Isaac Mizrahi

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He Has Become a Jew of Stature, By Design

Once teased by the other boys in his modern Orthodox Brooklyn day school, Isaac Mizrahi became a person of standing in the community this year, when the Jewish Museum dedicated an exhibit to the fashion designer’s work over the decades. Including costumes he created for several operas, hand-drawn sketches and pieces from his 1994 Unzipped collection, the exhibition was a far-reaching retrospective — though with classic hilarious Mizrahi affectation, he described the process of culling through his archives as a “big bore.”

Mizrahi, 55, founded his fashion house in 1987, and his designs garnered critical acclaim. Over the years, he transcended fashion by working in film, television, dance and theater. The film “Unzipped,” which chronicled the creation of his 1994 fall collection and highlighted his charismatic and lively personality, was one of the first documentaries about a designer.

While Mizrahi may find his past work a bore, it’s had a significant impact on American fashion.

Reviewing the Jewish Museum’s exhibit, The New York Times’s Ken Johnson commented that Mizrahi’s work “pulses with provocative ambiguity” — but it’s also clearly had popular appeal. In 2003, Mizrahi was the first designer to partner with Target to produce affordable clothing, a model that’s found immense success.

More recently, Mizrahi has branched into performing arts, directing and narrating “Peter and the Wolf” at the Guggenheim Museum and directing and designing two productions for the Opera Theater of Saint Louis. He currently hosts QVC’s home shopping television show “Isaac Mizrahi Live!” and is working on a memoir and another television series. This year, the Jewish Museum let us reflect on Mizrahi’s past cultural contributions; his future could yield similarly compelling achievements.

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