Zac Posen may not yet be a household name, but he is on the verge of becoming one. Barely old enough to toast his first success, Posen first took the fashion world by storm in 2001 when he was named as one of the most promising emerging talents in the world.
He was born and raised in Manhattan where natives and implants alike enjoy nothing more than seeing one of the local kids hit it big. Everybody wants to pitch in and see it happen and there’s no doubt that his family and bold-faced connections have contributed to his success. Posen grew up in the artsy enclave of SoHo, where he attended private school with pals Lola and Stella Schnabel (daughters of artist Julian Schnabel).
Even at the tender young age of 16 Posen was headed for success. He interned for Richard Martin at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute and enrolled in the Parson’s School of Design pre-college program. Then in 1998, he interned at Nicole Miller and a year later scored his first formal design assistant position at Tocca New York City. His Spring 2002 show at Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion unequivocally landed Posen on the map.
In just three years on the scene, Posen has gone big-time. The front rows of his packed fashion shows are a paparazzi frenzy with celebs such as Claire Danes, Natalie Portman, the Bush twins and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour wait to see his latest creations. He has also turned up on the red carpet at fashionable events like the VH1/ Vogue Fashion Awards with stunning starlet and muse Natalie Portman. He launched Grand Classics: Films with Style in Miami Beach on March 30th 2006.
His exaggerated 1940’s Hollywood designs and binding, angular patterns won over actresses, supermodels and socialites alike – Claire Danes, Liv Tyler, Kyra Sedgewick, Milla Jovovich, Halle Berry, Gywneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, Naomi Campbell and Angelina Jolie are all huge fans. Posen also has fashion icon Calvin Klein singing his praises. While making his rounds at the SoHo restaurant and celeb hangout Da Silvano, the aging fashion wunderkind loudly announced that Posen was the next big thing. How’s that for an endorsement?
In an industry where you’re only as good as your last season, Posen, now 24, has found his niche with the ability to make curve-hugging clothes that appeal to women of varying ages and sizes. Not to mention his uncanny business savoir-faire and enough connections to guarantee his forthcoming empire will flourish.
“With fashion, the turnaround time seems to be getting faster – 15 minutes of fame has turned into five,” says Posen. “This is the beginning of my career, and I’m in it to last. I’m interested in building a business.”
The designer, who employs a staff of 30 women and three men in his Tribeca studio, leaves most of the business decisions up to his mother, Susan, a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer who handles her son’s corporation. “I’m very aware of how things can go wrong,” she says. “The Silicon Valley boom years quickly faded with bad management. I do not want that for Zachary.”
Posen is entering a crucial time in his career and tricky territory at that. He’s no longer the new kid on the block, but he hasn’t quite established a mainstay. He is, however, serious about success and is well aware of what that entails. “He’s out and about at night, seeing what people are wearing,” said Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s legendary fashion director, who’s devoted entire windows of the New York Bloomingdale’s stores to the designer. “He has great charisma, which is part of being a designer these days. You have to be able to promote your product yourself.” And as nightlife fixture he is a constant source of fodder for The Post’s Page Six gossip mill. So yes, promote he does. Posen launched Grand Classics: Films with Style in Miami Beach on March 30th 2006.
At a time when art, music, fashion and design are converging, Posen is at the very center of this new mega-culture. A very wise Posen recognizes how fickle consumers are and is making sure to get his hands in many pots as he can early on. He recently teamed up with Nokia, the company credited with bringing design to the mobile phone industry, to create an exclusive edition of wireless products for discriminating fashion mavens everywhere. The initial product of the Zac Posen/Nokia collaboration was an exclusive edition Nokia 7200 phone enhanced with design elements from the his Fall/Winter 2004 “Blixen” Collection.
“Nokia always brings great designs to its phones, and it is an honor to add fashion to an already elegant phone – the Nokia 7200 handset,” said Posen. “I designed the Fall/Winter 2004 Collection for the urban hip, the very kind of person who will see this exclusive edition Nokia phone as a must-have.” Co-branding, it seems, is one of Posen’s greatest talents.
Perhaps one of the most promising, and unlikely, couples in fashion is It-boy Posen and hip-hop mogul Sean “P.Diddy” Combs. The two met when the designer asked the entertainment tycoon to produce the music for his runway show. This past spring, the pair announced that Combs had invested an undisclosed amount in Posen’s business.
“The initial attraction was a very personal attraction. Sean saw in Zac the characteristics he saw in himself: an amazing talent and the ability to set the world on fire,” says Todd Kahn, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Sean John, Combs’ fashion company.
When Sean John was just starting out, the company was lucky enough to have a good business partner, and Combs wanted to provide that same support to Posen, Kahn explains. Sean John will help with financing, material sourcing, shipping, the nitty-gritty of the business side, while Posen maintains full autonomy when it comes to design. “Sean understood my vision like no one else did and knows branding on a very sophisticated level,” Posen says. “And he’s a dreamer, like me.” If Posen was looking for footsteps to follow in, he may have just hit the jackpot with Combs.