Isaac, Karl and quality
|Mizrahi coat from the show|
"'They don't print fabrics like this anymore'", he said, looking at swatches of fabric he used early in his career".
"'... now everything is Xeroxed onto fabric. But I don't want this (the show) to be about the decline of quality—the steep decline of quality.'"
A fewer days later I was in The Bay, the Canadian department store owned by Lord & Taylor, and saw his new casual-wear line, IM NYC. (It's relegated to the lower-priced area of the women's department.)
I beetled right over, but soon wanted to turn Mr. M. over my knee. The quality was horrid: flimsy blouses cut in one flat piece, without set-in sleeves. The example below is poly-viscose, dry clean only: say no more.
|IM NYC blouse|
Across the corridor, I saw Karl Lagerfeld's name applied to an entry-level collection, and (I believe Karl left this world at least a decade ago, leaving a wax facsimile for appearances) he must be rolling in his grave. Huge, lumpy exposed zippers formed the back closing on tops; I tried to photograph those but was asked to stow my iPad. If I owned a department store, I'd ban such photos too!
This cotton/nylon acrylic fringed sweater will look like it was fed through a leaf-blower after one season:
|Karl Lagarfeld fringed cardi|
The challenge in a department store today is finding quality, period, at "bridge" level. It can show up at Pink Tartan, MaxMara Weekend, and less consistently Vince, Tahari, Vince Camuto, Diane von Furstenberg, but they are inconsistent. Ralph Lauren's bridge line has slipped, using too many cardboardy fabrics, and the once covetable Anne Klein is probably beyond reviving.
|Pink Tartan shirt|
Pink Tartan's grosgrain trim fly-front shirt is nearly $225 (in US dollars, Canadian readers can easily do the dismal math), three times the price of the Mizrahi poly, and they too specify dry cleaning the white cotton-elastane blend. OK, I know how to ignore that, but why won't they direct you to wash in warm water, hold the bleach, and hang to dry?
I don't expect miracles at the lower end, but when a dress bumps $700, why is the hem overstitched in plastic thread?
A parallel reality is that my senior status has not come with an automatic price adjustment. Things seem weirdly expensive. Sometimes I bite the budget bullet and think, That's what it costs to have the fabric and construction I want.
But more often, when I notice, for instance, a tulip-print spring Stella McCartney scarf, at $420 (at Nordstrom) for modal, I wonder, What is this? The fabric (a second-generation rayon) is made from reconstituted cellulose, cheap and abundant.
|Stella McCartney modal scarf|
Despite Mizrahi's hopes, his show will spotlight the decline of quality, because it's his own damn fault. In the last decade he's produced shoddy goods under the IM NYC and Isaac Mizrahi Live! (on QVC) labels—and you may recall the failed Jones New York partnership, with clothes that looked so witty in the ads, so limp on the racks. If you don't want to pay for quality, you'll find better choices at Zara.
I plan to visit this show next weekend, and would like to ask him, What would it cost now for a bridge line made with your bygone-days' fabric and construction?
Plenty of quality-loving but price-conscious women are still knocking about, wise as ever, women who know tailoring and fabric and a good button from a sad hunk of plastic, and we're wondering what to do, after we've visited the museum to look at his once-great clothes.