“Edison lights” and “pizzazz.”
These two concepts were the foundation for the sheer mesh cape Zac Posen, 38, created for Jordan Roth, the producer of Moulin Rouge! The Musical to wear on the opening night of the buzzed about Broadway show on Thursday in New York City.
As an fan of Moulin Rouge, Posen knew that the Edison lights from the iconic red windmill had to be translated into the couture piece. And as a longtime friend of Roth’s, Posen knew he had to add the producer’s pizzazz into the three-piece ensemble.
“I thought of the iconic windmill of Moulin Rouge and how we could take inspiration of a windmill to kind of envelop him,” Posen describes. “From there, I thought about movement and transparency. I also didn’t want Jordan to feel like he was part of the production, but like Jordan Roth in some form and inspired by this iconic image of the show and production.”
Posen and Roth’s friendship goes years, and the two have collaborated before when Posen created Roth’s premiere outfit for his production of Frozen – another three-piece suit. Roth, 43, is known for his productions of Hadestown and Mean Girls, among others.
“Jordan and I are friends to begin with, but I love collaborating with him because he is so expressive,” Posen adds. “He’s a true contemporary muse of the [theater] house. He loves taking risks and pushing boundaries, and it pushes me to experiment with new ideas. And he’s very collaborative in the process, which makes it a lot of fun.”
The process of making the three-part outfit took months, which is evident in its delicate layers and attention to detail – an aspect Posen made a point to focus on. The main layer of the look is the cape, which is hand-embroidered with surgical mesh, red glass bugle beads and gold stones. Underneath is a high-waisted navy wool pant with a corset and a navy silk shirt with tie-front and honeycomb print.
“When you look at the outfit, you see the cape first, of course, because it’s a showstopping piece,” Roth notes. “But then, when you look closer, you see the pants and the blouse, both of them are equally intricate, equally sculptural and equally showstopping in their own extraordinary way.”
Below Posen and Roth take PEOPLE inside the months-long process of creating the showstopping ensemble.
How did the two of you start this collaboration and, Jordan, how did you know Zac was the right person to design your special look?
Jordan Roth: We love collaborating together. I think we have so many references and inspirations in common, in fashion, but also in theater, film, culture and music. What I love about Zac as a human and as a designer is how he’s inspired by and not afraid of theatrical [elements]. He’s able to celebrate and discover the theater without necessarily making costumes. I was so excited to dig into this [look] together and also share the joy because I knew we would both love this show. Extending that process into a collaboration was something I was really excited about.
What aspects of the story did you incorporate, and why?
Zac Posen: Each layer of [Moulin Rouge], the great Baz Luhrmann film, the earlier film and the original theater, creates its own and different narrative and texture. To me, this was about being inspired by something beyond the original movie. I actually had to stop myself from watching the movie because I knew it would bring a whole other level of layers into [the look] and Jordan is inspiration enough.
JR: I came in wanting to take inspiration from the windmill, which is such an iconic part of the original Moulin Rouge in Paris, of course, but also so present in this production in such a thrilling way. I also was thinking a lot about the bohemian ideals that are celebrated and talked about in the show: truth, beauty freedom and love. There was something about those four ideas and the four blades of the windmill that made sense for me.
How did you feel when you saw the final masterpiece?
ZP: We are detail-oriented people and love process, which are two things that I think are rare these days in fashion and in theater. I was blown away to see Jordan on stage in our outfit and the level of intricacy set design of the show. There’s no greater joy for me than seeing a client, especially a friend who’s also creative, with that joy on their face. It’s the same gratification when I see somebody feel confident walking out onto the Oscars. [When] I saw Jordan on stage spinning in his cape and the concentration, confidence and joy that it brought him, I knew that I did a good job
And how did you incorporate Jordan’s style?
ZP: Jordan enjoys the place – the rare place – that inspires reality, where something can become elevated. He obviously loves expression, he likes flare, he likes pizzazz and he’s not scared. That’s really fun for me. It’s really about an elevation of a grand opening and an amazing time in Broadway. And what would the maestro wear? Something to leave them talking about for like seven years.
How long it take to make the hand embroidered cape?
ZP: We did multiple tests of embroidery. I wanted to refine and define the texture, and match (in a very large crystals) the color of the gold Edison lights on the windmill. Then, we found this kind of transparent mesh that is a very technical fabric; it holds form, but has a floating transparency to it. I wanted it to have this floating quality to it. We did multiple embroidery tests [with] different textures, and then we really started with the form and the shape of the cape. We did multiple stages of sketching so it took, a few months. I had my full atelier [working] on this cape for a couple days and it was pretty exciting to see that energy and camaraderie of ten to 15 people working on one piece, inch by inch putting it together.
What’s your favorite aspect of the outfit?
ZP: The words. I don’t use calligraphics on my clothing very often and that was something that got added into the process. The keynote words of the show are embroidered into either side of the cape as a message to the world. So I hope that through the power of social media that these values that are so important to Jordan and I, and are so important to the world, get out there.