Designer sees truth sewn in to Unzipped
By Jennifer Worley

Once a year, New York City fashion designer Jennifer Bawden-- a native Calgarian-- does a quick survey of her dresses and inventory and thinks about "cashing out."

Then the phone rings and its Cosmopolitan magazine wanting one of her dresses for a cover shoot, or Bergdorf Goodman planning a window featuring her designs.

Then all is right with the world again.

"It makes it all seem worthwhile," says Bawden, who lives in New York City, where she designs a line of expensive evening dresses on her own label -- Jennifer Bawden Designs.

It is this emotional roller-coaster audiences will ride when they go to see Unzipped, a film about eccentric designer Isaac Mizrahi.

From the excitement of putting together a show -- "the most wonderful 20 minutes of a designer's life," -- to the following day's reviews, -- "The worst day in the world is after the show, worrying about the reviews, " says Mizrahi,--the emotions run the gamut.

"I don't take criticism very well. It's painful," he confesses in the film by Douglas Keeve.

Bawden says the mental highs and lows are very typical of the rag trade. Her dresses have graced the pages of Cosmo, Elle, Town & Country and Women's Wear Daily and have been worn by numerous celebrities, including Kathleen Turner, Ivana Trump, Peggy Lipton and Mariel Hemingway.

"We're in a very competitive field. To be a young designer in this climate can only equal stress. You might spend three months working really hard and nothing comes from it at all. You're vulnerable because you don't even know whether it's going to come."

When Mizrahi learns that fellow designer Jean Paul Gaultier has created a collection based on a similar theme (Eskimo chic), he accuses his assistant-- the bearer of the bad news in Women's Wear Daily -- of mental cruelty.

But coincidences happen. Bawden thought a colorful rose fabric she designed this year was unique until she saw Versace doing something similar. 

Then there's out and out stealing. Bawden recalls how one of her dresses was "knocked off" and sold across the country in a matter of two months.

In Unzipped, Mizrahi argues with his assistant to have a scrim (sheer fabric) backdrop on stage so the audiences can see models changing during the show.

Bawden says these are shock tactics to draw press and buyer attention.

"It's a fashion game, a gimmick to excite. These buyers and fashion editors have seen it all. They're jaded. You've got to come up with something more and more exciting in order to get them to ooh and aah."

"To be a young designer in this climate can only equal stress."