Zac Posen x Mac – Interview in Lake Como, Italy

MAC held it’s Fall European Trends presentation in beautiful Lake Como, Italy with special guest Zac Posen! Zac Posen is a fashion designer who became the “Next Big Thing” at 21, before he even had his first runway show. A leather gown he made as a student project was later acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I got the chance to sit with Zac at the Casta Diva Resort and chat about his relationship with cosmetics giant MAC Cosmetics, his career and the demand for his dresses in the Middle East. 

Zac Posen and Gordon Espinet Director of Makeup at Mac Cosmetics Poses on stage with models after the MAC European Trends Presentation

For you what makes MAC Cosmetics the ultimate cosmetics brand?

I think there dedication to creative expression. That is what makes it ultimate for me.  Their ability to work with talent and nurture it from the artist side to the designer side, I think this is key.  There continual renewal of innovation for product. I love that they don’t discontinue too many products because everybody finds their individual piece that they like.  There diversity, there is a lot of product range they are covering.

Is there a MAC x Zac Posen Collection in the works?

(laughs) Can’t say anything!

You are always well dressed, how do you decide what to wear?

I make everything I wear. I decide in the morning how I’m feeling, what’s clean, I like blending colors. I changed today because I felt the blue was nice with the lake color and the hat, I liked the yellow, I like textures and colors. The tie was sort of funny and Italian.  I love dressing it’s important for me at least as a designer that I enjoy wearing clothing if I’m going to be telling women what to wear.

There is something strange for me when you see designers especially in New York when they dress down but their look is very extreme and dressed up. That is something I just don’t understand, it’s like try on your clothing.  But there are many talented people in New York it’s a very exciting time, the good dialogue of whats happening there and it’s taking more and more center stage of global fashion.

When you were studying, you left school to move back home to pursue fashion designing.  What advice can you give to upcoming designers and what do you think is more important, education or experience?

I think everybody is different, I love education. I was very lucky through my high school experience to go to incredible schools, of very amazing education artistically and academically. So first of all the decision to go to design school was very pulling inside me not pursue academics because I was studying science, academics, I won the New York State math competition when I was in high school, bronze place, so it was pretty serious stuff and to chose to go to design school.

I’ve been working in the fashion since I was 16, I started working on 7 Avenue, I worked at Nicole Miller, Toca, Costume Institute, for over 2 years. So I engrossed myself into it and when I went to university in London, it is a 3 year program plus a foundation year, and I skipped the foundation year.  They accepted me right into the program and I was very young, and I just couldn’t really afford to live in London any longer, and at that point their was press being written, and retailers wanted to own me and start a brand with me and were flying to my apartment in London, The New York Times had written a large piece and the Telegraph did a profile so it started to build and I was selling little t-shirts at small shops in London, and tops and just felt like the timing was right.

But education is absolutely essential, I think you can have the best education in the world but if you don’t have the experience on the mat working there’s no use.  Learning from experience is key.  One should continually educate themselves, through their whole life and career, and if you met a designer who doesn’t know how to pattern, cut and sew to make to me is not necessarily a true designer in that way, you truly need to know it all.

It’s so competitive out there, I meet lots of young kids of privilege who want to be fashion designers, but if you want to have your own individual voice in it and present something that is true to you and new for the world to get excited by then you have to really be great and a continual student of all sides of the craft and business.  You also have to have an understanding of the business and you have to be able to be the front of your company today as a designer.  Brands with hidden designers or designers that don’t do a lot of press wont have the ability to have the global reach that is necessary.  If you look at Amo Prada who you think is exclusive, she is brilliant in the public eye…Karl Lagerfeld or any of them.  And then we have the generation of reactionary to that, like designers with a hidden artist and this is especially with the world we are living in now, social media and television the future is that designers need to have the ability to interact in this way so I feel lucky, that I had those elements.

Can you tell us about the dress you designed for Dita Von Teese at the Met Ball this year?

I designed the dress for her specifically.  We’ve had so many requests from different regions for that dress since, particularity the Middle East. So I think we will be making them you know I just want to talk about the designer ditas dress, her body is the shape of her body, I was inspired by her nails, for the bottom of it just played with form and shape and just emphasized her, there were many other women we dressed there and each one was more spectacular then the next.  Amazing night.

Zac Posen and Mac both deliver a cinematic approach that would never go unnoticed.  Does this love affair with drama bring you closer to Mac?

This is not about a wall flower woman, its definitely a woman who has a presence and is a star in her everyday life.  It’s just a love of celebration of fashion and fashions place.  Fashion is not a necessity, so fashions place is to add a level of drama and expression to every day life and I think the mutual love of glamor for everyday at night is definitely something we share.

You work with Model Coco Roca a lot.  She said that you treat models like human beings.

She is a good dear dear friend, I am the only designer that consistently put her in the shows since I started.  Fashion can be really mean and fickle, and that’s not how I see women how I see my relationship with the models I work with.  I just want them to feel better in their dress.

It’s not about my design or my ego at all, that ego comes into how something is made, that’s about it for me, its all about process and the models are a big part of the process and then it becomes a part of the community, to work this hard because it’s an actual collaboration with the community that’s just how I see it. The only thing I don’t like is dumb people.

Do you think of where you started, I read when you started your parents gave you a $15 allowance. Do you look back at that time and how did it help you?

Beyond that my mother and sister gave me their time, they came and worked with me and three of us didn’t’ take salary for about 3 years!  We paid for our production by what we sold and the shows were fully paid for by sponsorship, there was no capital or overhead investment in this.

Every season everything is a learning experience, but my advice for young people is take your time and really take it slow, I think when I entered there was tons of press and attention, opened the opportunity for a lot young people to say I can be a designer as well, but there really has to be a life commitment and its not something secondary you know you really have to live and breath it you cant buy it.

If you do want it but you also want to enjoy other parts and you have the means, then just go buy it and make fabulous fashion for yourself and friends, but otherwise its an endless money profession.  It’s something long term a investment to be in fashion for years, it doesn’t go with nature, oil, stock market it has its own weather pattern, and you really have to make this a choice and that is key.  It has to come from the heart.

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Nilo Haq
Tagged as one of the five women to have shaped the beauty industry in the Middle East, Nilo is a pro makeup artist with stints at MAC Cosmetics, Toni&Guy, & Alexander Zouari Paris. Nilo Haq is the founder of iGlow Studios, Snobby Face lashes and creator of the first ever Online Makeup Course made for South Asian women. Nilo is now based in Toronto and is a sought-after bridal makeup artist who runs makeup workshops across three continents.

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