Skip to main content
The M Dash

Live with purpose.

Ampersand Woman: Artist Alexandra Posen

August 26, 2015 | Filed in: Woman of the Week

We’re particularly psyched about this week’s Ampersand Woman because she’s a mentor to our own genius designer Miyako Nakamura. Alexandra Posen is an artist whose creativity knows no bounds. Case in point: She’s innovated with beeswax, painted with silk chiffon, and created numerous works of performance and video art.

Did we mention she’s also a force in fashion? Alexandra spent nine years as the Creative Director of Zac Posen (yep, he’s her brother) before refocusing on her own artwork.

We recently caught up with her in Soho—the neighborhood where she grew up surrounded by artists in the ’70s—to talk liminality, spelunking, and the power of time.

artist Alexandra Posen

Easy and modern in the Didion top and Soho skirt.

First things first: Tell us about your work as an artist.

I have an animistic reverence of the physical world, which interplays with our cultural regard and expectations of an art object and the sublime. My work seeks humanity and presence where there are no humans. I make shape-shifting things that dwell in a tenuous threshold—a liminal space that is constantly on the edge between material and ethereal, internal and external, specific and infinite, figurative and abstract. I am currently in the thick of developing a significant new body of sculptural works. My hands are raw, and I cannot wait to get back into the studio.

The materials you choose to work with are really interesting. Your soft paintings give a whole new meaning to the word “painting.”

After working in the fashion industry, I developed a crush on silk chiffon—its capacity for mystery, its opaque gravitas, and its sheer illusiveness. I was curious to work with this glamorous fabric in a way that was removed from a dialogue about women’s bodies, sexuality, and desirability. By claiming the personal expressive language of this material, my soft paintings became a subtle feminist retort. Materials are essential to my process. They inspire me, and when I create, I consider it a collaborative dance with whatever substance I am working with.

artist Alexandra Posen

Power posing in a power dress. 

You played an instrumental role in establishing Zac Posen as a leading fashion brand. Tell us about your jump from working in fashion to creating art full-time.

I worked as an artist before I fell down the fashion rabbit hole. When I first co-founded the company with my brother, I thought that I would bring my history in performance art to the table and be the imagineer of wild fashion shows and fantasy creations. But I surprised myself by finding the commercial mission of the company and the interaction with our client base to be much more interesting and inspiring. I loved thinking about real women and their needs. Clothes and fashion can be transformative. A dress can inform the way a woman moves or holds herself, which I find fascinating.

After nine years of working at Zac Posen and supporting my brother’s creative vision, I had a profound need to return to my own work and support my own voice. Make my own poetry.

artist Alexandra Posen

Hanging in her old neighborhood in the Didion top and Soho skirt.

What is your personality at work in three words?

Fierce, intuitive, poetic.

When you “grow up,” what do you want to be?

Being an artist, I never want to grow up. Keeping the open-mindedness of a child is key to creativity. But in my next life, I can imagine being a sea-cave spelunker who moonlights as an expert nose for luxury fragrance creators.

What’s the best advice you ever got?

An artist named Hannah Tierney once told me to approach art-making like a scientist researching a hypothesis. She said if you are passionate about your questions, you will never be lost and you will never be lonely.

What do you wish you had known when you first started working?

I wish I’d had a greater respect for time. With experience, I have more reverence for time’s work—how much is happening in the empty spaces and the hours in between. An understanding that you cannot hurry time along, but need to let it unfold with its own wisdom. Time is a powerful player.

artist Alexandra Posen

Looking elegant in the Emily. (Similar teal dress here.)

How do you like to dress?

When I am in my studio, I like to wear rough-hewn clothes—real work clothes that let me move freely and get very dirty. Come nighttime, I dress to the nines. Great heels are key, and I prefer interesting black dresses that are sculptural, feminine, and uniquely tailored. I also love dressing in a more menswear-inspired way: a louche trouser and draped top. But still heels. Always heels.

If you could have drinks with any woman, who would it be?

Gertrude Stein.

Success is… living a life with love, conviction, creativity, and generosity of spirit.

Happiness is… being “in the zone.”

Arrival… is overrated.

Process… is underrated.

What’s your motto?

“The play’s the thing.”

Photos by Frances F. Denny

Share this post. We dare you.


Tory Hoen is the author of the novel The Arc. She spent five years as the Creative Director of Brand at M.M.LaFleur (where she founded The M Dash!) and has written for New York Magazine, Vogue Fortune, Bon Appétit, and Condé Nast Traveler. Read more of Tory's posts.

Read on.

Back to Top