Zac Posen on Brooks Brothers Turning 200 & the Secret to Success in Fashion Today

Over its 200 year history, Brooks Brothers has witnessed many historic moments.

Its wares have been worn by scores of American legends including Abraham Lincoln and Andy Warhol, and it has produced uniforms for soldiers in every major U.S. conflict, as far back as the Civil War. Today, though, it is most known for dressing captains of industry — and entertainment.

Last night, at the Jazz at Lincoln Center venue in New York, Brooks Brothers celebrated its bicentennial with an elegant gala highlighting not only its own illustrious past, but the history of American music.

The guest list consisted of Brooks Brothers executives from around the globe, customers and celebrity friends, such as Katie Holmes, Christina Hendricks, Yara Shahidi and Brendan Fraser.

Yara Shahidi Brooks Brothers
Yara Shahidi
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock
Christina Hendricks Brooks Brothers
Christina Hendricks
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

And all were treated to world-class performances by artists including Wynton Marsalis, Chris Thile, Alison Krauss, Jon Batiste and, in a surprise performance, Paul Simon. Click through the gallery above to see all the stars.

At the party, designer Zac Posen, who was named creative director of women’s wear for Brooks Brothers in 2014, spoke with FN about contributing to such a legacy brand and the challenges of fashion today:

What does it mean to work on a brand with this kind of legacy?
It’s huge to be an American designer, born and bred in New York City, to have the opportunity to work on this institutional classic — the originator — to be refining it and building business collaboratively in a challenging market. And for it to be working is really cool and exciting. It’s an honor. And it’s not the brand I ever would have expected, but I love classics and the elegance and contemporary modernity of anti-fast fashion and fair price point. It’s definitely a continuous machine. We’re always working a year ahead, like today we shot a collection for a year from now.

Any hints about the look of that collection?
We’ll release the images soon. [There are] bright vibrant colors and blocking. We upped the octane of colors in pops, so it has a little bit of a 1950s, 1980s revival feel, but done for today, in preppy style.

How much does the athleisure trend factor into Brooks Brothers designs?
Well, I think we make the greatest pajamas. I don’t think we do athleisure; I think we do pajama glamour, which is day to night. It’s the original athleisure. Our customer transcends trends, and that’s a gratifying thing to work toward. Athleisure comes and goes, different trends come and go, and we have to remain staple items with small detail twists — and it’s every detail, down to the buttons and threads. It’s an amazing process.

Looking at today’s fashion, are there any trends you wish would go away?
The banal. I think it’s a time where the market is changing at large. Retail is hugely changing. [I’d like] for brands to get even more creative, know what they stand for and perfect it. It’s not about filling the needs of the market because there are no needs. It’s about finding your individual voice, perfecting it and being a long-distance runner. This is not an industry that you get in for lifestyle. The work is your lifestyle, and that’s a lifelong journey. And that’s how you create a brand that lives for 200 years.

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