Isaac Mizrahi Meets QVC

Discussion in 'Designers and Collections' started by lucy92, Jul 27, 2009.

  1. lucy92

    lucy92 Mod Squad Team Leader

    Sep 9, 2005
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    The network creates a part-pitch, part-reality show to capture the designer’s outsize persona

    Clad in a navy jacket with hot-pink piping, his toenails painted orange, Isaac Mizrahi embarked on his latest project: cheesecake design. Furiously sketching a tartan-plaid version for Christmas, Mr. Mizrahi suggested “a chocolate-crumb moment” to add some crunch and asked for the cheesecake to be “enrobed” in white chocolate dyed red, with green and navy plaid stripes.
    “In spring, we will do a polka dot, obviously,” he said.

    Isaac Mizrahi tastes some cheesecakes for inspiration to create his own; food is just part of his planned line-up for QVC. ‘Finally, I can design petits fours,’ he said.

    In December, Mr. Mizrahi will be selling those cheesecakes—along with his designs for everything from potpourri to furniture—on a new program on QVC airing eight hours a month to start, the company says. The show, called “Isaac Mizrahi Live!,” will be a significant departure from the standard sell of cable shopping channels. Part pitch, part reality television, it will follow Mr. Mizrahi around as he pitches items like a $200 handbag or $80 shoes while he engages in his other activities, riffs extemporaneously about his life and takes questions from callers.
    QVC is erecting an expensive set within Mr. Mizrahi’s New York studio that can capture his day-to-day life in high-definition video, a first for the network. “Once in a while you make a calculated bet,” says Mike George, president and chief executive of the Liberty Media unit. QVC, which reported a 10% drop in first-quarter sales to $1.6 billion, says it aims to turn Mr. Mizrahi into one of its top five brands, like Philosophy or Bare Escentuals—brands the network says garner more than $100 million in annual sales apiece. Mr. Mizrahi will receive a percentage of sales as part of the arrangement.
    Doug Howe, chief merchandising officer of QVC, says he was fascinated by the way Mr. Mizrahi spoke, leaping from tea patterns to sheets then rain boots. “We were just sitting there watching him talk, thinking, ‘My God! On air, you are going to resonate so strongly with our consumers!” Mr. Howe says.
    The resurgence of Mr. Mizrahi, a designer known as much for his charisma as his clothing, is tied to the many changes sweeping the fashion industry. With cost-conscious conglomerates increasingly in control, many designers are searching for ways to broaden their sales beyond the high-fashion customer. At the same time the growth of collaborations with mid-American retailers, the rise of cable television, the birth of reality television and the Internet have created a surge of opportunities—opportunities that happen to suit Mr. Mizrahi’s persona. Mr. Mizrahi often says he’s adapted to the times, but it’s also true that the times adapted to suit him.
    “The idea of having an entertainment-type of personality is important today,” says Marc Beckman, founder of Designers Management Agency, a seven-year-old company that represents fashion designers. “That atelier model—where a designer would slowly build a clientèle that was mostly local—is just not a practicality anymore.”
    The very qualities that QVC finds praiseworthy—his short-attention span, his many diverging interests—dogged Mr. Mizrahi early in his career. In 1987, when he was 25, he started his own label that was an immediate hit with fashion editors and quickly picked up by top retailers. Riding high, he sold a stake in his firm to Chanel in 1992. But sales were poor; critics sniped that Mr. Mizrahi’s penchant to quickly leap from concept to concept made it impossible for consumers to associate him with a “signature” look. In 1998, Chanel pulled the plug after four years of losses. (His business partner Marisa Gardini says the closure was a joint decision.) His name disappeared from the lineup at New York’s Fashion Week that same year.

    Isaac Mizrahi is getting his own show on QVC called "Isaac Mizrahi Live!" As WSJ's Rachel Dodes reports, the fashion designer will pitch everything from cakes to potpurri while talking about his life and inspirations.

    With his high-fashion career moribund, Mr. Mizrahi decided to reinvent himself. “People have to make the most of what they’re good at,” he says, likening cable home shopping to a trunk show at Bergdorf Goodman. “So there are different ways of getting things done. That’s called adapt or die, the Darwin thing.” He launched a talk show on the then-fledgling Oxygen network and in 2002 he shocked the fashion world by agreeing to design an affordable collection of women’s clothes for Target. His deal started in apparel and accessories but later expanded to include bedding, pet products, home products and bridal dresses—tripling in sales volume over five years, according to a person familiar with the business.
    Now 47, Mr. Mizrahi seems to be having his moment. He designs for the Liz Claiborne brand; while sales are struggling amid the recession, retailers say he’s added buzz to a line that’s been considered frumpy for years. He’s hosting a fashion reality TV competition on the Bravo network and has been a frequent guest judge on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” Two seasons ago, he resumed showing a high-end line under his own name at New York’s fashion week. In August, he opens his first boutique on Madison Avenue.
    His company denies any concern about overexposure. “I think we are being strategic about the brand and its channels of distribution,” says business partner Ms. Gardini.
    While he’ll be designing a large range of items for QVC, Mr. Mizrahi professes the most excitement about designing foodstuffs. At 10, he says he was browsing through recipes and became intrigued by the word “sauté.” “I liked the way it sounded—sauté, sauté, sauté!” says Mr. Mizrahi, who says he used to spend weekends cooking peppers and mushrooms in a pan until they were mushy. “Call my mother. This is what I did on Saturday mornings.”
    He recently decided to make a cheesecake using goat cheese. “It’s amazing. It sounds bad, but it is so good,” he says, launching into a story about a Thanksgiving cheesecake disaster.
    Mr. Gardini notes that when Mr. Mizrahi called her up after signing the QVC deal, his first words were “Finally, I can design petits fours.”

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    #1 lucy92, Jul 27, 2009
    Last edited by moderator : Jul 27, 2009
  2. tboy34

    tboy34 Member

    Sep 20, 2007
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    This is very interesting. I've been a fan of his from the beginning. I love how he has reinvented himself and gone along with the flow of how fashion has become. I didn't know he was doing stuff for QVC! I think that is smart of him, especially since we are in a economic downfall now. Very good information. Thank you!
  3. fashionista-ta

    fashionista-ta Well-Known Member

    Jul 14, 2005
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    He is bound to be more entertaining than your run of the mill shopping network host :innocent:

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