In the latest “who would have thought?” designer collaboration (see Jean Paul Gaultier and Diet Coke, Barneys and the Walt Disney Co.), Isaac Mizrahi has partnered with Chevy Malibu to design a six-piece capsule collection of apparel and accessories inspired by the midsize car. The line will be sold exclusively on the daily deal website LivingSocial beginning on Oct. 16.
Car culture actually has a long history of fusing with fashion, from Bill Blass’ partnership with Ford Motor Co. and Versace’s limited-edition Lamborghini to Hermes’ line of Smart Cars. For the male-skewing Chevy, heavy on trucks and SUVs, the collaboration’s appeal is obvious. “We see it as an opportunity to re-engage women in Chevy’s small and midsize cars,” says Mary Kubitskey, advertising manager for Chevrolet Malibu.
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Despite that, Mizrahi might not seem to be the most natural fit, considering that he was born and raised in New York, one of the country’s best-known walking cities. However, good design is good design, and its principles are increasingly being applied to realms wider than fashion. “To me, it makes perfect sense that one design object engenders or inspires another design object,” Mizrahi told TIME. “A great design—you almost don’t notice it. When you do notice it, it’s marvelous.”
Though you may imagine a fashion designer’s automobile exposure to be limited to black Town Cars and leather-gloved chauffeurs—and Mizrahi does cop to this as well—the curly-haired designer takes frequent drives to Long Island, so he can appreciate a car from behind the wheel as well as the plush backseat. But to really familiarize himself with the car, he embarked on a cross-country road trip with the Malibu while designing the collection.
The line includes a driving shoe, a quilted jacket and a tote bag, all aimed at a smart consumer who isn’t afraid to make sensible splurges. Mizrahi, who is known as a big proponent of color, used the bold exterior colors of the Malibu, as well as the interior lighting—“the dashboard goes very sexy at night,” he says—as additional inspiration for the collection.
Mizrahi is a pioneer of designer collaborations; his 2003 line with Target was one of the first designer diffusion lines and is seen as a major milestone in breaking down barriers between luxury and mass retail. “I hoped that it would have the impact it did, and it surpassed my wildest dreams,” he said. Mizrahi now partners with QVC on a midpriced collection, and views these creative collaborations as an integral part of brand extension. Does he worry that such partnerships may dilute his own brand? Mizrahi remains confident: “So far it’s only strengthened my brand. If I was worried, I am no longer worried.”
The CFDA-award winning designer also just launched his first perfume, Fabulous, and is prepping for a cabaret act in New York this January. Season 2 of Project Runway: All Stars, for which he is a judge, starts Oct. 25 on Lifetime. With all he has on his plate, Mizrahi just might need a Chevy Malibu to power his fast-paced lifestyle.
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