season three. I can't lie; after season one, I was very ambivalent about a season two. I didn't know whether I wanted another season. Then Andy Cohen intimated that Iman was interested, and she and I had a whole bunch of preliminary chats. Finally she committed. It was so exciting. We became producers and really met and met and met. We learned a lot from the network, but I think they learned a lot from us. Now, this was us really finding our voice. In season one, we went away from the whole [original] idea. In season two, it became this learning experience for everybody. I would look forward to a season three.
The show was retooled after season one. Are you game for more big changes if you come back for a third year?
Oh, yes. Oh, absolutely. I swear to God, a lot of things that Bravo said to me and Iman that we were not so crazy about? They were right about. And some things we liked that they weren't so crazy about? We were right about. A lot of the designer guest judges that we pushed for were some of our best, best episodes.
Finally, who was the best guest judge all season?
I love them all, but I must say that the best judge that we had was Simon Doonan. He set up the challenge. It was about this idea of eccentric glamor and for some reason, this light bulb went off in the contestants' heads. Glamor doesn't exist without a certain level of eccentricity, he said. The designers said, "Wait a minute. That's what this is about." From that point on, the clothes were fabulous.