Buro 24/7 Exclusive Interview: Zac Posen
And his many fashion moments
As the son of an artist and a lawyer, born and raised in SoHo, New York – it's little wonder that 33-year-old Zac Posen became a creative mastermind. He famously set up an atelier in his parent's living room after graduating from Parsons and Central St Martin's fashion schools, having completed his transatlantic studies at the latter in London, and was soon offered various start-up business grants to help him launch his eponymous label... Naomi Campbell spotted one of his dresses, and the rest is fashion history.
Buro 24/7 Kazakhstan founder Meruyert Ibgarim sits down with the man himself ahead of his acclaimed Autumn/Winter 14 collection show, to find out the story behind Campbell's early support, and his advice for young designers.
You often dress the stars for the red carpet, who has been good to work with?
Oh so many of them. Each partnership is another new relationship, which takes a special place in my heart. For many years I have worked with Cate Blanchett, and Claire Danes – she is actually my close friend, plus Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Michelle Obama, and many others.
You became famous when Naomi Campbell wore a dress that you created. How did that happen?
I started designing clothes in high school, and was close friends with models Karen Elson and Angela Lindvall when we were about 16-17 years old, but they seemed so older and experienced, then. They were already top models, very beautiful, and I – a small little thing with braces on my teeth. Once one of them wore a dress designed by me, which Naomi saw and said she wanted the same. I met her when I was a student at Central Saint Martins in London. I clearly remember the day, Naomi with her beautiful facial features, expensive perfume, endlessly long legs. She gave me cash so I could buy fabric and the first fitting took place in her apartment, and we became close friends. She is a lovely woman, very strong, in love with fashion and beauty. A superstar.
You practically became a world famous designer at just 20-years-old, how did that affect you?
It was fine. I enjoyed life, felt great, and looked pretty damn glamorous! In all seriousness, at first, your vision is clean and clear, but then you have to listen to the other voices - retailers, PR and so on. Some things have to be rethought, but it was an important experience for me, because I grew up in a family, far from the secular life. I had to get into this [fashion world] party, to experience it for myself to understand how a lot of my customers live themselves.
Do you remember the first thing you really designed?
Yes, it was an A-line skirt for my sister. Since my adolescence I was very inspired by the work of Madeleine Vionnet. Her special approach to creating clothing greatly influenced my perception of fashion, beauty and femininity.
Last year you made your debut with a line of wedding dresses, tell us about the project.
The collection is called 'Truly Zac Posen' and was created in collaboration with the brand David's Bridal – the largest retailer of wedding dresses in the USA.
In conceiving this line, I wanted it to be visible, and with a good price range. In addition to wedding dresses, it presents cocktail designs for bridesmaids. I wanted to create clothes that will be worn by real American women and girls, and at the same time, it must meet the standards of Zac Posen mainline – in terms of quality, cut and technique. Aside from that, it was the first step for me into the mass production market – which is a huge industry.
Many people believe that the current social media climate is not suited to certain designers, but ideal for extroverts. You belong to the latter, would you agree?
Yes, I actively use social media, I want to show people how the process of creating a collection. I tell the story of creation: making it a journey I'm on together with my followers – the process of inspiration to the catwalk. I manage my own Instagram, I think it's important – to be able to maintain an international dialogue with people who are interested in your work. But it's important to manage the dosage; personally I am not interested in people who reveal too much. We need to find a middle ground.
What can you advise budding young designers?
Start small. Take small steps in the right direction. Decide your own style, the cut, and what you want your fashion history to be. Most importantly, do not interpret other designers; you need to have your own voice. It is important that they have the opportunity to make their own clothes – choose the fabric, cut and sew. It is equally important to wear the clothes, or have your close friends do so. I personally started my label with a budget of ten thousand dollars. I very quickly realised what is cost-effective and what is not. Young designers need to remember: fashion is not just art, but a business that needs to make a profit.