It felt like a rare moment of tranquility for a designer who has often been a lightning rod for praise and criticism. At his September show during New York Fashion Week, Zac Posen sent a parade of luxurious gowns down a runway overlooking the plaza at Lincoln Center. Flowing, ethereal gowns of taffeta, tulle, and satin floated cloud-like in the dusk.
After two years of showing in Paris, the Spring/Summer 2012 collection was Posen’s dazzling return to the United States. It also seemed temporarily to quiet skeptics who took offense to Posen’s brief departure from the New York scene. The outspoken 31-year-old Posen, who was in Boston at Neiman Marcus on Tuesday, is celebrating a decade in fashion.
For years, Posen’s appearance was often described as cherubic in the fashion press, while at the same time gossip swirled about his enfant terrible personality. But 10 years after his first fashion show, Posen is sounding far from difficult. In an interview last week he was calm, reflective, and focused on the direction of his design.
Q. Your Spring/Summer collection was stunning and very evening focused. Why did you decide to head in that direction?
A. I’ve been working on developing a whole new brand, Z Spoke [Posen’s moderately priced sportswear line]. So I have really tried to focus our designer collection on the postmodern glamour woman. I get excited working and developing a collection that is really suited to an evening market. It took me 10 years to understand where my clothing and my design could fit into American design heritage. It’s important to find your voice, and that takes time and exploration.
Q. Is that something that became more clear to you when you were in France? A. It really took me leaving and going to France to have that perspective and to be really proud of it. I really wanted to focus on this idea of American royalty with these dresses. There’s an excitement, energy, and resilience to Americans that is unprecedented anywhere in the world. Even the gesture of my going to France and taking those kinds of risks felt very American.
Q. Does it feel like you’ve been doing this for 10 years?
A. [laughing] Yes, it does. It’s been more than 10 years. I started interning in fashion when I was 16. I was very young, and it was very fast. There weren’t young American designers when I started. I’m really proud that I think we either paved the way or made it possible for a whole resurgence of an industry to happen.
Q. Now that you’re a wise old sage of fashion, what advice would you offer to up-and-coming designers, like Jason Wu or Prabal Gurung?
A. I really think that there is a great importance to taking one’s time. That’s something important for young designers to keep in mind. There are choices to be made, there is no quick growth to building designer clothing. The stronger ones let themselves evolve a signature look. I would also say to take risks, because at the end of the day that will establish them as long-term players.
Q. Whenever I read about you, it seems as if you’re characterized as disagreeable or unpleasant. But I’m not getting a “mean girl’’ vibe from you today.
A. It’s very hurtful when there is negative press about you, or things that are character judgments in the press. That’s very demoralizing. Obviously I do not feel that these are true representations of my character. I’m actually a really private person. It’s an industry that is highly competitive and driven on gossip and scandal. Listen, people get upset, they get jealous. There’s a reaction to that. You have to stay focused and strong. That’s really the key to it. Because I was learning it so young, I was out there alone navigating fashion. I was never protected. That exposes you to a lot of different characters within the industry. I go home and cook, that’s my calm.