photography Dana Hargitgay
Zac Posen launched his eponymous collection in 2001, with a vision for modern American glamour that married couture technique with striking innovation. In 2004, he was awarded one of fashion’s most prestigious honors, Swarovski’s The Perry Ellis Award for Women’s wear by the CFDA. On December 18, 2012, Posen was announced as an official judge of Project Runway Season 11 on Lifetime Television. In 2015, Zac Posen was also awarded Designer of the Year by Women’s Wear Daily and Variety Magazine.
Today, Zac is known globally for his technique in artisanal craftsmanship, anatomical construction and textile manipulation. In Fall 2014, Zac Posen was announced as Creative Director for the Brooks Brothers signature women’s collection and accessories. Worn by leading women, including Uma Thurman, First Lady Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts, Claire Danes and Rihanna, he has become a staple on the red carpet. In recent collaborations, Posen was selected to redesign the uniforms for Delta Air Lines 60,000 employees. These uniforms are set to appear on Delta Air Lines staff members, from flight attendants to customer service, in May, 2018. We sat down for a quick chat with Zac before his presentation at Neiman Marcus San Francisco.
Juliet: You were just in Japan, was this a business or pleasure trip?
Zac: It was both. I was in Tokyo for some pleasure and was fortunate to go to Kyoto for Cherry blossom season, Sakura, which was a dream come true. Kyoto was a craft city so that's something that I definitely appreciate a great deal.
Juliet: Did you meet Geisha's on the streets of Kyoto?
Zac: There are definitely people in some traditional dresses throughout the city. Not just in area where they live, Gion.
Juliet: I have to visit one day.
Zac: It's worth it. It's very crowded during cherry blossom season. It's good to go at any time. And I worked with Brooke Brothers and Delta.
Juliet: I hear it's going to get really fashionable up there in the air very soon. Tell us more about Delta uniforms designed by Zac ? When is the rollout ?
Zac: Yes, the rollout is in May. It's been a big, long process. Very collaborative. We started a long time ago now and developed smartly overtime in collaboration with people in different disciplines. It's called a
Juliet: Are there any unique details that you are using?
Zac: Many, but you'll have to see it for yourself.
Juliet: Can't wait to book a flight with Delta.
Juliet: Outside of fashion you are a judge on Project Runway and I hear you are a very tough judge to please? What makes you Simon Cowell of Project Runway?
Zac: I believe in excellence, I believe in any creative field.I guess weather you are, you know in your analogy that you know if you're a performer, you have to be everything. You have to have natural talent, you have to be trained, you have to be rehearsed and the same applies in fashion. Fashion is a very competitive industry. And there is only room for the best of the best.
Juliet: And this is your 10th season with Project Runway?
Zac: No it's my 7th. But it's been really fun journey. You know, I don't believe in sugar-coating what you see as a judge. You don't want to be mean. I don't think I am as mean as Simon at all. I actually think I give great constructive criticism.
Juliet: You are not mean, you are very nice.
Zac: I try. But I think it's really important to get the best out of designers. I am not there just to make a fluffy TV. I really care. That's where it comes from. And I push myself as hard as standards I hold others. Always.
Juliet: We are at Neiman Marcus San Francisco today just before your runway show. Talk about the collection you are showing.
Zac: Well it's a mix of few collections. Collections that are in stores, collection that is coming in a matter of days and collection that's coming in a month. We are showing evening looks and Ken Downing, the fashion director and an old friend of mine and collaborator. We'll be doing a Q&A during the show. So it's not like a full runway show, it's more of a presentation , but I think more and more today having store events and experiences directly with the customer is really important. On top of it, you know, in like 2003 I did my first trunk show here and it was a huge event, we closed down the store. The whole ground floor was cleared out and we made different set pieces with furniture and different staging.
Zac: Different times! Different time in retail and fashion and we're trying to bring it back. The experience of that. San Francisco has been a huge part of my career, it's a city I adore. I think it's magic here. Really special place. I like the mix between creativity and invasion within tech, history and romanticism, there is European quality here and then there is obviously a heavy influence from Asia. And it's California which is amazing! Great state!
Juliet: If it wasn't for fashion, let me guess, you'd become a chef?
Zac: No, I'd never be a chef in the kitchen, no way! I don't want to run a restaurant. I don't want to be in a restaurant on a daily basis.
Juliet: But talk about the Cookbook you wrote.
Zac: Yes, Cooking with Zac! Well I have a cookbook, it's out. And, ah, you know, I am probably preparing maybe for another one, tbd. Food is love! I think food is one of the most gracious things. When you're cooking a meal for somebody or for friends it's one of the nicest things you can do. And it is still creative, it is tactile, I am using my hands, I grow a lot of my ingredients. My parents live on a farm and we grow a lot of produce there.
Juliet: That's amazing!
Zac: Yes, I just love the process. It's connection with Earth.
Juliet: Is there a favorite recepi that we should look out for?
Zac: Oh, that's hard. That's so personal. It's quiet eclectic, the food in there. You know I cook traditional Japanese, I cook Italian, I cook American fare, you know I think in that sense it's actually very American because of multiple references.
Juliet: How did you learn all these recipes?
Zac: I've taught myself with time. I have many friends that are chefs that I deeply respect. Many tips that I write about and in the book too, it's not just recipes it's also anecdotal stories throughout my life that I explain. So go check it out.
Juliet: Where can we buy the book?
Zac: It's on Amazon.
Juliet: Let's talk a little bit about influencer marketing. How do you feel about influencer marketing and do you use that method of marketing in your career?
Zac: Well I think today with the ability to directly talk to fans and the consumer, and if you are a young creator you can really curate and create a look and get your message out.
Juliet: So you like the idea?
Zac: Oh it's here, it's the reality whether one likes it or not. It's definitely here and I think it's evolving into a whole other story.
Juliet: Do you have a favorite blogger or influencer?
Zac: Oh, I love @dietprada
Juliet: The Met Gala! Can you share with us who you are dressing?
Zac: No, I never share who I am dressing or whom I want to dress. It is always a surprise!
Juliet: Well, we can not wait to see who it will be.
Zac: It's going to be very, very exciting!