Boy, oh boy, are we ever at a turning point. So far in New York — make that America, since there was the whole Los Angeles contingent last week — runways are not just runways. They are loaded with messages and meaning and experimental formats as everyone tries to get with the times. Zac Posen did an excellent job bucking his own traditions while embracing his roots and showing his fall collection in a special, thoughtful way. And no one could complain about it being inconvenient.
Posen, once the king of runway theatrics, did away with the catwalk entirely. Instead, he took over his former showroom space on Laight Street for a presentation, installing gorgeous, large-scale photographs and video of major models — Lindsey Wixson, Hilary Rhoda, Carolyn Murphy, Jourdan Dunn and Aiden Curtiss — wearing the fall collection. Vanina Sorrenti shot them the week before at Posen’s childhood home and first office, his parents’ loft and his father’s art studio on Spring Street, and the shots were stunning — strikingly crystal clear and minimal in style, a counterpoint to some of the grand designs. Presented this way, the collection felt at home.
“I think that today it’s about connecting to the customer and the public emotionally, and there are different ways to do that,” said Posen during a preview at his parents’ loft, which is the kind of space of bygone New York legend. “So much of the shows today are from brands where they can do an enormous large-scale event or the environment becomes so much of the show….I like having the ability to shoot in an environment that lends authenticity, quality and complete vision. I’m sure I will return to runway at some point. I think that I’m really interested in continuing to explore this as a process and sharing the experience with imagery that exudes a mood. Also, being able to represent women of different ages, because that’s more challenging on a runway.”
Seeing Posen’s full collection, a blend of Forties femininity and current, more practical glamour, on the racks was different from seeing the photographs. Photographs can be incredibly transformative, so Sorrenti’s camera didn’t pick up the weight and heft of some of the major gowns — a sweeping, sculpted floral embroidered style and leaner, anatomically seamed gowns — though it framed them as the portrait of throwback bombshell glamour. Those dresses are designed to make a memorable photograph, whether on the red carpet or at one’s own special occasions. But the images capture the softness and simplicity of a languid white tie-neck shirtdress and the pert girlishness of a short printed cotton floral dress. Posen’s collection had two sides. For example, not shown in the installation was a navy knit hoodie. “I did that once before,” Posen said, “a long time ago.”