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A true suburban kid, my earliest memories of capital F fashion are constructed from those names I saw boldly stamped on the walls of the Robinson’s May department stores: Klein, Lauren, Hilfiger and Mizrahi. In the ‘90s, they were synonyms for that glamorous, mysterious world of style.
Now, as a fashion reporter, I regularly encounter Klein, Lauren and Hilfiger, at least in some capacity, pattering on in the industry. Mizrahi — not so much.
So imagine my surprise that when I found myself sitting front row at Mizrahi’s latest show in New York City, it was not the glitzy runway I envisioned of my childhood, littered with supermodels and buzzing with fancy French fashion words like chic and magnifique! Instead, I came across Mizrahi at Merkin Concert Hall on the upper west side, where the 56-year-old four-time CFDA winner was performing stand-up and singing Patty Duke covers and dancing little jigs as the charismatic host of a local variety show called In Your Face New York.
Seeing Mizrahi in such a capacity may not have come as quite so shocking to fans that aren’t tapped into the fashion world 24/7. He does, after all, have a 30-year entertainment career, which included a talk show, a handful of minor acting gigs, his 1995 film Unzipped, directing credits for stage productions and a stint as a judge on Project Runway: All Stars. For the past few years, he’s also begun regularly performing cabaret throughout the city.
The production of In Your Face New York, launched in 2015 by Martin Sage and Joseph Steinberg, is a bit of all of those things rolled into one. Think of a local community theater production, but with a New York twist; instead of your theatrical uncle attempting to rile up the crowd (which was filled snowy haired locals who told the warm-up emcee that they lived “across the street” or “on the other side of the park”) the show was carried by Mr. Isaac Mizrahi. Rather than of your squeaky, nerdy cousin singing an ode to NYC in a plaid bow tie, it’s CBS correspondent Mo Rocca.
The New Yorker’s Patricia Marx (contributing writer) and Roz Chast (cartoonist) might as well be your deadpan aunt and her BFF, who dress exclusively in black and decide to perform a satirical ukulele duet played poorly on matching turquoise — sorry, cerulean — ukuleles under the act, “Ukular Meltdown.” It was a charming, albeit, awkward, bit.
For some reason, famed perfumer Ann Gottlieb was there, taking the stage to play a “guess the city smell” game with Mizrahi, which is as bizarre as it sounds. She was by far the most stylish person to take the stage, which is noteworthy considering she was seated next to a fashion designer.
The best bit of the evening was an SNL-worthy skit called “Weirde Troll,” a satirical ballad about the president (illustrated via Power Point slide as an actual Troll doll) sung from the perspective of “Norwegians,” who were actually African Americans. I may be projecting, but there seemed to be extra emphasis on the lyric about “shithole countries.”
The show itself came across as one big inside joke about life in New York, with quips about the disappearance of taxi cabs downtown (replaced by Uber — the horror!), the viral and controversial New Yorker fiction piece, “Cat Person,” and the best bagels in town (Absolute Bagels, apparently).
The most New York part of the show, however, might just be Mizrahi’s somewhat seamless transition from fashion designer to stage performer. We all know how New Yorkers love to multi-task.
You can watch past performances here. The next performance will take place on May 31.
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