Zac Posen, the designer who’s kept celebrities in mermaid gowns on the red carpet since the early 2000s, has shuttered his namesake label.
The House of Z, Posen’s company had been in the midst of a sale process. As early as April of this year, Yucaipa Cos., the investment firm founded by Ron Burkle, was seeking to sell off its stake in the label. Today, according to a release, the House of Z, “determined to cease business operations and carry out an orderly disposition of its assets.” The release continues, “the Board of Managers made this difficult decision following a comprehensive strategic and financial review of the businesses… The Board of Managers is disappointed with this outcome but can no longer continue operations and believe an orderly disposition at this stage is the best course of action, under the circumstances.” Posen notified his staff of about 60, including the artisans who worked in his atelier, one of the few remaining ateliers in New York City, that they were out of jobs this morning.
“I’ve been personally trying to find the right partner for some time,” Posen said in an exclusive interview with Vogue. “But time ran out, and the difficult climate out there… it’s not an easy time in our industry.” (Barneys New York, the legendary department store and a stockist of Posen’s, was sold today and the new owner plans to close its remaining stores and license its name to rival Saks Fifth Avenue.)
Posen had been designing 14 collections a year for his signature line, his lower-priced ZAC Zac Posen collection, and Brooks Brothers, where he is creative director, and he was involved in multiple partnerships, including with Delta Airlines and GE. “It’s been 20 years of love, I’m very sad,” he said. “But I’ve had the great fortune to express myself creatively, and to have made some incredible work with unbelievably passionate people. The community of people who have come through House of Z and are currently here—it’s a powerful force.”
Posen was a wunderkind, emerging from Central Saint Martins with a fully formed aesthetic that harked back to the glamour of Old Hollywood, and a full rolodex of famous and about-to-be-famous friends from a youth in New York that were photographed in his clothes. His shows quickly became the hot ticket at fashion week; in 2003, Vogue reported that he was still just “22 years old and Designer of the Year five minutes out of fashion college.”
In short order, Sean Combs took a 50 percent stake in his business (Yucaipa later acquired this stake), and Posen was dressing the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Kate Winslet, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Katie Holmes, and many more. The figure-flattering engineered construction and flamboyance of his gowns—not to mention his personal charisma—made him a red carpet favorite. Though his rise was swift, his trajectory was not without its ups and downs. The documentary, House of Z, depicts the challenges he faced, significantly during which he put on runway shows in Paris.
Fashion can be particularly unkind to designers as they navigate the transition from bright young thing to mid-career, but Posen managed better than many of his contemporaries. Not least of all because he was early to discover and capitalize on fashion’s growing importance in the entertainment sphere. Beyond the catwalk, he was a host of Project Runway for six years and he published a successful cookbook, Cooking With Zac in 2017.
Still, his heart belonged in the atelier. For this year’s Met Gala, he worked with GE, creating dresses and accessories that melded his couturier’s skills with next-generation 3-D printing for Jourdan Dunn, Nina Dobrev, Deepika Padukone, and Julia Garner.
“I need to reflect and regroup,” Posen said, when asked about next steps, “and also to look at the world we’re living in and figure what the next move is, where I can share my creativity and my love, and build another community.”
Below, some of the most stunning red-carpet looks by Zac Posen: