Isaac Mizrahi always seems to have another creative project up his sleeve. This December, on the heels of launching a new clothing line for Canada’s The Shopping Channel, the designer directed and created the costumes for the Guggenheim Museum's production of Peter & the Wolf in New York, a show he first narrated in 2007. I sat down with the 52-year old fashion industry veteran earlier this season to chat about his love of women, the reason he stays in the garment business and how being constantly on the go keeps him inspired.
You are on a major roll this year: a children’s clothing line, a judging gig on the third season of Project Runway Allstars and a line for The Shopping Channel. What’s next?
That’s not how I look at things. I am not on a roll. I am just doing what I always do. Yes, I have my ups and downs, both personally and professionally, but they don’t coincide with how the work is perceived. This year I signed a lot of new licences, which is very exciting. I also have a new store in Southampton (New York). The baby clothes are a natural evolution. My father was a manufacturer of children’s clothes. In a way. it’s a way of training new customers for the future.
Some fashion designers are like ballet dancers with early retirement built right into their careers but you have lasted in the fashion industry for over 30 years. What’s the secret to your staying power?
Again, I don’t really think like that.
How do you prefer to see it, then?
Fashion is something that transforms and morphs. It changes and you move with it. I don’t look at results, anyway. I look at the actual process, the creative process, and it preoccupies me every single day. Often an idea starts with a gesture and when I see it I seize on it, and it all flows from there.
Have you ever wanted to be anything else?
Well, I love entertaining, singing, acting, playing the piano, and creating costumes for ballets and operas. I’ve always had a passion for the performing arts.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“To thine own self be true.” That’s Shakespeare, but I do truly believe it.
You have dressed many stylish women, from Audrey Hepburn to Oprah Winfrey. Do your clients have anything in common, other than your clothes?
They’re all beautiful, smart women who are inspiring to real women.
It seems sometimes that there is no such thing as fashion any more given the proliferation of jeans and t-shirts on most people you see on the street. Does that depress you or just make you want to do more?
Everyone has their own individual style. If you’re confident in your jeans and t-shirt, then it’s fashionable.
This interview has been edited and condensed.