NEW YORK, United States — Zac Posen is shutting down his namesake line. The New York designer, known for his glamorous red carpet gowns, announced on Friday that after failing to find a buyer or new investors, the board of managers decided to close his business down. The news comes during a challenging period for independent American designer brands, which have been undermined in recent years by the decline of the department store model and the rise of fast fashion and online shopping, as well as stiff competition from the European luxury conglomerates.
"The management team at the Company worked extremely hard to navigate the increasingly challenging fashion and retail landscape, consistently evaluating strategic options to strengthen our financial profile and fuel potential growth," Posen said in a statement. "We are disappointed that these efforts have not been successful and deeply saddened that the journey of nearly 20 years has come to an end."
Posen exploded onto the New York fashion scene in 2001 at just 20 years old after dropping out of Central Saint Martins, aided by his charming personality and well-connected friends. His first runway shows were some of the hottest tickets of the season, and his designs were favoured among the celebrities of the moment, including top model Naomi Campbell. He was named the womenswear designer of the year in 2004 by the CFDA. A 2017 documentary, “House of Z,” chronicled Posen's early rise and subsequent challenges navigating the realities of running a designer business. In 2014, Posen signed on as creative director of womenswear at Brooks Brothers, and he was a judge on the reality competition show Project Runway between 2012 and 2018.
Ron Burkle’s investment firm, The Yucaipa Companies, is one of Posen’s backers. Another previous Burkle investment, the luxury retailer Barneys New York, was sold on Friday after filing for bankruptcy in August, citing an extreme hike in rent and the challenging retail environment, among other factors.
In a statement, Posen’s board of managers said that it was disappointed in the outcome, but felt that at this stage there was no other choice but to close the brand.
In addition to Posen’s evening wear-driven ready-to-wear line, his business included the contemporary line Zac Zac Posen, launched in 2013 and still in operation, and Z Spoke, a diffusion line that launched in 2005 but has since closed.
Posen’s designer peers have also struggled financially, especially those who took on debt or private equity capital to expand and found themselves unable to meet the demands of investors. Meanwhile, venture capital firms have put their money towards digital brands like Outdoor Voices and Everlane.
Other designer brands facing similar challenges, like Proenza Schouler, have managed to buy out private equity backers with the support of private investors. Some have started over with new business models. For instance, Thakoon launched a direct-to-consumer line of affordable basics for the fashion-conscious customer in September, after an earlier attempt halted a year after its launch.
Whether or not this will be Posen’s last stand remains to be seen. “I need to reflect and regroup,” the designer told Vogue, adding that he plans to “look at the world we’re living in and figure what the next move is, where I can share my creativity and my love, and build another community.”