February 1, 2024 | Paul Richardson
Isaac Mizrahi(Photo credit:
If all you knew of Isaac Mizrahi was that he was a Project Runway judge, it’s sort as if you were looking at the world through a keyhole. You would have only been exposed to a sliver of what this multi-faceted creator, designer, actor, singer, podcaster has done in his wide-ranging career.
To quote Mizrahi’s website, “Isaac Mizrahi is an expert – at almost everything!” Which might sound like bragging, if it weren’t so true…
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Born in Brooklyn as the son of a children’s clothing designer, Mizrahi was perhaps destined to pursue a career in clothing design and fashion. Case in point: he bought his first sewing machine at the age of ten with money he had saved from babysitting over the summer.
But first he had to get through the schooling bit. Not very enamored of run-of-the-mill schooling (he was expelled from his yeshiva more than once), he enrolled at New York's High School for the Performing Arts, where he studied drama, music, and dance. In fact, his first break was when he landed the role of Touchstone in the 1980 Alan Parker film Fame.
Yet it what would first bring him into the public eye was not acting, but couture.
After high school, he studied at the famed Parsons School, followed by stints working under Perry Ellis, Jeffrey Banks, and Calvin Klein.
In 1987 (at 26) he started his own business and soon found himself on a rocket ship, presenting colorful, provocative designs that were often unexpected, often humorous, and always uniquely him.
He won the Perry Ellis Best Newcomer award in 1988, the same year he scored a deal with Revlon that led to Audrey Hepburn sporting one of his outfits in their ad.
The next year he took the award for Best Women's Designer from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He went on to win CFDA's prized Designer of the Year award three times.
Over the next decade, his fashion career soared (and included lots of work designing for dance and stage) such that he was the subject of a 1995 documentary, Unzipped.
But he also branched out into other things: he published a collection of three comic books under the title Isaac Mizrahi Presents the Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel; he crafted and starred in a one-man Off-Broadway cabaret show called Les MIZrahi; he hosted his own talk show, The Isaac Mizrahi Show, on the Oxygen network.
It was during this period, in 2000, that Mizrahi created his first cabaret act, the sort of intimate performance you might have once (perhaps in Audrey Hepburn’s day) have seen in a small nightclub or restaurant. Performed in an Off-Broadway theater, the show combined personal stories with gossip about the fashion industry and classic songs from Broadway musicals – with the lyrics altered to fit Mizrahi's life. Two decades on, this has morphed into an annual residency at Café Carlyle, as well as shows across the country.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves…
In 2003 Mizrahi returned to the world of fashion with a double splash: bringing affordable couture, with a stylish twist, to Target, while at the same time launching Isaac Mizrahi to Order, which created high-end, bespoke clothing for people willing to spend $20,000 on a single dress. His design work also expanded beyond clothing to housewares, footwear, and fragrances.
Ok, now we get to the Project Runway: All Stars part. Starting in 2012 and running for seven seasons, Mizrahi was a treasured judge on the popular fashion competition.
Meanwhile, through it all, Mizrahi had countless cameos and larger roles in TV shows, movies (even including in Men in Black), and stage performances. In 2022, he played Amos Hart in the long-running Broadway revival of Chicago.
Oh, and in 2016 the first major exhibition devoted to his career – “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History”—opened at the Jewish Museum in New York City, and in 2019 he penned a memoir, IM.
Then, in 2023, he started a podcast, Hello Isaac, where he has interviewed everyone from media moguls to comedians, from actors to chefs, from football stars to composers – which allows him to tap into his over 30 years of excelling at the intersections of fashion, design, and entertainment.
This wealth of life and professional experience provides rich fodder for the show Mizrahi is bringing to Festival Boca in March. Reviewing the cabaret-style show he will perform, The New York Times wrote, “he qualifies as a founding father of a genre that fuses performance art, music, and stand-up comedy.”
It promises to be an unforgettable evening with this provocative, creative, and engaging performer. Reserve your seats here:
The actor, host, writer, designer, producer, and Project Runway All-Stars judge delivers acclaimed cabaret performances “determined to challenge the cultural status quo and help blaze a path into a more liberated future where few subjects are off- limits,” (The New York Times). Accompanied by his jazz band, Mizrahi performs songs by the likes of Barbra Streisand, Billie Eilish, Cole Porter, and more. Throughout the evening, he shares insightful (and hilarious) musings on everything of the moment.