Designer Spotlight: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Zac Posen

by Kristen Heinzinger

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Zac Posen has been a fixture on the New York fashion scene for over a decade, not to mention king of the red carpet. In addition to his ready to wear collection Zac Posen and its contemporary sister ZAC Zac Posen, the designer collaborates with Delta, Brooks Brothers, David’s Bridal, and in February will release the M.A.C. Zac Posen cosmetics line. The Daily shares some intel from Posen’s recent talk as part of the Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis series at 92Y.

He used to make clothes from Garment District scraps…
There was still a Garment District and cutting rooms in Soho were I grew up, so when I’d walk [my parents’] Standard Poodle growing up, I’d find all these fabrics that were thrown out, and those were my play tools.

He would take Lena Dunham to school every day…
I took the N/R—the same train car every day—to school.  After my first year I started taking Leena [Dunham] to school. She was much younger than me and shy. Her parents are also artists and she was too young to take the subway alone. We’d have the same group of commuters for four years and we’d entertain them. Even back then Lena wanted to do it all.

He initially wanted to be in theater, and is trained in African dance…
My school [St. Ann’s] had a little theater department, and I quickly got performing out of my system because I didn’t get cast as the lead. [laughs] But I did do African dance. And I immersed myself in the costume shop. If I wasn’t going to be onstage, I was going to be back there playing [with the clothes].

He owes his business skills to his mom and his lemonade stand…
I learned how to run a business from my mom, and how to count and about profit margins selling lemonade on Spring Street.

The suit wasn’t his first uniform…
In high school I would wear very wild outfits. I call it dandy punk nymph. I would find fedora feathers and would bobby pin them in my hair, and wore antique sailor trousers over hideous shoes that were Kermit green.

Before there was Coco Rocha, he had model friends when he was growing up in New York…
I was a freshman in high school, and [was friends with Lola Schnabel when she] was in ELLE and Vogue. I was also friends with Jaime King from a young age. Karen Elson and Erin O’Connor were the first girls who were like, ‘make us dresses.’ And there was one model who I just fell in love with named Iris Palmer.

He had his own kind of Studio 54 days…
We used to sneak into a club [in the Meatpacking District] that was called Jackie 60…I was really short and had braces. I had compatriot punks and explored the New York scene, but it was very innocent.

A tour of the Four Seasons exhibition at The Met led to an internship at the Costume Institute…
There was a guy giving a tour to a group of older women. I was asking a lot of questions and he asked if I was interested in interning. I remember I did the interview at Diana Vreeland’s office, and I was so nervous.

Richard Martin [curator of The Met Costume Institute] was a mentor…
Richard was there [when I was interning]. I was writing about fashion at the time for my school paper, and he would read them. He was very nurturing.

His dress from Central Saint Martins is at the Victoria & Albert Museum…
For the 20th anniversary of the Victoria & Albert Museum, there was a competition at school where you could design something that would go on permanent exhibition. I wanted to make a dress that started with an idealized Victorian silhouette and then kind of came apart…so hundreds of hooks and eyes were contoured to the body. I was one of the finalists so it’s now at the VA.

His time at Central Saint Martins was “torturous”…
It was torturous, competitive, and challenging but it prepared me. They forced you to think abstractly. I was so commercial; it was not what they were going for at the time.

Ingrid Sischy and Tom Ford were early supporters…
KCD came on pro bono on Ingrid Sischy’s word. And Tom Ford wrote a check without ever meeting me. It came with a noncompete to the Gucci Group. I was 21.

P Diddy introduced him to the the hip hop scene…
Sean “Puff Daddy” invested in my company, and at the time it was Sean’s world—he was the center of hip hop. Sean and I would work for over a week on music for my show. We’d mix the music—using Prince’s mixer—all night.

Ashley Olsen was his intern…
She knocked on the door and said, “Can I intern?” which, first of all, is the smartest thing she could’ve ever done. I hired her on the spot. She was great.

A 3D gown is in his future…
I actually know a lot about 3D printing. We’ll see if we put a 3D printed dress down the runway…you never know where it could show up.

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