These days it’s difficult to crack open a glossy magazine without spying Christy, Naomi or Linda peering back from some splashy new ad campaign or multipage editorial. Yet the resurgence of the supermodel “trinity” is but one Nineties fashion comeback story happening this fall. Wielding sketch pads, scissors and stealth-bomber stick-to-itiveness, some of the designers who attracted the most buzz as many as 15 years ago—Victor Alfaro, Todd Oldham and Isaac Mizrahi among them—are also popping up on the fashion radar.
Granted, they’re in a fickle business. But this bunch has had more career ups and downs than a roller coaster at Six Flags. Still, here they come, back for more: Alfaro in an extensive licensing deal with Bon-Ton department stores, Todd Oldham as creative director of Old Navy and Mizrahi in the same role at Liz Claiborne. While those designers have aligned themselves with major corporate entities, two other former stars from approximately the same galaxy, Daryl Kerrigan and Christian Francis Roth, are rebuilding their businesses under their own steam. And Miguel Adrover, who shot to prominence at the tail end of the Nineties, only to crash and burn, is also back in the game, as creative director of Hessnatur, a $100 million German mail-order business.
Some members of this comeback crew, particularly Oldham and Mizrahi, have weathered the résumé storms pretty well, managing to stay in the limelight with one high-profile gig after another. Of course it helps that both designers have varied interests and are beyond media friendly; stick them in front of a television camera, and they’re off and chattering, whether it’s on the topic of wallpaper (Oldham) or red-carpet missteps (Mizrahi). But in fairness, Mizrahi was, and is, in a different league from his Nineties colleagues. Although his own label has had its share of hiccups, including a six-year financial alliance with Chanel that went bust in 1998, his collaboration with Target has kept him front and center since 2003, allowing him to segue to his Claiborne gig. Mizrahi has been publicly mum about his new job, but recent previews of the Isaac-ized Liz, which will bow in stores in the spring, have garnered raves from retailers and industry analysts. His own line is percolating again too, as evidenced by a splashy runway show staged during New York Fashion Week in September.
Like Mizrahi, Oldham is keeping his lips zipped in regard to his current venture. A master dabbler, Oldham has put his design stamp on numerous nonfashion product categories since his mid-Nineties heyday—from furniture and dorm room gear to flowers for FTD.com. More recently he’s emerged as a reality-TV force as the host of Bravo’s Top Design.
On the other end of the hoopla spectrum are Roth and Kerrigan. Roth, whose cheerful confections brought him fame at the tender age of 22, closed his signature business in 1995 because of financial woes and spent the ensuing years slogging away at corporate design jobs and discovering the secrets of economic viability. Now re-entering the fray with a line dubbed Francis, the erstwhile wunderkind claims to be overjoyed calling the shots. “I am so excited to be doing my own thing again,” he recently told Women’s Wear Daily, W’s sister publication. “It’s been a long road...eight years of rolling up my sleeves and learning the fundamentals of how to produce a great product at a great price.” Kerrigan, whose one and only corporate entanglement ended in disaster, is also a huge fan of remaining independent now, even if it means she has to sit back and watch a million young upstarts siphon off all the attention.