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Disappointing Unzipped more appropriate for PBS


Directed by Douglas Keeve.

Starring Isaac Mizrahi, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell.

Sony Nickelodeon.

By Audrey Wu
Staff Reporter

Unzipped documents several months in the life of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi as he creates his fall 1994 New York collection. The glitzy ads for the film claim that the film stars such supermodels as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, and Christy Turlington, but make no mistake: The center of the film is Isaac Mizrahi, and those moviegoers who, like me, hoped to see more than a model tantrum or two will be sorely disappointed.

The documentary opens with Mizrahi devastated by the less than enthusiastic reviews that he received for his spring 1994 collection. "If [the critics] don't like [my designs], they should just ignore it," he says. Although this statement hardly sets the film's somber mood, the rest of the film certainly is - in addition to feeling slightly contrived.

The documentary traces how Mizrahi creates his next collection. We learn of his inspiration from The Call of the Wild, in which Clark Gable finds a woman swathed in a fur who is "perfect, absolutely perfect she's supposed to be freezing to death, and the hair is perfect, the makeup is perfect." The documentary also brings us through his interviews with editors for such magazines as Vogue and Elle, shows how he chooses models for his runway show, and shows the trauma that ensues when fellow designer Jean-Paul Gaultier hits the press with a collection that is surprisingly similar to Mizrahi's. Although I find most of this interesting when I see it on CNN's Fashion News or on E!, Unzipped had a way of making it boring. Throughout the movie the scenes reflected more than anything else that Mizrahi was stressed and traumatized by one thing after another.

The film was shot almost entirely in grainy black-and-white, something which is initially bothersome until the first color shot reveals that a fur coat Mizrahi had been fussing over is a shocking, fluorescent yellow color. The black-and-white film then becomes a welcome relief to the eyes.

I went to this movie with the same high hopes that I had for Ready to Wear: I hoped to see interesting footage of how fashion designers worked with models. There is very little of that here. Linda Evangelista does throw a temper tantrum when Mizrahi won't let her wear heels out on the runway but allows fellow model Naomi Campbell to wear heels. "What, do you have something against white models or something?" she shrieks; but even that scene seems staged as Evangelista struggles to suppress a giggle after lashing out.

As a documentary, Unzipped assumes no line of plot - the film nevertheless ends when Mizrahi's fall show is over and he (as expected) receives rave reviews. Throughout I couldn't help feeling that this documentary belonged more on PBS than in a movie theater. You would probably find MTV's House of Style more interesting.