Zac Posen, New York fashion’s comeback kid, in documentary about his tumultuous career
Hailed as a star at the age of 21, ‘Vogue baby’ Posen was soon dressing the likes of Naomi Campbell, Claire Danes and Natalie Portman. But he fell out with the fashion crowd and his family; film House of Z is ‘part of the healing process’
Boy wonder, tyrant, genius: Zac Posen has been called that and more.
The fashion designer, at 36, has experienced more ups and downs than his years might indicate, and all are laid bare in a new documentary, House of Z, available on demand at Vogue.com.
Without a cinematic release, after debuting at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in April, the film traces Posen’s creative-fuelled childhood in the heart of the city’s Soho neighbourhood, his young and beautiful muses, some of whom he met in high school, his best and worst moments on the catwalk and a painful falling out with loved ones who helped make his dreams come true during lean times.
In some ways, the intensely personal film, the directorial debut of Toronto’s Sandy Chronopoulos, feels more like a retrospective than the comeback tale it tells. So why now?
“I was at a place in my career, in my company and in myself, to be open to tell a story,” Posen says.
Soon after his first independent catwalk show in 2002, when he was 21, key fashion critics hailed Posen as a star. The “Vogue baby” got a boost when he put his luscious creations on the backs of Naomi Campbell, Claire Danes and Natalie Portman.
With his mother, corporate attorney Susan Posen, and his sister, Alexandra, by his side, Posen received help in 2004 from rap mogul Sean “Puffy” Combs, who pumped money, prestige and really great catwalk soundtracks into their company.
But Posen, a gay, dyslexic kid, went on to experience a darker side of fashion. His mother and his sister departed in a contentious falling out. The 2008 recession hit, and the cutthroat fashion world in New York turned on Posen, especially after he decamped to Paris Fashion Week and showed a collection roundly torn apart by American critics.
Depressed, not speaking to his family, he returned to New York to regain the respect he had lost. That moment is framed in the film by a stunning model walking in a stunning green gown during a February 2014 catwalk show that sealed his comeback.
Before that? “We were a wreck ... It was scary,” Posen says.
Chronopoulos said digging through Posen family business was perhaps the most difficult for the designer. “When I first started, Zac didn’t really want to talk about it, not even off camera,” she says. “The film really was part of the healing process for his family.”
Today, Posen is a on TV as a judge on Project Runway, he’s the creative director for womenswear at Brooks Brothers and maintains an atelier in New York. Next month, he’s putting out his first cookbook.
A post shared by Zac Posen (@zacposen) on Apr 24, 2016 at 10:41am PDT
What would he like viewers to take away from the film? “Hopefully, what it does is inspire people to follow their ... creative passion,” Posen says.
Does he feel like the genius he was made out to be? “No, not yet. I don’t,” Posen says. “I’m just me.”