Magazine article The New Yorker

Home-Town Boy

Magazine article The New Yorker

Home-Town Boy

Article excerpt

HOME-TOWN BOY

Isaac Mizrahi, the fashion designer, is the subject of a retrospective opening this week at the Jewish Museum. "The thing I don't want this exhibit to be about is how old I am," Mizrahi, who is fifty-four, said the other day, in the museum's auditorium, where the raw materials of the exhibition--thousands of swatches, scores of sketches--were being sorted by assistants and curators. Nonetheless, confronting thirty years' worth of one's own work is likely to prompt elegiac reflection upon that which is past or grumpy complaint over that which has been lost.

"I look at tweed, and I go, Whatever happened to tweed?" Mizrahi said. He was surveying pages spread across the floor, to which scraps of fabric from his archive had been painstakingly Velcroed, ready to be mounted as the exhibition's opening display. "There are no tweeds now. Well, there is tweed now, but it is, like, 'tweed.' Tweed that doesn't feel scratchy and gross? Isn't that what you like about tweed, that it feels horrible? Seriously, that's what I like about tweed."

Next to the tweed swatches was a scrap of paisley. "They don't print fabrics like this anymore," Mizrahi said. "And, by the way, these were shitty prints that were twenty-five dollars a yard. And the way they were printed was exquisite. Now everything is Xeroxed onto fabric." He shook his head. "But I don't want this to be about the decline of quality--the steep decline of quality. I don't want it to be about that."

It is the first time a New York institution has celebrated the work of Mizrahi. "I'm Jewish: I get an exhibit at the Jewish Museum," he said. "They were smart, and they decided, like Jews, to call me." Mizrahi is himself something of a New York institution--the personification of what has been characterized in this election cycle as "New York values." He has crossed paths with two of the three New Yorkers--Trump, Sanders, Clinton--currently vying to run the country. "I was on Trump's show, 'The Apprentice,' all those years ago," he said. "Later, Trump said, 'Oh, yeah, Isaac Mizrahi, he really happened after my show.' I was, like, Oh, that's why I'm so good, and famous! I was on your show! …

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