Zac Posen talks about fashion in an interview given to The Talks.
Mr. Posen, is New York fashion boring?
New York is a commerce driven industry. New York glorifies selling more jeans and T-shirts at the end of the day. It’s about how many variations you can fit in seasons and that’s the design identity. The history of American fashion is being social. It came out of an industry after the war. When clothing stopped being shipped to America essentially is what the necessity grew out of. I think that is inherent in the culture, it’s about trend and fast to market. It’s about the social network that goes around it.
Which role does living in the US play in your work and in which ways does it inspire you?
Through experience I understand America and I love it, but it’s not really where I drew my inspiration from for my clothing. I think it was more through my experiences of living in London and building the pieces there and even historically when I was studying the history of fashion and interning through high school at the Metropolitan Museum for three years. My initial visceral reactions were never about American fashion or my identity as an American designer even. It was never in my psyche. I think that fear of putting yourself out there on an international stage is the only way to grow as a creator.
You recently made the decision to show your collection in Paris for the first time after showing in New York for almost ten years.
I was ready to go to Paris. There are people who can take themselves out of the game, but I don’t think that there is the respect in New York. We are living in a disposable culture, it’s just that clear. If I were a Hollywood actor I would have done the romantic comedy, the musical, and the animated film in America by now.
And now you would be looking for a Michael Winterbottom film?
Exactly. If I were an actor, it would be time to go make the independent film in Europe in the most cliché way possible. I’m ready to push myself; I get excited by the designers in France and that’s what drives me. Just emotionally the designers have identities in Europe. In the stores that sell my collection I am in dialogue with the brands and companies and designers who show in Europe and I think I need to have that kind of dialogue with people who really live and breath cutting, idea, and technique.
Who are these designers that make you want to be part of the Paris fashion scene?
Aesthetically, regarding form and technique, Azzedine Alaia has an excellent approach for fashion; he has full control over his clothes. On a stylistic trend level or emotional, visceral level Alber Elbaz for Lanvin has touched into something culturally right now about disposable culture, about texture. Nicolas Ghesquier has had a really amazing timespan at Balenciaga as well. It’s been really exciting to see somebody being so powerful and being treated as an entity itself by the brand. They created their own formula for looks and techniques, a play on the futurism continuously that has been hugely influential for our industry in a short period of time.
Have you grown up?
I am no longer a baby-faced party boy! That is something very fast and easy to create, something that can create an identity, that people want to be your best friend or buy your clothes knowing that they’ll be the life of the party. I am really grateful to have done that and to be sitting here at the riskiest time of my whole company’s history – putting myself out there and making the work. I want to take our collection and put it out there and really have a dialogue. Yohji Yamamoto told me in Japan, while his mother was preparing sushi and sashimi for us, that Paris is the only place to show my collection. There is no reason for me to show my collection in New York because it’s not about craft and technique there.
It’s more about the designer than about the designs?
For sure. And Yohji’s other advice was not to give another interview for an entire year! That was his other advice, which is sort of impossible if you’re your own force. I’ve been through a lot; we have gone through different managements in my company. That has really been very humbling but also a great learning experience. I am dealing with 50 employees every day. We have students from all around the world that I want to train so that when I am 50 or 60 there will be people who can still cut and sow. In Italy they are going to have to re-train an entire generation and I don’t understand where this is going to go. I think this idea of fame and glamour as a designer, which is what we are all promoting, has created this idea that you might be too good to work with your hands. Young people in Italy don’t want to work in the factories and that’s really a problem. I can’t have that happen here; I feel very responsible to fashion students.
You yourself left university a year early to start your own collection. How did you go about that?
When I left school I was making clothing for friends, custom pieces. It was only about the clothing because I was unknown then. It was word of mouth; it was about the clothing and it sort of creating its own myth. But the personality is such an easy thing for people to be overwhelmed with and I used that for my own benefit. But I think it was a protection device as well. I knew I could use myself to get people to look at my clothing; it’s shameless.
But you still had the advantage of having connections to people that matter in New York. Most young designers don’t have that.
Yes, but there are some urban myths as well: I didn’t know Anna Wintour before I started in fashion, for example. For like two seasons I probably brought the clothing there and brought it right back. A lot of people think she is the greatest champion of my work but she is also one of the greatest challengers to my work and holds me accountable. If you are going to take risks, then other leaders have that trust with you and it keeps it exciting for them. It’s something they don’t have to create the destiny for.
How did you start finding your identity as a designer?
I started out as a child star and was in a long relationship when I was very young and living in a different valued life. I was growing my company and I was super involved but it must have seemed to people I was less involved. I was traveling non-stop; I was trying to understand and to live what this idea of glamour would be like, or the jet-set life, to understand who you were designing. So I had to create that for myself at a young age and of course on the outside level it immediately drew me to flashy people like Sean Combs.
It doesn’t seem like the two of you would have much in common.
We met through that glamorous life, but the connection was a drive to search for the best. A beauty and respect of sexuality and of women. That’s what drew him; he is really respectful. As raw and vulgar as the hip-hop community can be, the woman of his life is his mother. It was great creating my own business, this learning experience, it was all really challenging, especially when you have things continuously shutting down and not letting that shatter you.
What were some things that had to shut down?
For example I created a fragrance that never launched. I worked on the packaging directly with Fabien Baron for a year. I have had these experiences with people and I am really relieved that some of them didn’t happen. It is what it is. If a company closes, a company closes. Thank god you own the juice you worked on.
source: The Talks
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