Zac Posen Talks Shooting Katie Holmes and Why He Doesn’t Miss the Runway

The designer offers a behind-the-scenes look at his Fall 2018 collection via photos of the actress

To see the full Zac Posen Fall 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection, click here.

Zac Posen is no stranger to working with celebrities—watch any red carpet arrivals show and you’ll hear his name without fail. Oh, and did you see Miley Cyrus in his raspberry ball gown at the Grammys? Yeah, thought so. (He said she was a “blast to work with,” by the way.) But his Fall 2018 lookbook project, which, yes, features a pretty major name, isn’t about fame and glam so much as honesty and friendship.

Posen has, somewhat brilliantly, skipped the runway since Fall 2017, instead opting to present his collections via engaging lookbook imagery and videos, which have featured the likes of Lindsey Wixson and Kate Upton. This season, he enlisted photographer Daniel King to shoot a woman he considers a dear friend, Katie Holmes, in his decadent Fall 2018 designs. “We met years ago at a Vanity Fair party, and then we re-met at a mutual friend’s birthday,” Posen recalled during an appointment in his studio, just as Holmes glided by in a taffeta gown. “I squeezed in at the Empire Diner—we really met over French fries.”

“She’s a creative force,” continued Posen, explaining his admiration for Holmes. “She’s directing her own movies, starring in them. She’s a classic beauty and she’s a good person—she’s loyal—which is the most important. And she has good values and is an incredible mom.” More than just celebrating his friendship with Holmes, Posen wanted to showcase the tradition of designer and muse à la Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. That relationship has been lost in modern times, largely due to fashion’s fast, social media-driven pace, endorsement deals, and our culture’s obsession with the next big star. Similarly, Posen felt it was important to show his fans and consumers how his painstaking looks are made, to tell a story that showcases the behind-the-scenes story, the draping, cutting, and sewing that occurs in his Midtown atelier. So instead of snapping Holmes in front of a standard backdrop, he had King capture candid moments of him and the actress in the studio. Sometimes, he and his team are shown fitting a dress onto Holmes slim frame. In another instance, she’s seen leaning over a rolling rack, chatting with the designer. “I wanted to show what happens behind the scenes,” Posen said. “And I think showing the making of the collection with an actual friend and the romanticism of the old-fashioned process is kind of contemporary today.”

The sculptural collection had a mid-century glamour, with theatrical silhouettes (some of which recalled those of Cristobal Balenciaga), rich fabrics (velvets, satins, and taffetas) and dramatic draping (Posen said he had a particularly good time playing with fabric on his form this season). Naturally, there were plenty of red carpet-worthy moments, but he offered Jackie O-esque suiting styles, too, which looked particularly sharp on Holmes.

Posen no longer partakes in NYFW’s runway festivities, but he has dedicated clients, retailers around the world, and, thanks in part to his spot as a judge on Project Runway, a massive following. With that in mind, he’s very much part of the “fashion” conversation, and this season, that conversation seems to once again be centering on feminism. “That’s deeply in my DNA—finding the balance of glamour, strength, and the power of fashion,” said Posen. “The purpose of fashion is to empower. There are many different themes that are studied in fashion and played with, but for me, it’s where a line hits on the body that helps you feel strong. Femininity—real femininity—is not about dressing for anybody besides yourself. And real glamour is about how you feel, no matter what you put on.”

No doubt, Posen created something special—and personal—with his Fall 2018 lookbook, as proven by the overwhelmingly positive response on Instagram. (“Zac, you make us all feel that beautiful when we wear you,” a commenter wrote.) But one has to wonder, after three seasons away, does Posen miss his grand runway romps? “No. I don’t miss showing,” said Posen after a pensive pause. “I love a fashion show, but I feel if you’re going to do a show today, you should be really putting out a strong, creative message, and really going for it. I love fashion shows but I’m not seeing fashion shows. I don’t think [today’s runways] are saying or adding anything for the consumer, and they’re not adding anything artistically. I don’t think they have the impact they used to, and I think that there are way too many shows, and a lot of irrelevant shows. It makes me nervous when I look at younger designers, from my own experience, of how energy is spent, especially in the early incubation of your career. It has the potential to derail it.”

But Posen is optimistic. He personally is always thinking of new was in which he can unveil his collections—ways that will excite the consumer which, let’s be serious, is the whole point of most fashion shows today. He’s also curious to see how the industry will, as he put it, “reform itself.”

“I think today, the trick is to be able to pivot at any point, to make decisions, to take risks,” he said, noting that, ultimately, the most important thing is to “build a strong brand that can last.” With 15 years in business, two successful lines and accessories ranges, and megawatt side projects to boot, Posen certainly knows a little something about that.

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