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Big-Box Posen

Target practice with Zac Posen in Jersey City.

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Wearing a forest-green three-piece suit and an eggshell button-down with burgundy piping, an Anna Sui scarf tucked in his pocket, Zac Posen steps out of his Town Car at the Target store in Jersey City. He’s designed a line for Target—yes, he pronounces it Tar-zhay—and is checking out this unfamiliar big-box retail environment. It’s humbler than the places where he’s used to selling or, for that matter, shopping, given that he lives in Greenwich Village. “This is important. This is like market research,” he announces, grabbing a cart. “You can see what the consumers are interested in. I don’t see the difference between buying Kool-Aid here and buying a tie-dye T-shirt at Bergdorf. I’m fine for high and low. I like very good things, but I’m trying to enjoy this.”

Posen, who grew up in Soho, had his first runway show at age 21, in 2002. His dresses are worn by the likes of Natalie Portman and Gwyneth Paltrow. But he insists that the sizing at Target isn’t so different. “It’s not like my designer collection is for skinny, anorexic fashion victims, and now I’m doing Target and suddenly I’m designing for voluptuous women,” he says.

Speaking of the high-low, he starts talking about how, in high school, he had “one of those DARE T-shirts,” which he bought at a thrift shop and shredded to wear out at night, but he gets distracted by dog brushes. Unfortunately, Target doesn’t carry the pink brushes that his toy poodle, Tina Turner, prefers. Strolling on, he spots a new line of cookwear and pasta by Giada De Laurentiis. “She’s a friend of mine, but I haven’t seen her product line before. Let’s support her,” he says, grabbing a box of penne. “I cooked with her and Marcus Samuelsson at James Beard. I made a crawfish bisque with fennel-blossom dusting over it, purple Peruvian potatoes with caviar and sorrel.”

He plops a family-size jar of raw almonds into his cart, along with lightbulbs for his chandelier and a roll of duct tape (“It’s so versatile”), bypassing the Twizzlers (“I really like intense licorice from Scandinavia”). “God, there’s so much good stuff!” he exclaims. “I really could go crazy here, buying stuff I don’t need. Look at these glow-stick necklaces!”

Then he comes across the bedsheets and offers to make me a dress out of one. “Draping fabric is really what I love.” He finds a $29 300-thread-count sheet set in pale aqua with polka dots. “I think it’s a really beautiful color on you,” he says. Then it’s back to his Tribeca atelier, where fabrics are being flown in from Italy and a lace wedding dress is being crafted. In the hubbub, we never get to the draping. “Fashion snobbery has its place to protect, like queens of the chessboard, of luxury and quality,” he explains. “And that’s important. But fashion’s been moving in a different direction. It was moving in the Balenciaga moments. And the hipster moments. Well, here we are eight years later, and the hipster has to get a job.”

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