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.

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