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Unzipped: The Magic of Mizrahi

Unzipped (1995) Directed by Douglas Keeve Photo:Miramax

Unzipped (1995) Directed by Douglas Keeve Photo:Miramax

It is a world that fixates on the next “it” idea of the ever-changing and evolving seasonal trends, the fashion business has long adhered to a collective mantra to “always look to the future” a motto underscored by the year-round tornado that is the global fashion calendar, where in recent years one never quite finds the calm at the center of the storm. Once arriving to be excited and enthralled by each designers’ “au courant” collections, sadly in recent years have become quite a tornado where one never finds the calm at the center. Due to current global circumstances, the pace of the world has stalled and the world around us feels at times foreboding. We are overwhelmed with questions about the future, many of which have few definitive answers. During these dismal days we all deserve to indulge in a bygone era, complete with Naomi Campbell carrying a Chanel backpack and designer ateliers with floor-to-ceiling boards of sketches and polaroids. Never does one say no to a stroll around the neighborhood with your casually famous friend Sandra Bernhard. The magic of going back into time, if just for one hour and thirteen minutes... lucky for us is the running time of the Isaac Mizrahi cult classic documentary UnzippedThe 1995 documentary film details from behind-the-scenes the emotion and euphoria of Mizrahi creating and showing his Autumn Winter 1994 collection, and his despair at receiving an unfavorable review.

Issac Mizrahi in Unzipped (1995) Directed by Douglas Keeve 

Unzipped became the blueprint for a proliferation of subsequent fashion documentaries that have given audiences a glimpse into a fantasy world of wearable escapism, maintained by a veil of secrecy and exclusivity. The curtain guarding the fashion world was not always as sheer as the runway scrim that Mizrahi has to charm and cajole the models into changing behind; Unzipped depicts a spontaneous and true-to-life depiction of an artist realizing his vision from concept to creation. It's a portrait painted with same despair, courage, joy, imagination, stress, drama and elation that goes into a fashion collection. This lively film directed by Mizrahi’s then boyfriend Douglas Keeve, allows us to experience the fashion mechanisms of designers, models, editors, hair and make up artists at work in all of their wild, eccentric, and fabulous glory that never makes the viewer question why they are there. 

Isaac Mizrahi by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue Magazine 

Yesterday afternoon on the weekly Instagram live show Candid Cameron, Cameron hosted a conversation with the darling Isaac Mizrahi. They volleyed with each other on their mutual adoration for all things theater and Isaac's wit and unabashed excitement gave my spirit such a lift. This lightness sparked a joy within me which is something much needed during these isolated days. I decided to spend my evening yesterday atoning for one of my gravest sins as a fashion gay: I had never seen Unzipped! From start to finish, I was completely taken in by the star quality Isaac brings to the screen and the fabulous melange of mega-personalities who make appearances. Who doesn't love a list, so below a round up of my ten favorite moments. 

  1. Issac initiating the creative process in his bed watching the catalyst for his current creative inspiration Nanook of the North. He goes from quips of desiring to create fur pants, which moves into the musing that the creation of said pants would get him stoned on seventh avenue into how women do not want to look like cows, but cows can be charming. It is a ramble of creative introspection that makes one yearn for fur pants in their closet.
  2. While talking on a landline (As I secretly pine for one of those curly phone wires), Isaac begins to spin the tale of visiting the one, the only Eartha Kitt! With poodles diving and prancing around her, Eartha gets illuminated in color as she shimmies, shakes and sings for the one man audience of Issac. Isaac doing an Eartha impression is also show stopping. 
  3. Wearing some chic round sunglasses in a town car, Isaac heads to visit the legendary Vogue fashion editor Candy Pratt. With a direct look at the wall of sketches she states “I’m not fond of plaids”, with her punctuating mouth is something I re-watched three times for its immense thrill. 
  4. The lunch conversation in regards to the Ouija board dictating the direction of the fall collection is to say the least, otherworldly camp. Also the revelation that the Ouija board turns out to be gay for Mick Jagger. 
  5. Andre Leon Talley’s chic zebra print mules and thick striped footed leggings as he sits drinking coffee during a Paris tarot reading is the quarantine look I never knew I needed. Also, “Hello” baby John Galliano! 
  6. With fittings just on the horizon, Isaac has the “I can’t deal” meltdown which is five minutes of sass, jabs and his innate witty quips all co-existing together. The exasperated closing “I don’t know what they think I am made of, you know… where are those chips.” is iconic. 
  7. As fittings begin we come across Shalom Harlow getting a divine fur cap placed on her head. Isaac’s stylish right hand woman Nina goes “This is Issac does Ralph Lauren”. His sarcastic “Thanks Nina” into his never ending eye roll as he takes polaroids is a moment to cherish. 
  8. Polly Mellon (Legend Alert!) shows up for round two and every electrolyte in my body is replenished as she brings the melodrama with operatic delivers of statements like “Too much jewelry, NO! Anjelica Huston last night she had on that beautiful dress on and long earrings, NO!” and “I’ve just been to a show. Be careful of make-up! Be careful!” with a flair that has one craving more as only Polly can do. Also baby Amber Valletta doing a Polly impression is quite charming. 
  9. The emotional roller coaster has come to the portion of the loop de loops with the day of the show. The fashion show scene is shot so incredibly with the chaos and mania of backstage contrasted with the glamour and elegance of the supermodels (Naomi, Linda, Cindy, and Shalom to name a few). Walking the runway with twirls, kicks and a presence which creates an innate excitement one feels only when witnessing something so spectacular and thrilling. True magic captured on film. 
  10. Bundled in a coat our wit wielding (and scrim loving) hero heads back to the scene of the crime, a newspaper bodega, he huddles over a WWD and reads the current, positive review juxtaposing the beginning of the film’s unfavorably despairing negative one, seeing his moment of triumph brings a satisfied feeling inside my heart and a smile on my face.

Unzipped (1995) Directed by Douglas Keeve Photo:Miramax

Whether you have watched this film and are aware of its charm or like myself, had been putting it off, Unzipped is something grand to revisit and pure fashion bliss to watch for the first time. Mizrahi’s stylish and doting mother summed up her son, but also this film, better than I could - “Witty, warm, colorful and beautiful.” 

As a tribute, presented below is an early example of quintessentially chic Isaac Mizhrahi’s work; The spring/summer 1992 “Oversized Poppy” dress in poplin cotton available in store now: Please contact with any questions. 

Unzipped is available now to stream on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

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