Zac Posen has come a long, long way since those early days in 2001 when he set up his atelier in the living room of his parents’ Manhattan apartment. Considered both a “boy wonder” and a master showman by the fashion cognoscenti, Posen has more than earned his place among the more established designers by consistently creating collections that dazzle on the runway and at retail. On Nov. 4, Posen will make a personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue in Naples. Prior to his trip, we caught up with the red carpet favorite to chat about his latest
collection and find out about his creative process.
What appeals to you about Naples? How would You describe the area’s Collective sense of style?
The good light and good water. Because of that, the women who live here can wear color, patterns and prints and be exuberant with them. They can be feminine and also be sportif.
Where did your inspiration come from for your fall collection?
I really built it while having coffee at my dining room table. I started mixing colors and adding fabric swatches of material we were developing. We brought in the winter florals, which I think are really good for southern Florida. It just began to grow from there.
Animal prints seem very predominant in many collections. Are they here to stay as classics?
Animal prints are quintessential. We were a season ahead of the fall animal prints with the ones we did for spring. It’s good for both. It’s nice to be a snow leopard, too.
So many of your collections have a strong element of fantasy. Is that particularly important today to give increasingly discerning customers a reason to buy?
Of course. It’s emotional shopping. I believe everything one does in life should be done with emotion and conviction. When one is creating, you want to have the freedom to express yourself. You want to take people with you on a journey. Part of that is in the presentation of the fashion show.
Because the retail climate is so challenging, have you made any adjustments in your collection?
It’s been a very steep learning curve. I enjoy a really good challenge. Also, it makes everybody come together and work on what’s important. Running a business is something that weeds out the people who aren’t really serious about wanting to be there and be part of an experience. The kind of work that I do is not momentary—it’s for people who want to build something together.
How do you define luxury? What does it mean to you today?
To me, in this climate, luxury is not defined by fashion. Luxury is defined by security. Nobody is ever going to be secure, so it becomes this unattainable desire that defines luxury. But luxury has to constantly redefine itself. I do believe that clothing is going to become luxury again. I think bags and shoes are done.
That’s interesting. Why do you say that?
I think we’ve lived through a time when the signifiers of luxury were not true to craft, to art or to fashion. We lived through a time when it was about building a brand, and that’s what defined luxury. Then in the ’90s it was perfumes, and then it was about accessories. It goes from Calvin Klein to Tom Ford, and then you have the luxury “super brands.” They weren’t building their companies off clothing. Now it’s going to go back to clothing. There are some survivors out there who have stayed true to themselves, and I think that’s what going to come through. There’s also been a lot of pseudo-fashion out there—we need some real clothing.
Speaking of clothing, what would you say are the key pieces from your collection a woman should have in her wardrobe for fall?
It’s really whatever one is drawn to in the collection. There is a joy and care that’s been put into each piece. What I will say, because of the challenge of this climate, is we’ve been able to work with our prices and bring the collection to a wider audience. As a smaller company that is still privately owned, we have been able to maintain pieces with a lot of character and be priced competitively.
Which designers inspired you before you got into the business? Whose work do you admire now?
When I was an intern working at the Metropolitan Museum, it was a great time for fashion—it was the beginning of the rise of romanticism of fashion. I love John Galliano, who is really too good a designer. They can pull any piece of his show and make a commercial piece off of it. Olivier Theyskens had just done his first show, and that was exciting. The designers who I am really drawn to are constructionists. I adore the work of Vionnet and the work of Madame Gres. I’m wild about people who push the technical elements. I get very excited by Cristobal Balenciaga and Dior. I love Yohji Yamamoto, Jean Paul Gaultier and Azzedine Alaia. I adore Lacroix—he’s incredible. Even though some of those designers are more exuberant or more historical, they’re all people who are very rooted to construction. They are not surface or trend people. They are risk takers with no sense of complacency.
You’ve dressed everyone from Kate Winslet to Marissa Jaret Winokur. What do you enjoy most about working with actresses?
I love the characters and the personalities. Hopefully you can be there in the fittings. If not, hopefully that experience can inspire other people to try the clothing on themselves if it comes their way.
Have they affected the brand?
Hugely. Celebrities are the demi-gods of our time.
Where do you see your business going in the future? Are there brand extensions you’re working on?
There are definitely lots of projects on the horizon. We haven’t announced anything yet, but it’s going to be exciting as they roll out one by one.