This Friday, Saks Fifth Avenue and the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary will welcome Zac Posen as the guest designer of the 32nd San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary Fashion Show, benefiting the SF Ballet. The Fall 2013 Runway show will be followed by a meet-and-greet with the designer himself, at Saks Fifth Avenue in Union Square.
From dressing the First Lady to being a judge on Project Runway, there isn't much in the world of fashion that 32-year-old Posen hasn't achieved. The famed designer spoke with us from New York about his love of food, fashion and San Francisco.
Where are your favorite places to visit when you're in San Francisco?
It’s been a few years since I’ve been there. I love going to the de Young, the Japanese Garden, and to the Square. I also love all of the different coffee shops and breakfast joints. There's a time-stopping quality to San Francisco– there's this balance of old world charm, American glamour and aristocracy with a very strong presence of the 60s and modern day, too.
I've heard you're a foodie. What's the best meal you've ever eaten?
I love food, and I’ve had the pleasure of eating so many different types of food all over the world, but the best was in Japan. There's this amazing, hidden vegetarian restaurant in the middle of Tokyo, in Ginza.They grow all of their own produce and transform it into immaculately delicious and beautiful menus that end with a mix of exotic fruit tea.
Do you cook? What's your signature dish?
I bake a lot. I bake almond flour cookies and angel food cake, but I keep out the white flour and cane sugar. But my signature dish is a Japanese nine-grain rice with salmon roe, and braised pumpkin on the side. As much as I love cooking though, there’s nothing better than great fresh fruit. Nature does it best.
What are you most excited for on this trip to SF?
I’m so excited with this trip to help create excitement and raise money for the ballet. I go see a lot of theater and film, and I’m a huge ballet fan. I love how the bodies move, and the history of ballet; I have a great affinity for Dyagilev and Gelsey Kirkland. I’m always happy to work with Saks, too, and I think that if more people were exposed to creative processes and found creativity within themselves, the whole world would be a happier place.
TV is a new creative stage for you. What's the best part of working on Project Runway?
The best part was actually living the experience and being on set with a crew, and with Heidi, Nina and Tim, and going on this incredible journey with these ambitious designers. It was wonderful to be a positive but critical mentor, and to try to get the best out of each designer. Beyond that, putting out a positive message about the creative process is always great.
Do you ever get designer's block?
The thing about fashion is that it’s a very fast-paced creative venture. Continuous creativity is key, but because I wear many hats, I have learned how to space my time and focus. There are days when I’m physically hands-on, draping in the studio with the music blasting. Other days, I'm able to step away and have perspective on the work, and then I can switch hats to PR, graphic design, or on my ZAC Zac Posen line, which is less hand-crafted and built than our top couture line. Creativity and being a designer is a lifelong journey so you learn your pace. Early on, when I was younger, there were so many ideas I wanted to get out, but I’ve learned that things find their time and place.
What music do you listen to in the studio?
All different kinds of music. Right now, a lot of Joanna Newsom–very folky, dreamy and soulful. I think It’s important to listen to everything from classical and girl bands to what’s popular on the radio. As a designer, you have to be a cultural receiving dish and take in everything from high to low to medium to abstract, and then, as an artist, you present it through your own eyes, and vision, and hands.
What do you do to de-stress?
I’m pretty driven and I sort of thrive in stress. If you’re driven and work hard then there's a humanistic component to your work, and that’s where I think it can get emotional and stress can come in. I try to get out of the city after each collection, be in the ocean, and become a little fish. That's what my friends call me. I’m a little fish and I look like I’m 12-years-old as I bob in and out of the water.
You're always so well groomed. Do you wear flip flops on vacation?
I will never be caught dead wearing flip flops. No way, Jose! I wear Brooks Brothers or my little TOMS shoes, or my favorite things are those velvet slippers with bicycle track soles that you buy in Venice. Those are my “sneakers.” I do have one pair of running trainers. I normally wear dress shoes all the time though. If you are making clothing for people who dress up, you’d better wear fashion yourself. I tell newer female designers to wear their own goods and represent their brand.
What do you find sexy?
Humor, confidence, drive, and being open to continuous learning. Oh, and optimism. Optimism is sexy.
Lily Ko (lily7x7 @gmail.com) studied fashion design and merchandising at Central Saint Martins and the Academy of Art University. In addition to writing for 7x7, Lily is on the creative team at Pottery Barn, and works as a freelance stylist, writer, and designer.