Isaac Mizrahi on Style Icons, the Best Decade for Fashion and More

Isaac Mizrahi

Isaac Mizrahi appears on a new original series exploring America’s style; Image: Jason Kempin/Getty Images

We could all use a bit of escapism just as the winter doldrums are about to hit and CNN Original Series American Style is swooping in just in time to help. Premiering on Jan. 13 with back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, the series looks into the parallels between America’s style through the decades and the political, social and economic climates of the times.

Archival footage along with interviews with prominent fashion figures like Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi, Beverly Johnson, Christie Brinkley, John Varvatos, Diane von Furstenberg, André Leon Talley and Tim Gunn shed light on the topic. The show focuses on the fascinating variables that influence how trends came to be and which ones stuck – think: the bikini – and which have been relegated to Halloween (ahem, zoot suit). Ahead of the premiere we spoke with the always charming Isaac Mizrahi about all things iconic style.

American Style 103 Donna Karan and Louis Dell'Olio

American Style 103 Donna Karan and Louis Dell’Olio; Image: Courtesy

theFashionSpot: Which style icons do you think will define this decade for years to come?

Isaac Mizrahi: You know, I think there are a few. I think about style icons as being part of different factions of style. I think of the Beyoncés of the world and the Lady Gagas of the world; these kind of larger than life, over-the-top symbols, but then I also think of the Lily Collins of the world who look great in this haunting and interesting way that isn’t so gigantic. I also think we will look back at Girls and Insecure in the same way we look back at Sex and the City and The Mary Tyler Moore Show as far as style influence goes.

tFS: What are some of this decade’s most defining style moments/trends?

IM: I don’t think there are defining ones. Fashion is so fluid to me. What is influential right now won’t be influential in 10 years or even five years … maybe three years. In 10 years the opposite will be influential! Fashion isn’t like literature or art in that way; by nature it isn’t defined.

tFS: Which decade’s style do you most relate to?

IM: I always look at the 1930s and 1950s because I like the principles of those two decades. That said, what I do is not usually a reaction to the past, but I do relate to those periods and collect dresses and jewelry from them. What I do relate to is the large amount of color from the ’50s and how that was the time cheap clothes started to be great — style became more accessible. From the ’30s I relate to this idea of softness and clothing without structure. I love the idea of undressing more than dressing.

tFS: What iconic looks continue to inspire you today?

IM: Again, I think about movies from the ’30s and the way things seemed romantic in black and white — the irresistible world of bleach blonde hair — the total opposite of the looks from the other decade I love, the ’50s, with all the big technicolor of that decade.

Audrey Hepburn, American Style

Audrey Hepburn, American Style; Image: Courtesy

tFS: When was the last time you saw something truly innovative in fashion?

IM: I hate to be this way, but I can’t think of anything more current than that Balenciaga show about a year ago with those giant coats. It wasn’t necessarily visionary, but I feel like that was pretty influential. It was a great collection because it took a feeling that was already happening and it crystalized it. It was a modern idea of something great.

tFS: How do you think the current political/economic climate is being reflected in fashion?

IM: I think it’s reflected in all the arts as well as in everyday life. The instability of it all. The current climate is encouraging people to be more present — if you’re going to die tomorrow, might as well live today! As far as fashion, this means things are more over the top and exaggerated.

tFS: Over the top as far as trends or styling? 

IM: Styling is definitely over the top, but trends are beyond me. I listen to my merchants now, but I used to never listen to anyone about trends … I created trends! Now that I’m older and more commercial I listen to merchants, but I honestly never understand why something would sell because of a crew neck or a sleeve length.

tFS: What do you think will define the 2020s?

IM: Social media will dictate the style of the 2020s.

tFS: Any specific style that you can predict?

IM: If I knew that I’d be a rich, rich guy!

tFS: Any silhouette you’ll forever love?

IM: As much as I appreciate tight and tailored, I love oversized clothes so much!

Check out the trailer for American Style below, which launches January 13 at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.