In November of last year, Zac Posen announced they were closing their label. He was a modern day couturier who shot to fame for his beautifully designed gowns at an incredibly young age, yet he struggled to stay afloat in the modern day world of fashion business. The label had struggled financially for many years, with Posen saying that ‘it’s not an easy time in our industry’. In this day and age, it’s almost impossible for brands like Posen’s survive with its focus on homegrown handmade pieces which come at a huge expense. Despite the brand’s time being cut short, Posen himself and his creations made a huge contribution to the fashion industry and celebrity culture.
Posen grew up in a world of creativity with an artist father and attended the art focused school Saint Ann’s, which only allowed his already formed passion and talent to develop into true magnificence. There he made his first dress out of a bin bag for a friend. Posen then went on to London fashion school Central Saint Martins, yet left early after retail opportunities started to arise from clothes he was producing for his friends gaining popularity in the press. He started an atelier in his parent’s loft and produced his first runway show in 2001. He showed incredible talent from the start, being described as ‘technically extraordinary’. The industry and the press were amazed to see this level of skill in a designer of such a young age.
His dedication to craft and construction was something that had not been seen for years. Posen preferred to construct the pieces himself producing everything by hand, believing his work thrived more in an atelier community. Yet beautifully handcrafted gowns made in a home atelier are not the way to a profitable business. Nowadays this style of work is mainly produced by couture brands with far bigger budgets, other brands distribute their production elsewhere via computer designs.
Posen’s runway shows and collections were at their best when they showcased his most impressive skill, the ability to create a gown that perfectly fit the wearer’s body. His style and skill is reminiscent of the original couturiers and dressmakers with their elegance, luxury and sculptured detailing. He played with shape using ruffles, puffy sleeves, corseted waists and billowing out trains as seen in the example below from Posen’s SS 2007 collection.
As a designer who maintained tradition with his creations and his mode of creation, he was still not afraid to approach the modern and use it to match his own aesthetic. Most famously this was seen in his Met Gala creations, the first being Claire Danes’ 2016 dress for the theme Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. Danes’ dress was created from organza and fiber optics which caused the dress to magically light up. Yet the dress remains true to Posen’s brand, with the technological advancements spun into a Cinderella-esque gown.
Nina Dobrev’s dress for the 2019 Camp: Notes on Fashion Met Gala was another technologically innovative piece created by Posen. Posen created a 3D printed dress in collaboration with GE Additive x Protolabs. The result was a dress that almost looked to be sculpted out of glass, with the top layer being made out of Somos Watershed XC 11122 Plastic. Posen worked all this into his a mini form of his traditional bustier ballgown dress, making something so modern look timeless and sophisticated.
Posen’s brand’s closure is a huge loss for the fashion industry with very few people creating and designing in the same way as him. His creative mind continued to produce new innovative ideas until the end, despite it being around 20 years old. He showed the fashion industry that the classic way of fashion is still just as good, yet we can also accept and adapt to modernity without it being too drastic of a change. One can only hope this isn’t the end of the road for Posen.