A Hollywood Insider Recalls Stylish Romance With Isaac Mizrahi (Guest Column)

Courtesy of Manfred Westphal

Ahead of the designer's memoir release, APA's marketing and communications chief Manfred Westphal recalls their two-year relationship decades ago: "'Belle Epoque' meets 'My Man Godfrey' and 'Funny Face.'"

Isaac was a dream come true, literally and metaphorically. I was a single, 24-year-old development coordinator at Warner Bros. TV when I read a piece in The New York Times about this young, bon vivant fashion designer taking the world by storm, which ran with an adorable photo of him leaning against the balcony of his headquarters at 104 Wooster St. I tossed the paper aside, gazed out my office window and thought (or prayed), "Why can't I meet a guy like that?"

Ten days later, Claudette Colbert's longtime friend Helen O'Hagan, the celebrated director of corporate relations at Saks Fifth Avenue, took me by the hand with her gracious signature style and escorted me backstage after his trunk show on the top floor of the iconic Beverly Hills store. She stood me in a cement corridor and directed, "Now, wait right here and I'll be right back," before disappearing down the hall in her gray Chanel suit, crowned by a shock of perfectly coiffed white hair as racks of clothes danced back and forth in an almost choreographed display.

When they were gone, unveiling him like a curtain, there stood Isaac, dressed head to toe in a red tartan suit, a signature fabric of his early collections. It was kismet. What happened that night led to a two-year affair reminiscent of Belle Epoque meets My Man Godfrey and Funny Face … with a healthy dose of All About Eve. We were young, handsome innocents, full of passion and promise, and time stood still when we were together. "A situation pregnant with possibilities," he would often declare, channeling his best Margo Channing. I simply adored him. It was a phantasmagoric moment in time full of love, laughter, art, culture, beauty, society and, of course, fashion … with appearances by Sandra Bernhard, Tony Curtis, Ross Bleckner, Cindy Crawford, Manolo Blahnik, Julian Schnabel and Iman (to name a few), who more than once urged me to "Go East, young man!"

Jane Rosenthal, who had just left Warner Bros. to jump-start her Tribeca empire with Robert De Niro, and to whom I introduced Isaac in Bridgehampton during the summer of 1989, ominously observed that Labor Day as we dug our feet into the sand for the last time, "It's like Brigadoon." When I queried her metaphor, she replied, "Because you can never go back." And she was right.

A version of this story first appeared in the March 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.