Watch the full conversation between Zac Posen and Staff Writer Andrea Bossi on The Fashionista Network.
Zac Posen was a teenager when he knew he was destined to work in fashion. Growing up in lower Manhattan and raised in a creative family, he was encouraged to explore artistic outlets early in life. By the time he was around 16 years old, it was clear fashion was the path for him.
"I kind of started in the costume shop and I started making dresses for my girlfriends who were working in fashion or models at the time," Posen told Fashionista's Andrea Bossi live on The Fashionista Network. (Watch it here!) At the time, in the mid-'90s, there was a high level of theatricality in fashion, upheld by big names such as John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler and Vivienne Westwood. This inspired Posen's design approach.
"I loved this balance between creative expression mixed with fashion and the theater of it," Posen recalled. "It kind of combined all of these things I really loved and I really kind of dived in."
From there, he studied at the Parsons School of Design in its pre-college program. After school, Posen interned at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute, where he "learned the foundations of the history of fashion." Eventually, Posen continued his education at the renowned Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London.
"I tried to make the most of every experience I ever had, whether there was the education of life or an experience or schooling," he said. "Parsons was definitely eye-opening — it was all these kinds of different formulas in a way."
The designer describe his time at Central Saint Martins as "a magical, exciting, challenging and terrifying experience," adding, "at that time, for me at least, [it] was like the Hogwarts of fashion. I was immersed immediately into a fully international group of highly clever, creative and cutthroat peers of all ages across all backgrounds from all around the world who were very passionate and committed."
While in London he "took in as much as possible" and "mixed into different worlds." His willingness to immerse himself in London's fashion scene opened doors for him to interact with industry icons such as photographers David Sims and Vanina Sorrenti and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
"Naomi Campbell saw a dress of mine on a friend of mine on the Eurostar and wanted one," Posen said. "She found me and she would come in [for fittings], and that was a huge, major moment for me, because I've never seen a more beautiful human being in my life."
Even at the beginning of his career, Posen was passionate about creating for women of all ages, backgrounds, sizes and races to best celebrate the "beauty of the diversity of character." Fast forward to the present day, and Posen has transitioned from running a namesake ready-to-wear-label to focusing on commission-based custom work, much of which can be seen on the red carpet on stars like Gigi Hadid, Greta Gerwig, Emily Ratajkowski, Precious Lee, Rihanna and Michelle Obama.
Posen's body of work also extends to the screen; he most recently created custom looks for the newly-released limited series "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans."
"Ryan [Murphy] brought me on to reimagine what these [prominent, influential] ladies wore, an elevated version of it," Posen shared. "This is not a recreated history piece. You know, this is taking the essence of each lady and bringing it to an elevated next level. It was a dream come true. To be able to do couture costumes to me is very rare — it doesn't happen very often."
Throughout the design process, Posen "went through so many books," cross-referencing them for research and contacting authors to "map [the research] out like a spider-web." Once he started building the looks, he "built three-dimensionally rather than sketch" and had the "mannequins carved to the different actors' bodies."
Now, Posen will embark on a new career venture as the newly-appointed creative director of Gap Inc., as well as chief creative officer of Old Navy. For aspiring designers, Posen's biggest advice is to "make and wear your clothing on a daily basis."
"You got to be your best representation of your brand and yourself," he said. "You have to live and breathe it. I think it will help you form your identity, and you got to live that identity on every possible platform you can — from how you walk down the street to all the different social media platforms possible; and think about how it adapts to it beyond just the clothing, but the whole world you want to create in it."
This conversation was hosted on "The Fashionista Network" powered by interactive media platform Fireside, where viewers get the chance to participate and speak directly with industry figures. Learn more about "The Fashionista Network" here.