Zac Posen, the fashion designer behind his namesake line and the Creative Director of Brooks Brothers, has had a busy summer so far. He’s completed a wine collaboration with Ecco Domani, filmed the upcoming season of Project Runway, and he’s in the process of redesigning the Delta Airlines uniforms (to be unveiled in 2018). Even with little downtime, Posen loves to grow his own vegetables, prepare creative meals and entertain his close friends. Here, the designer talks about his new wine bottle design and how to throw an unforgettable dinner party.
How did you come to design a wine bottle? I read that Ecco Domani sponsored your first show?
I won an award that Ecco Domani put out in about 2001. I was the first recipient of the award–The Ecco Domani Fashion Fund. It came after my first small presentation with GenArts. Recently, [Ecco Domani] started looking at how to dress up the packaging for summer. We started last summer, and with the enormous response and success of it, they came back to us to redesign this summer’s bottle.
What is your design process like?
It’s different with each line. From how I work with my collection or my ZZP–Zac Zac Posen Collection–to David’s Bridal to Brooks Brothers, each process because of timing and the nature of the product we’re making, it’s different. There’s always a level of trial and error. I think you have to start by going to the full, creative idea and from there [finding] a level of refinement and a level of listening to the needs of the market and then see what you can add to it that feels surprising. The process of designing a label for a wine bottle is very different from designing our clothes.
How do you like to entertain in the summer?
I actually don’t get a lot of time in the summer. I’m on set for Project Runway at least three to four days a week through weekends. This summer, I did quite a few days on Project Runway: All Stars, so it’s been a jam-packed filming schedule.
But I do like to entertain. I try to get away on the weekends. I like to keep it fresh, and I like it to be from my garden. I have a raised-bed vegetable garden built on a re-appropriated tennis court at my parents’ farm in Pennsylvania.
What’s your favorite summertime event that you’ve attended?
Last year I had a great time at Madonna’s birthday. That was a really great, curated event that was a great selection of people. First of all, great entertaining starts with the company. And then the setting–be romantic with the setting. Entertaining is like creating a theatrical experience, but you want everything planned ahead of time so it’s easy.
Do you have decor ideas for summer parties? Where can people could look for inspiration?
I say look in your parents’ basement. Recycle! Layer table cloths, mix prints for summer entertaining. Use old teacups as vases. I love china. Collect family heirlooms or build your own collection on eBay. I serve all of our desserts on this kind of early pottery that was given away at cinemas when my grandmother was a little girl called Japanware. I think it adds a level of whimsy. I think you can be whimsical while entertaining in the summer. I also think it’s hard to have formal dining in the summer. It feels restrictive.
Do you have one go-to dish that’s easy?
I think gazpacho is a great thing to make ahead of time. If it’s tomato season, that’s a great, easy thing to pre-prepare. You don’t want to be stuck in a hot kitchen in the summer, and you want things with color.
I do pesto a lot in the summer. It’s so easy and fast to grab fresh basil from the garden–olive oil, salt, pepper, parmesan or another cheese. You can make it creamier with a goat cheese. I cooked this for a photography crew last week. I don’t think they even knew that I was in the kitchen.
The good thing about cooking in the summer is you can grow your own vegetables, even if it’s on a small plot on your balcony in the city. It makes it more meaningful to grow your own veggies.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for being a great host?
Roll with the flow. Entertaining is about creating a great experience. It’s like live theater. Pre-prepare so you’re not slaving in the kitchen. Make it fresh, make it easy, and roll with the flow. I also think that changing venues once during a meal–having an hor d’oeuvres setting, a dinner setting–makes it fun and then you experience the outdoors.
And have a great bottle of wine! And a bottle of wine that’s pretty. I think that adds to the decor. Whether it’s sitting in your kitchen or on a table, you want something that sparks the imagination.