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June 29, 2006

Isaac Mizrahi — The Apron


He created it in response to a request from the Smithsonian to design a functional garment for the museum's conservation staff.

It turned out so well the museum's decided to sell them in its shop.

Yesterday's Washington Post Food section "On The Fridge" feature noted the new apron, as follows:

    Mizrahi Apron

    For the latest in museum fashion, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, which reopens Saturday, asked New York designer and Target icon Isaac Mizrahi to create a functional garment for the conservation staff. But the Mizrahi apron ($85) could also be a special gift for someone who likes to grill. Cut from fine blue denim, it has deep, angled pockets for tools and brushes, or perhaps a potholder. Satin fabric on the back of the ties can be draped to show the name of the Lunder Conservation Center, a new part of the museum complex where visitors can watch conservators care for national treasures.


This month's Smithsonian magazine features a most interesting short Q&A with interviewer Jennifer Drapkin and Mizrahi; it follows.

    Q&A — Isaac Mizrahi

    Please excuse the pun, but Isaac Mizrahi is truly a man of many hats. The fashion designer, who hosts his own talk show on the Style network, creates affordable styles for Target, $30,000 shirts for Bergdorf Goodman, and costumes on Broadway. He just finished outfitting the urban miscreants in a revival of Bertolt Brecht’s anti-bourgeois Three Penny Opera. And most recently, Mizrahi found the time to fashion aprons for the conservators of the newly renovated American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, due to reopen in July.

    Q. Was it harder or easier to design clothing for the Smithsonian, than say, a rhinestone dog collar for Target?

    A. There are definitely some things that are harder to design than others. But I don’t take a job unless I have a good idea to begin with. The idea I had for the Smithsonian conservators was to design them aprons instead of lab coats. Lab coats can be so constraining. It's like how nobody wears couture suits to work anymore. People wear ordinary clothes. So I thought a little apron would do the trick.

    Q. Is that why you chose blue denim?

    A. Exactly. I love blue denim because it democratizes everything. And in the case of an apron, one size really does fit all. I hate to use this word, but it's very proletariat. I guess I've been reading a lot of Bertolt Brecht lately.

    Q. It’s easy to get the Three Penny Opera stuck in your head. Growing up you went to an Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn. Did you imagine that this would be your life path?

    A. Oh, I'm doing exactly the same thing now as back then. My environment has changed but I haven’t. I started by making puppet shows as a child. I sewed and carved wood and added strings and wrote music to go with my shows. So I have always been about design coupled with entertainment. When I was in yeshiva it was rough because I wasn't understood and I was an outsider. But then I went to performing arts high school, where everyone was a crazy actor or singer or dancer—it was a culture shock, but it was wonderful to be accepted.

    Q. It’s strange, but do you ever find that you sometimes miss being alienated?

    A. Oh yes. It's just like how success is often just as awful as failure. Ten years ago, I had to close my fashion line because it failed. And since then I have had varying levels of busyness — right now I’m really busy — but I sometimes miss the days when I had nothing to do but play computer bridge. I miss being a little sad. Because that's where great art comes from. Oh, I guess I'm thinking about Brecht again.

    Q. He haunts you. In recent years, you've become such a personality, do you ever worry that your persona is going to overshadow your work as a designer?

    A. No, because I don't know what the difference is really. My personality is one of my products. Unlike many fashion designers, I’m just about the ideas, and no one can do the idea of Isaac Mizrahi better than me.


The apron costs $85 but doesn't appear to have made onto the Smithsonian Shop's website yet.

At least, my crack research team couldn't locate it.

Maybe yours can.

If not, you'll either have to visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery shop (Eighth and F Streets NW, Washington, D.C.) or pick up the phone to order one: 800-322-0344.

June 29, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink


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