Welcome back to my blog! Today I thought I would share with you my views on the ‘House of Z’ Netflix documentary. It follows fashion designer Zac Posen through his rise and fall, and poses the question… will he, or won’t he continue? Please keep on reading to find out more!
The documentary started with Zac Posen’s background history; a look into his life before he became a famous name. His family were strong, close and creative, and consisted of his mother, father and older sister. Zac grew up in Soho, surrounded by a creative and art based community, inspired particularly by his father who was a realist painter, who used fabrics in his work. This brief family history gave us as an audience an insight to what life was like at home before the fame; his parents were always supportive of his dreams. Through school Zac felt as if he didn’t fit in, something I think everyone could relate to. It wasn’t until he went to high school that he starting thriving. He found other outsiders including models, actors, artists etc. The time he spent at high school was fulfilling and inspiring, which consequently led him to begin to make dresses. A fashion designer was born. The journey from not fitting in at school, to going on to achieving great things as a teen, such as interning for Nicole Miller, was a journey that as an audience, we felt proud to see. And his success and triumph would only continue further.
His friends said that Zac was always stitching something, constantly drawing fashion illustrations, and experimenting with how he personally dressed. He was extravagant, for example he dressed as a Pope for graduation. At this point I think everyone knew he was destined for something more. After graduating, Zac moved to London to attend Central Saint Martins University; the best fashion school in the world. From this point on his name became known, and his popularity grew. He began making dresses for his friends, such as a pink silk dress, which got him attention. This led to models like Naomi Campbell wanting to wear his designs. As an audience it is clear that his time spent at the school, although it was cut short as he left early, really helped Zac blossom ad find himself creatively.
Posen then moved home to start a fashion house of his own. He kept the ‘House of Z’ tight knit to begin with; his mother and sister and a few employees making up the team. Everything was done from his family house, even down to casting the models, some of whom were famous. It was clear at this point in the documentary that word had gotten out about the young designer, the hype had begun to build around his name, and everyone wanted to be apart of it. And so, his first catwalk show débuted in February 2002… and it was a hit! The success led to sales, which led to funds, which enabled him to move the house out of his home and into a bigger space. The future looked exciting. The hype continued, with actresses beginning to ask to wear his dresses/designs at awards; his name was getting bigger by the day. In particular, Vogue magazine loved him, and he became known as the ‘Vogue baby’. Everything seemed to be going so well for Zac; it was clear for us as an audience that this meant a downfall was on the horizon.
We were right. Zac began to go out a lot, and it seemed as if he was loving the attention & limelight that had so quickly been thrust upon him. People began to question him and his talent. As an audience I think that his critics were harsh; he was already an eccentric character before the fame, a young talented man enjoying life. I think people felt threatened or envious of the success he had at the young age he was.
With Sean (Diddy) Combs investing in the house, the production of the catwalk shows elevated. The buzz and energy around the shows grew, and so did the number of people working for the house. This meant a lot of opinions, voices, personalities, talents etc.. Additionally, the expectations for each new collection to out do the last were high; all eyes were on Zac Posen. Pressure built up which in turn caused the fashion designer to lose his creative voice. The thing that once made him so great. This led to the house having to shrink their ambitions; for example Zac did a collaboration line with Target. As an audience this was unexpected as the brand previously had strived for luxury, and were now at supermarket level? It was clear that things were not looking so good for Zac at this point in the documentary.
Cracks began to show within the once close relationship that Zac had had with his family; specifically his sister. The arguments and creative disagreements foreshadowed later events. This was rather sad to watch as an audience, but it did highlight the risk of going into business, of any type, with family. Fashion week came about, usually a successful point in the fashion calendar for Zac…not this time. The ‘House of Z’ were stuck with a bad time slot. This reinforced the fact that Zac was falling. The decline in buzz around the house meant that the clothing wasn’t getting the editorial it used to. This pushed Zac to make a dramatic decision; move to Paris. The team became exhausted. The decision seemed naïve of him as he knew that there were many big names in Paris that he could not compete with. This forced Zac to push himself, arguably too far. His collection was deemed as ‘too much’. The critical reviews poured in, stating that he had tried to be too creative and make statements that were unnecessarily big. The collection did not possess the Zac Posen swagger that he was once famous for. As an audience this was quite sad to watch; it was clear Zac was trying so hard to stay on top, but ultimately he had tried too hard and lost himself in the process.
Zac had finally fallen. The anger, frustration, upset etc. that he felt he projected onto his sister, which in turn, caused her to leave ‘House of Z’. This was the start of a quick decline for not only the house but Zac himself. It had become too personal for everyone to take. Investors brought in managers, and team walked out. Zac began to crumble internally; he lost weight, became depressed, he was scared about the future of the house he had worked so hard to create. This part was particularly heart wrenching for an audience; we had seen him go through this journey, and we didn’t want this to be the end of ‘House of Z’. But, he was vulnerable and alone. What would or could he do?
In anticipation we watched to see if Zac Posen would rise once more, and (spoiler alert) he did. With the help of Jillian Sinel who became president of House of Z, and a small team, Zac embarked on a come back. He was revived. Zac became what he once was; a builder of fabric, focusing on form, cuts, lines on the body and most importantly, draping. All the making of each garment made for Zac’s comeback catwalk show was sewn in their own studio. I think keeping everything small and amongst trusted & talented people was the best choice Zac could have made. For the show, 10 years after his first, Zac designed 25 pieces. This was a risk in itself because 25 is half the usual number of pieces expected in a show. But, the smaller number meant that there could be more emphasis on the quality of the pieces, as well as creating a more intimate and focused show. I think that this again was the best choice for Zac, especially considering how OTT he had gone in the past; it was good to strip it back and focus on the craft. The show would have one grand gesture, a stand out piece; a teal green dress.
The pressure was on. Zac was terrified of what the industry reaction would be to his come back collection. His creative process had to been questioned at every turn. The night of the show came…would it be a success? It was! As an audience we feel relieved for Zac, and proud that he overcame every set back & was back on top again. After the show, the company made money which meant they were able to expand. Zac’s personal success grew as well; he became a star of the program ‘Project Runway’. It was nice to see this for him; as an audience we have made a connection with Zac by this point, and feel happy that he is happy.
The company became a labour of love.
The experience overall was an amazing education for Zac, and he learnt that appreciating family is so important. A lesson that I think we can all take away from the documentary.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed watching the documentary on Zac Posen an the ‘House of Z. It was the first time I have sat and voluntarily watched a fashion based documentary, and I think after the success of this one, I will be doing it again! Since watching, I have noticed Zac Posen’s name pop up in the fashion world; for example, he recently designed a beautiful maroon coloured draped gown, that Miley Cyrus wore at the Grammy’s. Not to mention the incredible light up dress he designed for Clare Danes for the Met Gala 2016. It was stunning. I couldn’t be happier that Zac Posen is still thriving, he deserves it! I recommend giving this documentary a watch, although you might not need to after the amount of detail I wrote this in… I got carried away!
I will be back soon with another Netflix documentary review, so keep a look out!
Thanks for reading ( well done if you made it to the end lol).