I remember reading an interview with DuPage native Cindy Crawford, back in the pre-Internet age, where she said something like, “I know I’ve been in the midwest too long when Liz Claiborne starts to look good.” I asked Isaac Mizrahi about that quote on Friday night at a party to celebrate the spring line from the brand, for which he is now creative director. He was far from offended. He talked about the early history of the brand, back when it was associated with good value, and how it was important to him to revitalize it, to bring it back to what Claiborne herself envisioned it to be–a company that offered affordable, well-designed sportswear to working women. The clothes are colorful and quintessentially American–but not in that horrible perky or country-club way.

Mizrahi was as funny and down-to-earth as he seems on TV. (Check out his site when you have a minute; it’s full of fun and informative bits to read and watch.) Since he was being forthright, I also asked him about the common perception that fashion design is a good way to get rich–after all, this is someone who closed his own line in 1998 after his backer, Chanel, pulled out. I mentioned that many local designers are struggling with the financial aspects of their business. “Get on line!” he shouted. “Everyone says to me, you must make a lot of money–maybe in ten years. Money is not my motivation. I don’t know what is, really.”

Here’s a snap of some models in styles from the line:



Mizrahi, being interviewed by the Tribune’s Wendy Donahue: