Acclaimed New York designer Isaac Mizrahi sells dresses, outerwear, shoes, handbags, watches, sunglasses, beauty products, tech accessories and even Band-Aids as part of his brand empire.
What he doesn’t yet sell are home design products, which is why he asked Philadelphia University students in the New York Immersion course this spring to come up with proposals to put his name to work on walls, in kitchens and on patios.
The students presented their proposals to expand Mizrahi’s current portfolio into a leading lifestyle brand at a May 6 meeting at New York’s Xcel Brands Inc., where Mizrahi is creative director. Four teams of six students came up with innovative ideas and business plans in the areas of wall coverings and décor, outdoor living solutions, kitchen items and bath accessories as part of the semester-long project for the course.
Students, asked to position the Mizrahi brand at such big-box home product stores as Home Depot and Lowe’s, presented plans that included everything from soap dishes and towels to paint, wallpapers, mirrors, outdoor furniture, tableware and small kitchen appliances, all at affordable prices. They proposed such things as social media marketing and in-store screens to help mix and match colors and items.
After watching the students’ presentations, which included inspirations, swatches, images, color charts, pillows, as well as a marketing plan including research on products, costs and trends, Xcel Brands President Joe Falco seemed amazed by the students’ work.
“You guys have done an incredible job of learning the brand,” Falco told them.
Jess Roberts, a fashion design student on the kitchen design team, said the Mizrahi project was “a really great opportunity for students.”
The New York Immersion course was offered for the first time this spring to sophomore fashion design and fashion merchandising and management students. They traveled to New York most Fridays during the semester to meet with industry leaders and top fashion firms. The course was taught by Sheila Connelly and Beth Mariotz, programs directors, respectively, for fashion design and fashion merchandising and management.
Mizrahi met with the PhilaU students and faculty members before the presentations and encouraged students to think about what isn’t currently in the market. “That’s what great design people do,” he said, adding, “and great marketers have their ears to the ground and understand trends.”
Responding to student questions, Mizrahi said, “It’s all about buying and selling fibers in the end, even in haute couture.” So, he advised them, “Just have fun.”
Mizrahi said he appreciated the opportunity to work with students on the project, because, “as you age, the idea of giving back becomes very important.” He added, “Education is everything. I want to think I can possibly influence a younger generation.”