Isaac Mizrahi, we'll miss seeing you at Target

The fashion designer Ibrought runway chic to the masses. Not all of his ideas hit the bull's-eye, but we're sad to see him go.

By Stephanie Hayes, Times Staff Writer
Published February 4, 2008

We remember the first time we saw you.We needed to get mouthwash. Wheat Thins. A Rubbermaid storage bin. Maybe we'd peep at the framed posters, splurge on a wall sconce or Tahitian candle.

But there you were, Isaac Mizrahi. Your name was plastered on a luxurious brushed bronze ballet flat, positioned near the 12-packs of Hanes crew socks. A genuine slice of fashion for just $21.99.

And there we were in our track pants, shower shoes and free T-shirt from the 1997 Glaucoma Fun Run. Our roots needed attention. Our scrunchie was dirty.

An odd pair, to be sure. But there was a spark. We slipped your shoe over our chipped toenails and knew we'd never look back.

All over, Target was becoming, well, fashionable. Exotic even. Compliments rolled in, and we cooed with a twinkle in our thrifty-but-tasteful eye: "You like? It's from Tar-zzzhaaaay."

Although CVS was across the street, we now deliberately ran errands to Target. We threw tops or skirts into the cart with the Tide and Little Debbie cakes.

There was the carefree green cami we wore to the local Highland Games. Your slimming bias cut allowed room for that third cloudy cider. Only you could marry high style with meat pies and portable johns.

When we landed that job interview, you saved us. Sure, the size 4 suit coat and the size 8 skirt were the only things left at 9:48 the night before, floor buffer whirring. And sure, we didn't get the job. But we looked cute trying.

After that midday Mountain Dew and bag-o-cheesy curls, we ran to you. One hour till office cocktail party, and we were retaining water like a fjord. "Try this brocade jacket," you said. "My clever nipped-in waist will hide that you just ate your weight in orange cheese powder."

It wasn't all rosy. There was that bright pink houndstooth trench that held up the clearance rack for months. A third off. Then half. Then 75 percent. Our standards dropped with each visit. We wouldn't wear it for $30, but could we stomach it for $7?

We felt bad for you. But not that bad.

See, that's the thing, Isaac. We loved you, quirks and all. Sometimes your designs looked like Xanadu meets Laugh-In, but we just chuckled.

When you hosted the Golden Globe Awards preshow in 2006, we were stoked. Our man was on the red carpet! You squeezed Scarlett Johannson's boob, and we popped more kettle corn.

You were so misunderstood, but we got you.

In January, it all came crashing down. By the end of 2008, Target said, you'd be gone.

At first, we were furious. You were betraying scrunchie nation to design for Liz Claiborne, a line that can cost twice as much and require a trip to the mall. And you KNOW how annoying those kiosk people are!

We stormed through Target, brow furrowed, grasping our eyeliner, jazz CD sampler and mega rolls of Angel Soft. The distance between us was so vast. The silence so cold.

In the intimate apparel department, we pretended to check out pushup bras, but we were really peering across to women's clothing.

Then, we noticed something.

All the clothes were cute. Mossimo, Merona, Xhilaration - they were brands we'd come to love.

We remembered the designers Target has featured in recent years - Luella Bartley, Alice Temperley, Proenza Schouler, Erin Fetherston, Loeffler Randall. We thought of Kohl's, where we could buy Vera Wang, and JCPenney, where we could buy Nicole Miller.

It was because of you.

So we made peace. We laughed at your crushed velvet trousers stuffed in the clearance. We tried on a red taffeta dress with a boat neck and a full skirt, and we paid with the gift card Aunt Pat sent for Christmas.

We'll wear it on Valentine's Day to an average dinner at an average Italian restaurant.

We'll be the best dressed average woman in the place.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.