Mark Eisen

Emily M. Orr

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA061

Mark Eisen was born in 1960 in Cape Town, South Africa, where his father worked as a clothing manufacturer. He moved to America to attend the University of South Carolina and he graduated with a degree in business in 1982. He then founded his own design firm in Los Angeles. In 1988 he showed his first collection, made up of bleached and dyed denim suits. Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York immediately placed orders for this Couture Denim line. In 1993 he moved to New York and that same year became a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Eisen began showing his collections regularly in New York Fashion Week. In 1994 and 1995 he presented minimalist tailored suits and dresses in mostly black, charcoal, and brown shades. In 1995, Eisen began bolder experiments with textiles that would come to define his career. That year he showed fabrics that he had “frosted,” covering neon-colored wool, cotton, and Ultrasuede with a sheen that took its inspiration from the light and energy of a rave club.

In 1996 Eisen launched the secondary labels Urchin and Urchin Knits Apparel (later Urchin Mark Eisen), which he sold to leading department stores and specialty boutiques. The Urchin Knits line included cardigans, tunics, twinsets, and pants in knit blends with a body-conscious fit and flexibility. In September that same year he opened his first boutique in New York’s SoHo. His collection included what the designer called “club dresses” and one popular model featured a bra top in a pink snake stretch fabric.

In 1997 Eisen hired Brad Saltzman to become president and CEO of his firm. With the goal of growing his brand internationally, Eisen passed business responsibilities to Saltzman while he focused on design. In 1998 he moved his headquarters from Los Angeles to New York. The business continued to expand with licensing contracts. In 1999 he founded a bridge knitwear line called Eisen, aimed at women aged thirty to fifty; in 2000 he entered into a footwear licensing deal with the Italian brand Lerre to produce Mark Eisen Shoes; and in 2005 he launched a luxury knitwear collection, Karoo Mark Eisen. He also oversaw Studio Mark Eisen, Japan—a multi-licensed diffusion label that sold to top department stores in Japan. From 2006 to 2009 he designed “George ME” under a license agreement with Walmart.

In addition to building his own fashion brand, Eisen took on external design commissions. In 1996 he designed the uniforms for World Gym, New York. In 1997 he created custom stage wardrobes for the Rolling Stones. He also designed men and women’s motorcycle apparel for Harley Davidson. The designer’s collections sold for twenty years in more than 800 stores in eighteen countries. In 2009, Mark Eisen ceased production.

Mark Eisen, Spring/Summer 1994 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Callan O’Hara. The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Fashion and Fashion Designers . London : Thames and Hudson, 1998.

Find in Library Clarke E. B., and Marie O’Mahony. Techno Textiles: Revolutionary Fabrics for Fashion and Design . London : Thames and Hudson, 1998.

Find in Library Spindler Amy. ““Review/Fashion; The Cool, the Colorful, the Comic”.” The New York Times , 4 April 1995 .

Find in Library Wolf Roberta, and Trudy Schlachter. Millenium Mode: Fashion Forecasts from 40 Top Designers . New York : Rizzoli, 1999.