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Isaac Mizrahi on 'How to Have Style'

  • Story Highlights
  • Designer Isaac Mizrahi moving from Target to creative director at Liz Claiborne
  • Mizrahi says he believes "bad hair" is the most common style mistake
  • Designer says he prefers no flowers to "bad" ones
  • Mizrahi admits he has a "claustrophobic" personality
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By Jacque Wilson
CNN
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Dressed head to toe in black, designer Isaac Mizrahi is wearing an outfit that seems to contradict his personality -- and his usual fashion flair.

Isaac Mizrahi has earned four awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Isaac Mizrahi has earned four awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

"I always start with color when I'm designing things. Always. If the color is right, I feel better," he touts on his Web site.

But Mizrahi has an explanation for his less than colorful attire on a recent visit to CNN Center in Atlanta.

"We have this very quick trip, and we have to go right back and there's no time to pack and we can't check luggage ... so I focused it to black, gray and white."

It's just one more style tip you can pick up from Mizrahi's new book "How to Have Style" (Gotham). Despite the slightly audacious title, Mizrahi, who has won four awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, has earned the right to tell women how to dress.

For five years, the New York fashion designer has been selling low-priced clothing and home furnishings at Target. But with his new book comes a new job -- as the creative director of Liz Claiborne.

CNN talked to Mizrahi about his love for theater, the most common fashion mistakes and why bad flowers are never OK. The following is an edited version of that interview:

CNN: You started in acting at the High School of the Performing Arts. How do you combine that love and your love for design?

Isaac Mizrahi: Well, you know what, I think it's all theater. I think that fashion is a form of entertainment. And I think that these days, as a fashion designer, it's almost like you represent a political party or something.

Like women say, "Oh, that's a brand name I associate with because I've worn it before. I love it. It seems to fulfill who I am really easily." Whatever it is, she knows that it just makes her life really easy so she associates with it, you know? And in the end, I am like this personality that represents that. Video Watch Mizrahi talk about his new book »

But more than that, I have designs [in] the entertainment business. There's a movie called "Unzipped" about me that was a really successful movie. I had two TV series. I design costumes constantly for theater and ballet and opera. So to me it's all one big world. It's seamless to me.

CNN: What's your daily schedule like? It has to be crazy with all that you do.

Mizrahi: It changes every day, and I really like that. There's a base to it. I wake up, I go swimming every day, and I eat the same breakfast almost every single day. But when I get to work is when it changes up.

Some days I work in the showroom; some days I work in the design room; some days I actually work in my own private studio, where I just do sketches and sketches and sketches. Other days I work in the TV studio taping segments and my Web show.

I don't really love travel. I feel like it really disrupts what I love doing most, which is this creation, you know what I mean? When I finally let myself enjoy it, I can enjoy traveling. But it takes a great agony for me to separate from New York City and my studios and the people that I work with.

CNN: Say you're walking down the street. What's the most common style error that you see in people?

Mizrahi: I see a lot, a lot, a lot of bad hair. I would say that's the most common style error I see is bad hair.

You know people have excuses for bad shoes -- because you know some people have back problems, it is the street and they're walking and walking and walking -- but I do think that people have no excuse for bad hair. Because you know what? There's a hat, if your hair is really that bad that day.

But I always think that women should be encouraged to spend a lot of money on their hair. It's like you should spend your most money ... on your hair. You'd think I had a chain of hair salons, but I don't. [Laughter].

CNN: What about in home furnishing? You do a line for Target that's ending this year. What's the most common mistake people make there?

Mizrahi: You know what it is with people? I think people get lazy when it comes to being at home -- they leave things around. I like to think about cabinets. I like to put things away as much as possible. It's like salt shakers on the table? No. You put the salt shakers in a cabinet, and the table looks so much better when it's plain. You know what I mean?

And people just think that bad flowers are better than nothing, but I disagree with that. I think that nothing is way better than bad flowers. You either have gorgeous, gorgeous flowers, or you have no flowers. Like at a dinner party, I prefer no flowers usually to the flowers that people have on the table. That's awful, but it's true.

CNN: How has your personal style evolved over time?

Mizrahi: It's gotten a lot quieter, my personal style. I used to dress, dress, dress, dress, dress, and I don't know, I dress in a very particular way now and it's almost like clockwork. And every once in a while I break out and do something crazy.

CNN: Can you describe your personality for me, and how it affects your style?

Mizrahi: I don't know. It's very hard to describe one's personality. I can't say about my personality, but I like to think that I'm very exposed to what's going on out there in the world culturally, and that's what influences my design.

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It's kind of like here's the 360 degrees of what's going on [in] the world culturally, you know? Socioeconomically, culturally, and here's my response to it. Here's what the clothes look like; here's what you should be wearing. And it's kind of like a wonderful edge, you're standing, and yet there's room enough in there for your own interpretation or to move in one direction or another.

Oh! Here's a good description of my personality: claustrophobic. I am very claustrophobic. I don't like to commit to one thing necessarily, but when I do commit to it, it's whole and complete.

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