In this weekly feature, InStyle’s Fashion News Director Eric Wilson shares his favorite fashion moment of the week, and explains how it could shape styles to come.
The Moment: Brooks Brothers is the nearly two centuries-old stalwart of American fashion known for its tailored corporate-right suits and preppy sportswear for men and, to a lesser extent, for women. Zac Posen is the red carpet-savvy designer who makes some of the most dramatic gowns in fashion, along with dramatic quips as a judge on Project Runway.
So today’s announcement that Posen has been named creative director of Brooks Brothers’s main women’s collections is most certainly a Wow, one of the most daring designer pairings since, well since Brooks Brothers hired Thom Browne to design its Black Fleece collection seven years ago. Posen, who will continue his own line, will oversee the design and merchandising teams for the women’s collections beginning with spring 2016 and also represent the brand publicly. One of his challenges will be to raise the image and perception of Brooks Brothers in the eyes of female shoppers, but Posen does have a way with fashion that seduces.
“Brooks Brothers is an institution,” Posen says when I reached him on the phone. “It has an incredibly deep history in multiple categories. I knew it first as a men’s staple brand, but its women’s has a very long history as well. What’s exciting is that we’re going to be able to give it a voice and bring a clear direction, along with some of the highest quality staples to the market. I like that it started as a carriage business.”
Posen, who grew up in New York City, has long admired the retailer’s presence here and, it might surprise you, he is even a customer.
“I’m wearing a knit tie from them right now,” he says. “It wasn’t in my wardrobe growing up as a kid, since it was a polished, dressed up lifestyle look, but I do remember when I first started in fashion getting sets of their pajamas and feeling very polished, poised and clean. It’s going to be a really fun venture to be able to develop sportswear on such a large scale that is enriched in American lifestyle.”
Why It’s a Wow: Classic fashion brands have created a successful business model by hiring young and buzzy designers to constantly reinvent them, and often it is the least likely matches that turn out to create the most interesting results. Lately, odd matches are becoming less odd as fashion turns in a direction that, like much of corporate America, embraces disruptive thinking. Jason Wu joining Hugo Boss, J.W. Anderson designing for Loewe and the recently ended partnering of Olivier Theyskens and Theory are a few examples of provocative pairings.
Posen’s early days as a fashion wunderkind, starting his business in 2001 when he was just out of college with a coterie of celebrity fans, made him a fashion star from the start. His intricately constructed dresses have an Old Hollywood glamour, and Posen himself is something of a showman. So it will be fascinating to see how he approaches women’s wear for Brooks Brothers and its far preppier aesthetic.
“It’s very early stages,” Posen says. “At this moment, we are reviewing all the different categories and we’re going to begin putting together the different codes for women. I’m going to look within the brand, because there’s so much history and incredible archives.”
“I don’t think that fits within the DNA,” he says, “or the direction in which we’re taking it.”
Learn More: Follow the timeline of Brooks Brothers history, which includes notable dates such as the opening of its first store on April 7, 1818, and the 1938 introduction of Shetland sweaters in multiple colors that appealed to co-eds and spurred the company’s entrance into women’s wear.
For real-time insider insights, make sure to follow Eric Wilson on Twitter (@EricWilsonSays).