Target Practice


We are feeling pretty smug, sitting on our gold chair at Cipriani waiting for the Isaac Mizrahi fall 2004 show to begin. The show is called “High/Low” and promises to mix two of Mizrahi’s brands: the cheap-as-dirt stuff he does for Target and the ultra-high-end ensembles he sells at Bergdorf Goodman. Around us, we see the usual bevy of fashion types dressed in tie-dyed Prada and Chloe eyelet, carrying minuscule Kieselstein-Cord satchels and Chanels as quilted as Bounty. What we do not see is anyone who appears to be dressed in Target.

Before the show starts, we’re sure we’ll be able to tell the difference between Bergdorf’s and Target, because, well, a $10,000 gap in price has to be simple to spot, right? For the most part it is: No one expects Mizrahi’s orange rock-candy bugle-beaded dress or his inside-out sable coat to be available at Target. Still, as the show progresses, we find ourselves, like many in the audience, forced, a bit shamefacedly, to sneak peeks at our programs. That pink taffeta skirt? Target. Those black suede jeans? Ditto.

Of course it’s one thing to see clothes, high or low, on a runway, quite another to fondle them in an actual store. In the case of Target this is easier said than done, since there is no Target in Manhattan. It takes some persuading, but we manage to corral someone to drive us to a Long Island Target—and lucky us, it’s a GREATLAND TARGET, which, like a Big K Kmart, is apparently the superior version of the discounter.

The first item that catches our eye at the Greatland Target in Bay Shore is a bright red tank with blue lace trim for $11.99 that is inscribed “38 Angel” in the gothic script Gwen Stefani employs in her clothing line (come to think of it, Angel is one of her words too). It isn’t by Mizrahi—the label says Xhilaration, which is a Target house brand. There is actually plenty of fetching non-Mizrahi stock in the massive clothing department: another Xhilaration item, an orange terry beach dress with a Juicy Couture-ish feeling for $16.99; a pair of Eileen Fisher-ish pink linen pants for $22.99; a Mossimo spandex ruffled skirt in a ’50s abstract print for $14.99; an utterly disarming bias-cut chiffon dress for $24.99.

If it weren’t for the label, would we even know that the soft ribbed undershirt, completely free of embellishment, was by Mr. Mizrahi himself? Maybe not, though it is a perfect shade of gray, and could be paired with, say, a pair of Jean Paul Gaultier Hermès jodhpurs to great effect. Sundry Mizrahi-for-Target items showcase other aspects of the designer’s personality: A neon-bright chartreuse polyester short-sleeved shirt, for $15.99, bespeaks his longtime enthusiasm for hideous bright colors; a khaki cotton safari jacket, at $27.99, is emblematic of his obsession with American sportswear classics.

Since we’re on Long Island anyway, curiosity gets the better of us, and we decide to visit a place we have never set foot in, a chain we despise with all our heart because of its politics—or ours. But with the largest-ever class-action suit alleging discrimination against women workers now looming over its nasty head, we decide to darken the door of the Massapequa WAL-MART.

And what is the first thing we hear? A loudspeaker broadcasting ads for products that Wal-Mart carries. So, with Pat Benatar shilling for Coppertone in the background (for shame, Pat!), we examine the clothes, which, it must be said, make Target look like Barneys. Still, if you can block out the screaming kids and those blasted commercials, it is not impossible to find something like a thin V-neck summer sweater in pink layered over a white tank that is $12.92 for both, or one of those infernal ponchos so popular this summer, also in pink and clearly made of unnatural fibers, for the same price. Perhaps most appealing is a puckered lime top that comes complete with a detachable white flower, the very fabric blossom introduced by Coco Chanel so many decades ago. Coco, who knew a thing or two about mixing high and low, would be so proud.