Q and A: Isaac Mizrahi

Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi’s salmon skin dress is on display in a new exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

Isaac Mizrahi
Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi sat down with Smithsonian magazine to discuss the upcoming exhibition "Design for a Living World." Mackenzie Stroh / Cooper-Hewitt Museum, SI

Fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi used Alaskan salmon skin to create a dress for the upcoming exhibition "Design for a Living World," opening May 14 at New York City's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Mizrahi spoke with Smithsonian's Joseph Caputo.

What led you to design a salmon- skin dress?
I saw the salmon skin and thought I could do something incredibly glamorous with it because it resembles leather. I think the outcome was fabulous, because the salmon skin, the way it was finished, is somewhat shiny and sparkly.

Are we going to see fish-skin dresses in stores anytime soon?
It's not outside the realm of possibility.

As a fashion designer, you're accustomed to setting trends. Do you think natural materials are going to catch on?
I see it eventually becoming more pervasive. It makes consumers feel better about themselves.

Does your work have an environmental agenda?
Frankly, unless something is really glamorous and amusing, I'm not going to sell my artistic principles short for the sake of "going green." I admire those who do, but I don't start by thinking "Oh, let's make some green clothes." But, if something is green and incredibly stylish, then yes.

But the more I think about environmental issues, the more it's going to affect what I do every day. For people in their teens and 20s, it's an important part of their agenda. I'm from a different age, in my late 40s, so hopefully they will take me along.

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