“I don’t like being bored,” says fashion designer–turned–consummate hyphenate Isaac Mizrahi, 57, who has also been, at turns, a movie star, TV personality, Broadway costumer, and cabaret performer. “This has been a central conflict for me, the fact that I don’t really focus on one thing.”
He focused long enough to write the cleverly titled — and written — I.M.: A Memoir, in stores now. But those expecting the fast-talking designer from 1995’s hit fashion documentary Unzipped or the zingy celeb on Hollywood Squares and Project Runway All Stars, or even the bouncy piano player from his early-aughts Target ads, will be pleasantly surprised by the introspective — but no less fascinating — Mizrahi in this book.
Part origin story, part therapy session, part ode to the women who shaped his perceptions of style and glamour, I.M. is filled with self-aware observations and passages not often found in celebrity memoirs. “The harder I worked at making beautiful clothes for beautiful people, the more I saw myself as a fat, ugly person,” Mizrahi writes. “I refused to see myself as the subject of fashion — I could only see myself as the author of it.”
The book isn’t all heavy. Mizrahi’s conversational tone, as fizzy and warming as champagne, permeates every page, whether he’s describing his powder blue bar mitzvah tux or name-dropping stars (SJP! Missy Elliott!) who’ve returned his painstakingly fitted creations unworn. One juicy tidbit: When Mizrahi was making pieces for Elizabeth Taylor, her team sent top-secret, yet woefully outdated, measurements; he diplomatically made the garments more forgiving. Taylor was so thrilled, she sent him an autographed picture of her wearing his pieces, along with a note saying what a pleasure it was to have clothes that “actually fit.”
Was the designer worried about offending his A-list cohorts? Not really. “Every person in the book is someone that I love very, very much,” says Mizrahi, who also shares anecdotes about Liza Minnelli, Anna Wintour, Oprah, and just about every ’90s supermodel who pouted through a George Michael video. “I don’t write about people I don’t like. A boring love letter to somebody — I leave that to who’s who in Playbill. If I’m going to write something about a person, it’s going to have to tell a lot of truth. I only hope that people in the book understand that this is the way I express myself.”
And trust us, you will not be bored.