A Posen dress is not hard to identify. Feminine and carefully tailored, each piece is meant for the quintessential bombshell woman. Zac Posen has never struggled to inject glamour into his designs. From his initial lower-end collections to today’s opulent and extravagant fashion shows, his design philosophy has stayed relatively consistent: respect the woman and her desire to look good. While many newer designers penetrating the American fashion scene gain attention by trying to redefine how young women dress, Posen strives to introduce today’s generation of women to the luxurious, classic fashions of past eras.
Why did Zac step away from the traditional path of young designer wunderkinds like Marc Jacobs, who made their mark by rebelling against the constraints of mainstream fashion and borrowed heavily from New York’s grungier streets? “It just didn’t interest me,” he explains. “Everything I design is based on themes that I find engaging or inspiring and I feel like I have a very defined aesthetic because of that. I love seeing women in my clothes, and my ultimate goal is to make them look their best.”
And what about the futuristic trend that has emerged on recent runways? “I just find it very funny that many designers idea of futurism is borrowing inspirations from the designers of the 60s and 70s. The color palate with the silver and matte grey, the cuts— it is all right there. Not to say that all designers don’t borrow from the past extensively, but I find it strange when it is labeled as ‘new’ and ‘groundbreaking.’ Many of my designs are heavily rooted in tailoring the look of past eras, but I choose to use that theme and reinvent it in a way that is more relevant in the modern world.”
The Zac Posen designing today is one who has certainly matured since his fashion debut. His brand has grown from a single line to the ready-to-wear line Zac Posen, a second line called ZAC by Zac Posen, and the bridal line entitled Truly Zac Posen. In addition to designing, Posen serves as a judge on Project Runway and a creative director for both Delta Airlines and Brooks Brothers. It is no surprise that the New York Times recently hailed him as “New York’s busiest designer.” With responsibilities now ranging from designing a high fashion read-wear line to airline uniforms, it is no surprise that Posen admits to having to transform his design process. “First off, when I started I had very little understanding of just what goes into a branded fashion business in the 21st century. It is so much more than simply the design process; it is looking at the design of stores, expansion opportunities, the logistics of running a company that has stores carrying their clothes around the world. It is a very different experience than I imagined when I was designing my first line in my parent’s house. I have definitely been forced to become a bit more hands-off when it comes to certain things, but at the end of the day, anything that is going out with my name on it needs to be something I am proud of. I always say I’ll be ready for a break when I’m in my coffin.”
Some people may not see why Brooks Brothers and Zac Posen would be a natural fit for one another. Brooks Brothers is known more for its men’s line focused on East-Coast preppiness and polish, an aesthetic not entirely in line with Posen’s own. But he says it was the idea of a blank slate that attracted him to the position. “I don’t see our designs styles necessarily in conflict, but more so I am interested in reinventing how women dress in the workplace… by creating a line of suiting and mixed separates that are appropriate for a wide range of women and lifestyles.” With this new partnership, Posen is charged with redefining Brooks Brothers women’s line, which makes up roughly 20% of their business. But this will not be a Zac Posen for Brooks Brothers line. Posen is committed to being a behind the scenes creative director dedicated to finding the space where Brooks Brothers can be relevant to women in their modern lives. “It will not simply be me designing a few seasons for Brooks Brothers and making a swift exit out the back. I am committed to finding that long-term vision for this company and seeing how it evolves.” And MINT wouldn’t dare argue with a man who has the aplomb to wear a three-piece tweed suit in sunny Stanford spring.