THE HOUSE THAT Z BUILT
Zac Posen went through a bit of a rough patch and—spoiler—he came out of it better than ever
It’s an age- old story: A meteoric success is followed by a mighty crash in fortunes. And it’s a cycle Zac Posen knows well, as recounted in the documentary House of Z, which premiered in Canada at the Hot Docs Film Festival this month. “He was a 21-year-old kid shot up in the air…it’s a long way to fall. And he did,” says Sandy Chronopoulos, the film’s Toronto-based director, alluding to Posen’s brash aughts public image. Buoyed by friends like Naomi Campbell, Natalie Portman and Claire Danes wearing his clothes and the grandeur of having Sean Combs as an investor, Posen let his persona eclipse the brand integrity of crafting beautiful garments. In the documentary, fashion critic Robin Givhan recalls attending Posen’s Spring 2008 collection that ended with five overly poufy dresses. “I remember this editor saying to me, ‘ Why are we all here?’ And my response was, ‘I have no idea.’”
Today, wearing an artisanal Japaneseindigo-dyed shirt and a tailored suit before a screening of the documentary in Toronto, the 36-year-old designer explains that these days he’s happiest in the kitchen— a cookbook is coming out in October— and tending to his garden. “Cooking is my fashion detox,” Posen says in a New York drawl. It’s a reprieve from his demanding schedule of creating 16 annual collections for his eponymous label and Brooks Brothers, which he insists he couldn’t do without a supportive team. “You’re not going to get every designer to talk about that. For a long time that was like a faux pas in fashion: to talk about your team,” he explains with a flash of youthful drollery. “Are we supposed to believe that Phoebe Philo doesn’t have a huge design team? Well she does.”
Posen is refreshingly open about the industry— from vendettas to smoke- andmirrors productions—but what’s most telling is when he says he feels like his best self: “When I’m in the ocean.” He declares the hardest part about being involved in House of Z was letting go of creative authority, but the ocean is a different story. “I love that feeling of loss of your control. I like going underwater and just feeling the movement of the earth.” Posen has waded through troubled waters, but he sounds like he’s doing just fine now.