The Isaac Mizrahi Pictures: High fashion and hedonism in 80s New York

Story highlights

A new exhibition centering on the work of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi opens today

Photographer Nick Waplington has released a book to coincide with the exhibition

Capturing behind-the-scenes of Mizrahi's fashion house, he shot the likes of Naomi Campbell

CNN  — 

Our collective fascination with supermodels of the eighties and nineties has yet to wane. In fact, with each passing year, the era and the faces that defined it become increasingly more mythic.

In a time before the intrusive nature of social media, the public only got glimpses of backstage goings-on and behind-the-scenes happenings.

A new photography book by British photographer Nick Waplington contains some of these precious moments. Mostly unseen until its release, they document a four-year period, from 1989 to 1993, in New York.

The story goes that Waplington was regularly visiting Richard Avedon in the summer of 1989, who decided to introduce him to a young fashion designer called Isaac Mizrahi.

“He thought that despite our very different backgrounds we would get on and should work together. Luckily he was right, and so for the next three years I spent time photographing the goings-on behind-the-scenes in the Mizrahi fashion house in downtown in Soho,” Waplington explained.

By day the photographer would document the busy backstage scenes of Isaac Mizrahi’s studio, capturing Christy Turlington barefoot for a fitting, or a candid moment with Naomi Campbell before a show.

At night the photographer would head to house and techno music clubs, “particularly Save the Robots and the Sound Factory”, capturing an alternate, but no less decadent, aspect of New York life.

Linda Evangelista by Nick Waplington, The Isaac Mizrahi Pictures

“I have juxtaposed the two sets of images [in this book] to produce a work which describes the vibrancy of a vanished moment in New York’s cultural history,” he said.

Many of the images of Mizrahi’s studio will feature in a new exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York. Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History is the first museum exhibition to focus on the designer’s work.

Born in Brooklyn in 1961, the New York native studied at Parsons School of Design, entering into the fashion scene in the 1980s with the first collection for eponymous label Isaac Mizrahi New York in 1988.

Naomi Campbell backstage by Nick Waplington, The Isaac Mizrahi Pictures

He quickly became known for his ability to meld contrasting ideas or concepts; high and low culture, glamour and streetwear. Mizrahi’s models were wearing adidas trainers instead of heels before athleisure was a twinkle in anyone’s eyes and his shows were always cast diversely.

Over a career that has lasted nearly three decades the designer, artist and entrepreneur has worn many hats. Aside from fashion design, he’s had forays into film, TV, cabaret, writing, directing, set and costume design. He now hosts his own call-in home shopping TV show on QVC – Isaac Mizrahi Live!.

Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History, March 18 – August 7, The Jewish Museum.

The Isaac Mizrahi Pictures by Nick Waplington is published by Damiani.