One day on the subway after a particularly gruelling day, I sat across from a man. He looked like most everyone else on the train: tired, unwashed , unshaven and taking up 3 seats . That isn't what caught my attention, though. It was his 2 pet ferrets which were resting on his shoulders and crawling in and out of the collar of his shirt. The huge clear trash bag of cans and redeemable bottles weren't nearly as interesting or unexpected as those ferrets. He was a host and they the creatures living off him. No one seemed to notice him, almost like he was just there for me...a ghost dressed in trash filled bags and overly playful rodents. When the train went a few stops he made a heaving sound like labored breathing and rose from his seat. With agility I never would have imagined, he gathered what must have been a couple thousand bottled filled jumbo trash bags and moved towards the door. The ferrets kept right on frolicking as he lumbered along. Just as he got in front of me he paused and lowered his arms just enough so that I could get a look at him and gave me a big toothy grin. Toothy,because all he had in his mouth were a few teeth. But what almost made me scream with laughter was his tee-shirt. It said in big bold red letters " I SEE DEAD PEOPLE". You know something ? I believe he did.
When I read about Isaac Mizrahi being given the design directorship of Liz Claiborne along with John Bartlett doing the menswear equivalent, I couldn't help but think about the man on the train. The fact that the company keeps selling off and shutting down companies which have been huge money makers for them, like Sigrid Olsen and downgrading to the extent of putting a pillow over the face of Dana Buchman ,makes me wonder what is really going on there.
Isaac Mizrahi is indisputably one of the stars of American fashion. Certainly in the 80's and 90's he was pretty popular. A critical success definitely. Having the blank check book of the Werthheimers behind his company certainly helped to keep the dream alive. Larger than life runway shows, press, self and brand promotion were all his. Why true financial success eluded him is an interesting question. Personally, I loved the clothes. Loved the verbiage behind what spurred his creative juices and the way it all caught your eye. Color , color and more color. Fantastic shapes and odd tricks, like the coat which could be worn right side up or upside down. That one piece has stayed in my mind for 20 years.
So why didn't it all add up to a company with MEGA written all over it? Why did in one day the Werthheimers take away the checkbook and lock his doors. It was so sudden and seemingly without any warning. ISAAC, the secondary /bridge collection was cramming every major department store all over the country. That cash cow collection, drenched in press and promotion sat there on sale growing hair from the first day it was introduced. That was the proverbial writing on the wall. The public loves a clever fast talking, TV and film referencing entertainer, but if they don't get the point, the point being his clothes, the tent can stay up but so long before the road show is forced to make room for the next act in line.
Isaac the entertainer, best buddies with so many of the rightest people has gone on to do lounge acts, host a cable show, created a collection of Demi-Couture sold through Bergdorfs and a handful a specialty stores ,while simultaneously doing a collection of clothing and home furnishings for Target . It appears to have been successful, but again you never can believe all you see or hear or read....that could include this piece, but let's suspend our imaginations and go along for the ride a bit longer. I bought sheets and towels of his for my winter hideaway and loved it. The clothes that I saw at Target as I headed for the check out line didn't appear to be checking out, but I was happy with what I had.
So to hear the Target thing is now finished and he has been brought in to do Liz C. is just dumbfounding. It's like a brilliant corporate strategy that eludes me and probably many of you as well. What do they expect he will bring to the table which didn't get served and spoil a few times before? I've never found sustenance from an other's ego and I doubt anyone else has . Perhaps , they see him as that biblical character who took one bagel and a little cream cheese and made it feed millions of starving consumers. That is another example of not believing everything you read. I know it's the good book, but still that's a stretch for the most optimistic of us all. How is it they make these choices ? What parallel universe do they live in? I guess it's the one where ones bank balance blinds one to the other one. That other one being this one where stuff doesn't sell anymore unless it's unbelievably right or on triple markdown.
So we'll just have to wait and see. Like Patrick Robinson at Gap and Todd Oldham at old Navy
this appears to be a parade of zombies.
I'm starting to think that man on the train was right.
On the Street….Avenue Jean Jaurès, Paris
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