Raggedy Andy and the Cockroach

“Andy Warhol was reasonably well-known by the time he came to see me, although he was still being called Raggedy Andy, not because his work was sloppy, but because of his appearance. He’d had success with book-jacket designs for such publishers as New Directions and with his drawings and paintings for I. Miller shoe ads – and I knew I. Miller – but stories about his mishaps were making the rounds. When he’d zipped open his portfolio to show his work to the art director at Harper’s Bazaar, a cockroach had crawled out. Poor boy, that Raggedy Andy. But Harper’s had given him assignments. He won awards for his work, for his ‘commercial’ art, and he never pretended a difference between what he did to survive and what he called his art. To his credit, I think it was all the same to him. He was a very busy young man. I used Warhol’s art in several of my perfume windows at Bonwit’s. In July 1955, just before my work began at Tiffany’s, I made some wooden fences, and he covered them with graffiti for a series of windows. They were fun, full of a childish playfulness.”

Gene Moore

 
 

Photo by Leila Davies Singelis, 1950

 
 

In the summer of 1955 Andy Warhol‘s career as a commercial artist took a new turn when Gene Moore hired him to provide artwork for the windows of the Bonwit Teller department store. Moore had arrived in New York in 1935, hoping to become a fine artist, and had ended up a window dresser. One of the jobs Moore took to support himself in New York was making paper mache flowers for the Bob Smith Display Company. When one of Smith’s customers, Jim Buckley, was made the display director of I. Miller Shoes in approximately 1937, he hired Moore to be his assistant. By the following year, Moore was also doing window dressing for Bergdorf Goodman’s and Delman’s department stores. In 1945 he was appointed the display director for Bonwit Teller. Moore often modeled his mannequins on Hollywood stars like Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn, and was responsible for introducing the belly button on mannequins.

The cockroach story became part of Warhol’s legend. It was repeated in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). However, according to the painter Philip Pearlstein, the incident had actually happened to him, not to Warhol.

Warhol wasn’t the only artist working for Moore. He was also using Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, who were window dressing under the combined pseudonym, Matson Jones. According to Moore, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns all worked with him during the same period. Rauschenberg and Johns continued to do windows for him when, in July 1956, Moore also started doing windows for Tiffany’s in addition to his continued involvement with Bonwit Teller.

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Fashion’s Favorite Son

Portrait by Russel Wong, taken in Raffles Hotel, Singapore, 1997

 
 

“A kind of Seventh Avenue Oscar WildeTime magazine called Isaac Mizrahi in 1998, after the shocking news broke that the superstar designer was closing up shop. The dimming of lights at Isaac Mizrahi & Co. marked the end of a spectacular run for the Brooklyn native, who had been a fashion and media darling since his first rave reviews more than a decade before.

 
 

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Naomi Campbell, Isaac Mizrahi and Linda Evangelista. Photo by Mario Testino

 
 

Beloved both on and off the runway, the mop-haired raconteur was already a household name when he made a charmingly manic appearance in the fashion documentary Unzipped. By trailing the designer as he prepared his fall 1994 collection (conceived with the help of an Ouija board), Douglas Keeve offered a tantalizing peek behind fashion’s velvet curtain in his film. But not even the king-size force of Mizrahi’s character was enough to sustain the ride. Though his couture-luxe line of candy-color (“Pink! The new beige!”) sequined slip dresses and mink-trimmed ball skirts was admired by critics and Park Avenue princesses alike, his star was destined to fall. Isaac Mizrahi, the personality, was, it appeared, bigger than Isaac Mizrahi the brand.

 
 

Dress from Ready to Wear Spring 2012 collection

But after spending several years on other creative endeavors (including a one-man stage production, Les MIZrahi, and a talk show), the buoyant designer that Vogue once called “Fashion’s Favorite Son” was itching to get back to his first love.

 
 

The polymath Isaac Mizrahi in his studio in Manhattan. Photo: Damon Winter

 
 

In 2003 he surprised the industry by announcing a multicategory deal with Target. Kicking the Mizrahi machine into high gear, he spun straw into gold, raking in as much as $300 million in annual sales for the bargain retailer and paving the way for it to forge lucrative partnerships with other high-profile designers. Meanwhile, Mizrahi was also working at the opposite end of the price spectrum, indulging in glorious fabrics and flamboyant silhouettes with a new haute couture line for Bergdorf Goodman. In a landmark 2004 show, Mizrahi helped popularize the high-low concept by pairing pieces from his two new lines on the same runway. “My goal is that you won’t always be able to tell the difference between what is Target and what is couture,” he said. “If it freaks out a few people now, it will turn them on a few months from now.” The risky proposition paid off, and a trend—populuxe, or luxury for all—was born.

In 2009, Mizrahi applied his golden thimble to the ailing Liz Claiborne brand with a fresh injection of his signature brights and prints. And in 2010 the tireless dynamo launched a collection for the shopping channel QVC, with a broad spectrum of products from jewelry and hats to cheesecakes adorned with his favorite tartans and polka dots.

Running like a thread through all these projects is a philosophy of bringing out the best and brightest from within his customers. To borrow the advertising slogan from his Isaac line: “Inside every woman is a star.”

 
 

Mizrahi and Cindy Crawford. Still from Unzipped

The Madcap Maestro of American Haute Couture

Portrait of Isaac Mizrahi by Annie Leibovitz. Published in Vogue, December 1995

 
 

Isaac Mizrahi was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1961, of Syrian Jewish heritage. He is the cousin of rock guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, former player in the New York Dolls.

When Isaac was eight, his family moved to the middle-class Midwood section of Brooklyn. He contracted spinal meningitis during this time and his confinement was spent eating junk food and viewing television, especially old movies. The 1961 remake of Back Street, about an affair between a fashion designer and a married man, was a pivotal event in Mizrahi’s development. The glamour of the fashion industry depicted in the movie became an inspiration to him to design clothes.

Around 1971, young Isaac steals money from his mother to buy fabric and trimmings. At eleven, he saves up babysitting money and purchases his first sewing machine—a secondhand Singer from the 1920s—and begins stitching clothes for his puppets. He later says, “I felt like a total outcast. I used to sit and make these puppets and watch a lot of television and a lot of movies on television. My mother was really worried about me. Everybody was worried about me.”

After struggling to fit in at Yeshiva of Flatbush, an Orthodox Jewish private school (where he is caught sketching fashions in his prayer books and doing rabbi impersonations), Isaac transfers to New York’s High School of Performing Arts. “It was a setting free,” he will later say. Dabbles in acting. October: At Isaac’s bar mitzvah—to which he wears “sky-blue shantung” —his father presents him with a pair of scissors engraved with his name.At 13, Isaac was designing clothes for himself, his mother, and a close friend of his mother, Sarah Haddad.

Isaac makes an appearance as Touchstone in the singing-and-dancing-teens film Fame (Alan Parker, 1980), based on the competitive atmosphere at his performing-arts alma mater.

His earliest design influences stemmed from his his mother’s all-American wardrobe, which included clothing from Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Claire McCardell and Norman Norell.

1982 Graduated from Parsons School of Design, New York. Among his fellow students is Marc Jacobs, two years his junior. “At Parsons, everyone thought he was incredibly talented,” Jacobs later recalls.

Worked for Perry Ellis, and said he was a major influence who taught him how to cut a dress, and many lessons in life. After this, he worked with Jeff Banks and Calvin Klein.

After leaving Calvin Klein, in June 1987 he and Sarah Haddad-Cheney pooled $50,000 each and opened Mizrahi’s own womenswear company. They occupied a loft on Greene Street in SoHo. Seven stores bought the first season’s collection. By the first collection show in April 1988 Haddad-Cheney had secured additional financing from the owners of Gitano Jeans company. In 1990 the company’s workrooms and showroom moved to an expanded space on Wooster Street. Mizrahi’s menswear collection premiered in April 1990.

1990 Isaac Mizrahi is presented with the CFDA designer of the year award for his women’s wear collection.
The year 1997 proved to be a milestone in Mizrahi’s career. He announced an unprecedented deal with three major Asian markets in Japan, Singapore, and Korea which included freestanding stores, in-store shops, wholesale distribution, manufacturing, and sublicenses in Japan and shops and distribution in Southeast Asia, an online ABC source reported. The deal was estimated to generate at least $150 million in retail sales by the year 2000.

Mizrahi has made appearances in numerous television shows and movies since the 1990s. In 1995, a movie was released about the development of his Fall 1994 collection called Unzipped made by his freind Douglas Keeve. In fall 2005 the Isaac show debuted on Style Network. He previously had a show on the Oxygen network. His new less-expensive line ISAAC, opens in 34 locations around the USA. Each boutique will show his new logo, a Silver Star.

He often appears on many of E!’s programs and has become well-known for being flamboyant and considered by some to be rude. He also appeared as himself in the episode “Plus One is the Loneliest Number” of the fifth season of Sex and the City.
He also guest starred on the American dramedy series Ugly Betty (based on Fernando Gaitán‘s Colombian telenovela soap opera Yo soy Betty, la fea), in which he played a reporter for the cable channel Fashion TV in the episode “Lose the Boss“.

Mizrahi also appeared as himself in The Apprentice season 1 (episode 6) as one of the celebrities auction for The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

He made a series of comic books called Sandee, the Adventures of a Supermodel, published by Simon & Schuster.
Mizrahi is currently the spokesperson for Klein-Becker’s StriVectin anti-wrinkle cream.

He is developing “The Collection,” a one-hour scripted project that draws on the experiences of the designer for The CW Network.

Known for his magnetic personality and witty style, Mizrahi has won four Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) awards. He is famous for his use of colour and the clean flattering lines of his designs. Chanel, who was financing him, pulled the plug and Isaac had closed his own fashion house in 1998. He started his own TV show interviewing celebrities.

However in February 2003, Mizrahi entered into a new partnership with New York based Hip retailer TARGET. Isaac created an exclusive collection of classically designed fashion sportswear and accessories for style conscious women. The collections are named “Isaac Mizrahi for Target” and he unveiled his debut collection in April 2003 in Minneapolis at the Walker Arts Center. Target is putting the designer back on the fashion map in a major mass-market way.

When he was interviewed, Isaac said he was very happy working with Target. Certain aspects of the couture scene and the constant rush to try and make money, just made him unhappy. Now he is making clothes for ordinary Americans at reasonable prices, and they are “racy, fun and crazy” and very popular.

But Isaac’s heart has always been with fashion shows, and in June 2004 he put on his first show in six years, and it was really successful. The show celebrates Bergdorf Goodman’s decision to devote space in its American couture collections for Mizrahi’s label.