Her surprisingly colorful and unconventional designs helped her career take off quickly. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) recognized him with the Perry Ellis Award (now called the Swarovski Emerging Talent Award) in 1988 and the 1989 womenswear designer award. He became known for designing with a sense of humor and for making open references to pop culture, art, and sometimes even current events (for example, an evening gown called “Desert Storm“referencing the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. He used striking fabrics in unexpected ways, such as plaid plaid for an evening gown (1989). With an aesthetic that shifts from season to season, he defied categorization.
In 1990 he also collaborated with modern dance choreographers such as Twyla Tharp (Brief Fling, 1990) and Bill T. Jones (War Between the States, 1993) in costumes for dance productions. Mizrahi worked repeatedly with choreographer Mark Morris, beginning in the 1990s with Three Preludes (1992), Falling Down Stairs (1997) and Sandpaper Ballet (1999). He also lent his design skills for theater, opera and film costumes.
He became even more popular with his 1995 documentary Unzipped, a behind-the-scenes look at the development and production of its fall 1994 fashion line. The film won the 1995 Sundance Audience Award for Documentaries. Two years later he published a series of comics, Isaac Mizrahi Presents the Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel, which tells the adventures of a young girl from a small town trying to make it big in the big city fashion industry.
In 1998, after witnessing a decline in sales, Mizrahi it lost the support of its main financial sponsor, Chanel. He chose to close his business and turn his energy towards acting and entertainment. He started out producing a one-man show on Off-Broadway called Les MIZrahi (2000), which was well received by critics and the public. Although his business was no longer in operation, he took on costume design work for the play. The Women (2001), for which he won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design. He also launched the talk show Oxygen on the network The Isaac Mizrahi Show (2001–03).
Mizrahi returned to fashion in 2003, this time in the mainstream, forming a partnership with the discount retailer Target. To balance that out, he also returned to high-end fashion with a new effort called “Isaac Mizrahi to Order“of tailor-made luxury clothing. In the 2000s, she continued those two design projects while taking on more acting roles (for example in Project Runway All Stars, 2012-19). His design work extended to household items, footwear, and fragrances.
In 2016, the first major exhibition dedicated to his career, “Isaac Mizrahi: A Rebel Story“opened at the Jewish Museum in New York City.