Zac Posen: "The Fashion World Needed A Little Kick In The Ass"

Photo: MCV Photo.
This story was originally published on Feb. 26, 2016.

It's no secret that the fashion and beauty worlds have historically favored exclusivity over inclusivity. Which, sadly, is why a designer casting a show with a majority of models of color is considered a historic move. Zac Posen's fall 2016 show did just that: He debuted his new line with a model lineup that was one of the truest representations of diversity we've seen on the runway.
"I felt that it was a strong message on [our] runway, that the fashion world needed a little kick in the ass, a little wake-up. But it’s just what I see as beauty, nothing more than that," Posen tells us.
It's a message he's holding true to as he ventures into the beauty world with his first collection for MAC — a '70s-inspired line of new products (lipsticks, an eyeshadow palette, a contour palette, and a rad powder brush), rounded out with classics (HD setting powder, liquid liner, mascara), rereleased in gray-and-gold limited-edition packaging.
While the contour palette is not as nimble, the rest of the collection will work on every skin tone and type, something that Posen has made his mission. We sat down with Posen yesterday to talk about the new collection, his commitment to #blackmodelsmatter, and what he has in store for the beauty world.
How is designing a cosmetics collection similar to designing a dress?
“Like clothing, it starts with quality have great fabric or [for beauty] great material, then building a color story and a mood within the season that you’re launching, where you have to predict trends and [be] timeless. I wanted [the collection] to work on all skin [tones]; that was really essential to me with color, something that worked color-wise globally."

A photo posted by @zacposen on

You have a strong commitment to inclusivity on the runway. Did that carry over to this collection?
“Absolutely! At the end of the day, it can work on pretty much any skin tone. Where it came into play is that I kept asking questions: Would this work on x, y, and z? Because it has to! I believe that the world is beautiful because of diversity... I represent that for fashion, kind of globally.

"Creating a warm [lipstick] and a hot [lipstick], in terms of the color element, kind of works differently on [different skin tones]... The eyeshadow palette certainly has that [ability to work on anyone], the HD powder is totally transparent, and the contour can work on a lot of different skin [tones]."

In some ways, our casting message has much larger, longer ramifications than the clothing.

Zac Posen
Celebrating diversity closely aligns with our ethos at R29. We’ve actually called you the patron saint of model diversity before…
“I read everything, and I found it later, and it made me so proud and happy. You know, this is not something that, when I entered fashion, I thought [about]...[but] I love that I am able to represent different beauty types and pioneer and push our beauty and fashion industry to think globally.
"You used to be able to isolate markets, and now we’re in a global dialogue. Creativity, and glamour in a way, have a driving factor to them that inspires people to reach to higher goals. Fashion and beauty should be empowering… I feel that runway shows and trends last almost less than three months. I mean, the clothing can last in someone’s closet, but we’re in such a fast seasonal [cycle] that, in some ways, our casting message has much larger, longer ramifications than the clothing, even than the season...
"What was a hot collection is just that for three months; then it’s on to the next. But if you make a statement like this, then you have reach for a long, long period of time and create a larger dialogue outside of the industry to look at the industry. This [season] really did have an effect, but most importantly for me were these girls backstage that were in the show, and how incredibly empowered and beautiful they felt — that was an amazing moment for me. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was very emotional.”

A photo posted by @zacposen on

How has this process been different from designing for the runway?
“What’s different and exciting is that makeup puts the process of creation in the wearer’s hands; makeup has the ability to ignite the imagination... I am all about women embracing their creativity, and I think makeup has a great application for that... And for me, this is a launching pad for us to enter the beauty market now, and to enter into the fragrance world in the future.”

Wait, are you working on a fragrance?
“I can’t say yet (laughs), but that’s a tease to fragrance. I love beauty and perfume — the whole sensual experience of getting ready and representing yourself — how you look, how you smell, how you feel, it all goes together.”

Makeup has the ability to ignite the imagination.

Zac Posen
What inspired this collection with MAC?
“There’s a little Biba in here, a little Liza [Minnelli]... I would look at Art Deco represented in the early '70s. Things that can blend together and colors that seduce you to play... The contour and this really luxe brush, it took the most time in the process to get them to do. I wanted something square, because, as opposed to a round brush, it gives you more mobility. My dad’s a painter, so I grew up with brushes and know how you use them and control them. If it’s square, it gives you more angles to hold it and contour it.

A photo posted by @zacposen on

"Everyone needs the plushest lashes for a red carpet-ready look (picks up mascara), and from spending lots of time with Dita Von Teese, Uma Thurman, Katie Holmes, and Natalie Portman, [I learned] what is the [one] thing you want to bring with you [out at night is something] that you can write a note with and do the perfect cat-eye with. (holds up the liquid liner)

What on the collection wish list didn’t make the cut?
“You know, I was tempted to think up a limited-edition fragrance that went here.”

This is a launching pad for us to enter the beauty market now, and to enter into the fragrance world in the future.

Zac Posen
You have fragrance on the mind!
“I do have fragrance on my mind. (laughs) I love it, I develop my own fragrances, and I love the process, just on my own…”

What are your beauty essentials?
“A great moisturizer, an oil, [and] my invisible powder, which I started using on Project Runway myself! A great light foundation, for a clean palette, especially if you’re going to be photographed. I take salt baths — epsom and sea salt is really good; you can also try apple cider in [a bath]. I do a face oil at night. I have had to learn on the 'Zac the performer' side how to take care of your skin and that process, and I have learned a lot of empathy and understanding for women that do wear makeup.”

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