Home > Style > Fashion > Q&A: Fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra on femininity, identity and his latest collection
Q&A: Fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra on femininity, identity and his latest collection

Hong Kong’s annual fashion trade show, Centrestage, just came to an end. This year, HKTDC tapped two designers to present their latest creations at the Centrestage Elites runway show. One was Hong Kong’s talented Anais Mak, and the other? Internationally acclaimed New York-based designer Joseph Altuzarra.

Altuzarra Pre-Spring 2020 runway show at Centrestage Hong Kong.

Known for his sophisticated and almost whimsical mix of sharp shoulders, nipped-in waists, sensual cuts and fluid hems, Altuzarra has won the hearts of industry leaders since launching his namesake brand a decade ago. He was the winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2011, CFDA Swarovksi Award for Womenswear Design in 2012 and the Woolmark Prize in 2013, as well as an elite in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2012 alongside Alexander Wang, the Olsen twins and Leandra Medine. Such success boils down to his core mission: to build a modern wardrobe for women of all ages, so they can feel confident and sexy while they go about their busy everyday lives.

We caught up with Altuzarra before his trunk show at Joyce Boutique, where he shared with us his views on femininity, identity and his latest Pre-Spring 2020 collection.

It's been a little over 10 years since you started your brand, what did you want to achieve at the start of it all, and has that changed/evolved over the past decade?

You know when I started the brand 10 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect, and I certainly didn’t expect that I would be this big a decade later, so I feel in a lot of ways that I’m really lucky because I still get to do what I love doing, and I get to go work with the people that I love. I hope that this keeps going, I feel so lucky to be doing the job that I do.

You're Chinese, French and American. How has such a diverse background influenced your designs?

It’s definitely influenced the way that I design, and the way I look at things. My father’s French, and my mother is Chinese-American. I grew up in Paris but I live in New York; and the company is based in New York but I show in Paris, so I’ve grown up with a lot of different traditions and a pretty diverse background that I think has allowed me to think about identity in a different way. I really truly believe that identity is fluid and that we create our own identities from travelling and experiencing new things and meeting new people, and the way that I design very much mirrors that approach. I think it’s a lot about creating a new identity through different backgrounds, traditions and references.

Joseph Altuzarra
From left: Ingrid Chen Mandonnaud from Joyce Boutique and designer Joseph Altuzarra before the Centrestage Elite fashion show.
What do you think is the identity of the Altuzarra woman?

The Altuzarra woman is very confident. She’s powerful, sexy and sensual, and she has a really busy life. I think the Altuzarra woman works, but she also has a family; she may drop off her kids at school, then have to go to the office — so she needs to look fashionable and sexy, but also be taken seriously and feel empowered.

Your work has always been about the celebration of beauty and sensuality of women of all ages. Do you think the definition of femininity has changed over the last 10 years?

I think the definition of femininity has definitely changed, it’s become fragmented in a lot of ways, which is really exciting. There is not one way of being feminine, there are so different ways, and the idea of femininity is more diverse and more inclusive. That’s something that I find incredibly inspiring and exciting in my own work.

Speaking of diversity, what are your thoughts on genderless fashion?

I think genderless fashion is really innovative and interesting, and I think that in my own work I borrow a lot from masculine codes and of course feminine codes as well and I mix them together. I think that gender is in a lot of ways a construct, you should have the ability to play with clothes and to express how you feel and who you want to be. If that’s in a genderless way, I think that is totally valid.

Your creations have been graced by many of the world’s top public figures from Michelle Obama to the Duchess of Sussex. Who’s the one person that you’re most proud to see donning your designs?

I really admire the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. I think she’s so modern and she is doing so much good, and she has such a positive outlook on the world and on how she can make a change. And I’m really proud that she wears Altuzarra.

You’re here to show your Pre-Spring 2020 collection, why Hong Kong? And can you also tell us more about this collection?

I decided to come to Hong Kong because I felt it was the right time to really introduce the brand to the Hong Kong customer. We’ve been selling here for a while, but I wanted to come here and bring the collection personally and really kind of immerse the audience in the world of Altuzarra.

Joyce has been incredible and Centrestage has been so supportive as well. The collection was inspired by a movie called 3 Women by Robert Altman, which is a movie that takes place in the desert in California. The collection is really all about the desert landscapes, colourways and textures, but also about transformation and the narrative of three women and their dynamics, how they change and evolve.

I believe you also kept sustainability in mind with this collection?

Sustainability is something that I think is really important for designers to keep in mind. And I certainly think in my own practice, it’s something that’s going to become central to the way that we do things. In the Pre-Spring collection, for instance, we used dead stock fabrics to create some of the pieces in the show. And I’m really educating myself and learning more about how we as a company can operate more sustainably.

You’re also doing a VIP trunk show with Joyce Boutique, what's the number one product that everyone should get from the line?

I think everyone should get a piece of tailoring. It’s really one of my favourite things to design. I think it’s what a lot of women come to us for. We do really beautiful blazers with beautiful tailoring. I also think everyone should own a suit.

“I think everyone should get a piece of tailoring. It’s really one of my favourite things to design,” says Altuzarra.
10 years is a huge milestone to reach, what are your plans moving forward as you begin your next tenure?

You know I think we’re really in the phase of opening up the brand to a lot of new markets and introducing the brand to a lot of people who don’t know Altuzarra, so the next ten years is really about solidifying our place in the market, and establishing a true voice.

Are there plans to open a storefront, or are you sticking with e-commerce?

E-commerce has been very successful and I think it’s a way for us to communicate and to touch all of our customers across the globe. I think retail is something that we’re seriously thinking about, but so far we’ve been really concentrating on our direct to consumer through e-commerce.

Q&A: Fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra on femininity, identity and his latest collection

Cindie Chan

Style Editor

Fashion blogger turned editor, Cindie has spent over seven years covering all things stylish in the digital world. When she’s not busy poring over the latest covetable releases or attending the most talked-about fashion events in town, you’ll find her enjoying some precious downtime with her newborn son and sweet dog Rosy.

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