The Goodbye Game: Another 21st Century Staple Shuts Its Doors. This Time it’s Zac Posen

Zac Posen announced on Friday, November 1st, that he would be closing his namesake brand, House of Z after 17 years of magic. Saying goodbye is never easy, but the closure of Zac Posen’s eponymous label is a particularly hard pill to swallow.

Ron Burkle’s investment firm, Yucaipa Companies, was looking to sell its hefty 50 percent stake in Posen’s businesses, of which they’ve possessed for over 15 years. They held stock in both House of Z and contemporary line, ZAC Zac Posen. As early as April of this year, Posen told WWD, “As the marketplace is rapidly changing, we both believe exploring opportunities for future strategic growth is smart.” In the midst of quite a bit of “comeback” chatter, the private equity firm had been seeking a replacement stakeholder for a minimum of seven months. Once the fog had lifted, the time to find a new buyer had run out. 

Struggling Finances

Based on the company’s strategic and financial overviews, the Board of Managers found that the most realistic choice for the business was to cease all operations. Posen’s New York based atelier had become one of the last of its kind. And now, the designer would be forced to give notice to his approximately 60 atelier artisans that they were now officially unemployed. 

“Over the years, keeping the atelier has been questioned. It’s expensive to pay for all these people and it’d be much cheaper to sketch the look, send it to a factory uptown and have it made somewhere else in the world.”

“The atelier is such a rare and special community of artisans, of mathematicians, of creators, of imagineers.” he goes on to say, “It’s the team. And if I lost that, I wouldn’t want to put on runway shows.”

Miley Cyrus in Zac Posen at Grammy Awards
Miley Cyrus in Zac Posen at Grammy Awards

To top off this devastating blow, Posens’s innovative and dream-like Spring/Summer 2020 line will no longer be released to the public. The collection was released via 360-degree videos featuring Winnie Harlow twirling about. Due to the abrupt closing of the business, the pieces will not be shipping. 

In his early days, Posen was touted as a child prodigy of fashion. He displayed talent beyond his years at the mere age of 20 when he was catapulted into the limelight. 

In particularly morbid tone, the bankrupt New York staple Barneys showed first interest in the label, during its early aughts.Zac Posen dress at Barneys

Fashion’s Changing Tides

Vogue reports of an unexpected visit Posen received in the late ‘90s. “The first luxury buyer to ever visit me was Julie Gilhart,” Posen told Vogue. “I was studying at Central Saint Martins, and I remember getting the call that she had flown to London and wanted to see the collection. I was just a kid in a basement ripping up some stuff, hand-making, hand-dyeing, bleaching, and washing things.” Barneys then became the young designer’s first retailer when his brand launched in 2001. “It was a big deal. Huge.”

Not-so-coincidentally, Yucaipa Companies held a 20 percent stake in Barneys as well, before they were sold off. The closure of these two very luxurious, very New York institutions, speaks wholeheartedly to our industry’s current climate. They have become a casualty of the times and certainly mark the end of an era.

“It’s expensive to pay for all these people and it’d be much cheaper to sketch the look, send it to a factory uptown and have it made somewhere else in the world.”

In the Public Eye

In 2017, the documentary House of Z was released, chronicling the ups and downs of a young Posen, essentially growing up within the industry. The tale of his rise to fame is one of frenetic ascent filled with triumphs and failures. The film rings as a sort of redemption song as the young designer transforms from a pretentious boy to a humbled man all the while living in the spotlight and under scrutiny of the press. Posen has since described the making of the documentary as a therapeutic experience; one where he certainly lays all of his cards out on the table.

Zac Posen in his atelier
Zac Posen in his atelier

In this coming-of-age story, we watch Posen grapple with staying true to himself as a designer while balancing the brand’s financial situation. During the film, Posen’s mother states, If you can’t pay for your fabrics, if you can’t pay for your patternmakers, if you can’t pay for your sewers, you don’t get to make the art.”

The film highlights a glaring chasm between the lifestyle he presented to the world and his less luxurious reality. 

“It became a performance. But If the perception of you is not actually the reality, and you’re living that because it’s feeding the beast… You’re playing a very dangerous game.”


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