OFTEN, THE EXPERIENCE of finding success in Silicon Valley and the fashion world are similarly a hit or miss; some start-ups and fashion designers struggle for years to make it, while others skyrocket to the top overnight. Zac Posen exemplifies the latter. 18 years young and two years into his Central Saint Martins career, the prodigal fashion designer had already begun his express journey onto the runway and into our hearts.
Much like Stanford, Saint Martins boasts a highly competitive environment where, according to Posen, for “almost every project, the students fail.” Luckily, this didn’t stop Posen and he became one of Saint Martins’ most esteemed graduates. And luckily for PULSE, Posen’s subsequent success eventually led him to The Farm, where we were able to pick his brain on fashion, brand, and leadership.
Surprisingly, when asked what Posen would do if he were in our shoes—18-ish and a Stanford undergrad—he hinted that he would take a dip in the techie pool. “While I was in high school, I was working on computer programming with clothing. I was already interested in fashion and I probably, from a creative side, would’ve taken fashion into a more tech realm.”
As the creative director of Brooks Brothers, a regular judge on Project Runway, and owner of his own bridal gown line, Truly Zac Posen, Posen takes big risks daily, deciding which projects to take on next. For Posen, there are only four questions: “Does it feel right? Can I add something to it? Is the money right? Is it brand-positive?”
As with any CEO of an international business, Posen must walk the fine line between what feels right in the moment and what is right for the brand. Yet, he went on to acknowledge that “the worlds have blended in a way, and the idea of a ‘pure brand’ actually isn’t a strong brand.”
Posen explained that in order for a brand to be successful, it must move with the market, while simultaneously retaining its authenticity and uniqueness. Having a cool brand isn’t enough anymore—entrepreneurs must create and fortify connections with all sorts of demographics. In a world where everything is so fast-paced, accessible and disposable, it is increasingly difficult to stand out among the competition.
He further explained that it is not just about focusing on one part of a venture: “In today’s age, the fact of the matter is the more you do, the higher your price gets raised, and the more value you have.” Using the example of the long distance runner, Posen emphasized the importance of longevity and being able to see where your brand is going next.
“To be successful in fashion, which is incredibly competitive, incredibly fickle at times, you really have to commit yourself fully as an artist.” And we don’t think he meant that only as a designer – whether you want to be the next Alexander McQueen, or run around behind the scenes during Fashion Week, it is important to truly immerse yourself in your passion.
Though he’s the mastermind behind the multiple labels and the face and visionary of his empire, he was also the fastest to assure us that he doesn’t work alone, that “nobody is a one person show.” Posen explained the importance of knowing when to delegate certain tasks, and how difficult it can be to trust people; but also that there are people in this world that will buy into the brand, respect hard work, and continue to thrive in that cultivated environment.
With sites like BigCartel that sell thousands of independent labels, successfully creating a name in the fashion industry has become harder than staying sane during finals. According to Posen, a strong brand today has to have a strong identity. Times have definitely changed since Posen first debuted in 2001, but his knowledge of the market and his brand’s identity keeps him firmly on top.
By: Lauren Motown Philips
Special thanks to the Stanford Arts Institute and Fashion At Stanford for this incredible opportunity.
Check out Zac Posen S/S 2016!