Designer Isaac Mizrahi Talks "Project Runway All Stars," Designer Diffusion Lines, and Why Not Caring Makes You Stylish

Designer Isaac Mizrahi is a judge on Project Runway All StarsDesigner Isaac Mizrahi is a judge on Project Runway All StarsDesigner and TV personality Isaac Mizrahi will be judging the new season of "Project Runway All Stars," premiering January 5 on Lifetime. Georgina Chapman, co-founder and designer of Marchesa (and Harvey Weinstein's wife) is co-judging, supermodel Angela Lindvall is taking over hosting duties for Heidi Klum, and Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Marie Claire, will serve as design mentor en lieu of Tim Gunn. The returning design All Stars include Austin Scarlett, Kara Janx, Elisa Jimenez, Rami Kashou, Kathleen "Sweet P" Vaughn, Jerell Scott, Kenley Collins, Gordana Gehlhausen, Anthony Williams, Mila Hermanovski, April Johnson, Michael Costello, and Mondo Guerra. Are you as excited as we are?

Yahoo! Shine spoke exclusively with Mizrahi about his experience judging the designer reality show, on being one of the first designers to collaborate with Target (way back in 2002), about the state of fashion, and how to always look your best. Read on for his fascinating insider perspective.

Shine: What made you agree to judge this season of "Project Runway"? Were you a fan of the show?


Isaac Mizrahi: Yes, I was a fan from afar. I wasn't an obsessive crazy fan, but I've loved it whenever I've seen it. It's a story about a creative process.

S: You've also hosted "The Fashion Show" on Bravo which was very similar. Will you be returning to that?

I.M.: No. That won't come back, so I'm free to do this.

Isaac Mizrahi poses with fellow judge Georgina Chapman, and host Angela LindvallIsaac Mizrahi poses with fellow judge Georgina Chapman, and host Angela LindvallS: How was the chemistry with this new group of "Project Runway" judges?

I.M.: I loved it. Everybody was so incredibly easy going. Georgina couldn't be more lovely and more open-minded about listening to other opinions. She's not a diva, but has great taste and sensitivity to other artists. None of us are looking for that kind of soundbite outrageousness-we're there to assess the work and make the right decision week after week. I think you'll see, the drama is more created by the situation and these people coming back for a second time, daring the fates to make them win or lose again.

S: Do you think the contestants were able to have more fun with it the second time around, or were they even more competitive?

I.M.: I think in a way both, right? Just having been through the physical riggers of it before-the hours of sleeplessness, and the incredibly intense back-to-back challenges, and all the different personalities that they had to deal with-that's what they were prepared for. But that adds to the competitiveness and the drama because everybody's game is way stepped up.

S: Did you have any favorite designers going into the competition?

I.M.: Honestly, Joanna, if I said I did I would be an awful judge. All I can say is probably, but I can't tell you who I liked.

13 designers returned to compete on Project Runway All Stars13 designers returned to compete on Project Runway All StarsS: Fair enough. Did anyone really surprise you?

I.M.: Two people from the beginning of the competition-I didn't feel they were going to make it very long and they REALLY lasted! I will say, the first episode begins with them showing a piece that they had made earlier, and based on that you get a sense of what's gonna go on, but if you watch the trajectory of it you'll see it's very surprising who gets way stronger and who goes home. It's shocking! They're already such stars, and we'd be like 'wait a minute, we just eliminated one of the stars!'

S: How accurate do you think the show is at depicting the design process?

I.M.: I think it's very accurate in that it's a microcosm. It's the teeniest taste of what it's like to put together a collection, but when an artist is trying to express himself that in itself is a drama. On top of which you have the drama of the challenge week to week. To tell you the truth, Joanna, sometimes it's easier to have those confines. There is this way of solving a problem in a more fabulous way, but towards the end it's more about go to the five-and-dime or pick your favorite dress. Towards the end of the series it's more difficult for those designers. When they have no problems to solve they go "Who am I? What am I really about?"

S: Is the viewer ever presented with anything fake?

I.M.: Occasionally you get a designer hamming it up because they know it's a dramatic situation so they're working it a little bit, but they don't really have time for that nonsense. They need to buckle down and get those clothes made and focus. Honestly I couldn't believe how good they were. Then they would show up looking kind of cute, and it's like, "wow you guys really have it together!" It's funny, I remember as a design student at Parsons doing your project and getting it all in and in the last minute you go, "Hey, what am I wearing? What do I look like?" In a way, you do represent the brand. It's you. That's why there's something about this season that's special because you're talking about star designers. We know who these people are. It's like the Iowa caucuses, you're rooting for somebody or you're not rooting for somebody.

A fall 2011 Isaac Mizrahi gown.A fall 2011 Isaac Mizrahi gown.S: I really love your documentary, "Unzipped," (about the making of your fall 1994 collection), and I think it was sort of a pioneer in this area!

I.M.: Thank you so much. There was so much in there about the rise of the supermodel and the rise of fake fur, but the main point of that movie was also about the creative process, which is like "Project Runway."

S: As an extremely established designer, do the challenges on the show seem doable, or do you think you'd be stressed out by the assignments and time constraints?

I.M.: I am like this manic-depressive personality because sometimes I find it very easy to function quickly. At my core I think I am a very improvisational guy and I love doing that the most. I learned that from Perry Ellis. I worked for him for four years when I was a kid, and he would start with a gown with a train and end up with a mini skirt. That's one of the delightful things about creating clothes. But sometimes I get lethargic and dreamy, and there's no opportunity for that here. It's instinct. I don't know how I'd do in this competition. I actually think I'd do really poorly.

S: Did you have a favorite guest judge? I saw Miss Piggy made an appearance.


I.M.: Sadly I wasn't there for Miss Piggy-that was the one challenge I had to miss. She did leave me a signed 9x12 glossy "From Miss Piggy to Isaac." [Laughs] Of course I love Diane von Furstenberg because she's so smart, I also loved Badgley Mischka, I thought they were amazing, and I'm trying to think of that rap star who's gorgeous.

S: Pharrell?

I.M.: Yes, he was amazing. I mean he's a chic guy, but I didn't expect him to be so strong in his opinions. I thought, "Oh, no problem. I'll wrap this one around my little finger." But he really fought for his point of view, and I respect that.

S: I read about some really insane prizes for the winner
(they get an exclusive designer boutique in select Neiman Marcus stores, $100,000 cash from L'Oréal Paris, $100,000 in technology and office space from HP and Intel, a featured spread in in Marie Claire, working as guest editor for year, and a Brother International sewing and embroidery studio) but is there no trip to New York Fashion Week?

I.M.: No, it's a private showing.

S: Speaking of, I missed you at fashion week last season! Will you be coming back, or is that something you're done with for now?

I.M.: Thank you. Yeah. I will be coming back. There are many products I'm launching in February, but next year for the spring season in September I will probably have some time of formal presentation. I'm launching shoes and handbags, lots of things to come. And I have my huge product line for QVC.

Old Isaac Mizrahi for Target designsOld Isaac Mizrahi for Target designsS: You were also one of the first big designers to collaborate with Target. What do you think of all the diffusion lines like Missoni for Target and Versace for H&M? Should everyone jump on this bandwagon, or is this area now over-saturated?

I.M.: Originally my thinking was that fashion needed to democratize, and now ten years later it really has. What I do think is kind of amusing is that all of these people think it's the answer to their problems and that the minute they make their clothes accessible that it will work on such a huge scale. And you hear about a lot of hits, but you also hear about a lot of misses. It's like anything else-if it's good it will work. I'm a little uncomfortable talking about specific things like Missoni for Target, but all I can say is it was gorgeous looking and I understand the amazing response they got.

S: Are there any current fashion trends you really love or hate?

I.M.: I like that clothes are more relaxed than they've been. I'm not someone who likes all the tight dresses-I like a woman to go to an event in something more relaxed, with fluidity and ease. I also like the return of broad shoulders and a bit of structure.

Mizrahi loves Ellen Page's genuine, laid back style. Mizrahi loves Ellen Page's genuine, laid back style. S: Which celebrity do you think has the best style?

I.M.: That girl in "Juno," Ellen Page. I always loved that she didn't go the celebrity stylist route, I thought, "wow, congratulations to you, because you're more stylish than anybody else." You can't buy style. You just can't. It's the same thing as face work. You can pay someone to give you a facelift, but everyone knows you've had your face lifted so what good is it? It's like paying for sex! If you know you're paying for it, how good can it make you feel? I'm not judging it, but you can't hire a stylist and suddenly be stylish.

S: If you could offer up one style tip to women what would it be?

I.M.: Think like a young person who doesn't care. Think with confidence. When you use too much makeup because you think you're old and you think you have to cover up, you look old and like you're covering up. When you think you have to be "sexy" and you wear giant platform shoes and a short, short dress, it's the wrong way to think. Care less.

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