Home > Style > Joseph Altuzarra on how he merges femininity and identity in his womenswear
Joseph Altuzarra on how he merges femininity and identity in his womenswear

Imagine ultra-feminine cocktail dresses, maxis worn with knee-length jungle boots, belted kimonos featuring Renaissance paintings paired with ankle-length leather trousers, double-breasted blazers with lamé skirts. These images might seem like a clash of cultural sensibilities, but on closer look they align beautifully to make a complete ensemble. And that right there defines Joseph Altuzarra’s work.

Launched in 2008, his creations represent everything sharp and sleek, and speak to discerning modern women who want to keep things fun and feminine. His sophisticated and edgy mix of sharp shoulders, sensual cuts, and fluid hems, have won the hearts of industry leaders. It’s no wonder then that his pieces have been adorned by Kate Bosworth, Lana Del Ray, Cara Delevingne, and Awkwafina, and his collections are stocked at the most prestigious luxury stores, including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Selfridges to name a few. 

Altuzarra Pre-Spring 2020 runway show in Hong Kong.

Altuzarra 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; he’s also been featured in the elite ‘Forbes’ 30 Under 30’ in 2012 alongside Alexander Wang, the Olsen twins, and Leandra Medine of the fashion website Man Repeller. Such success boils down to his core mission, which is to build a modern wardrobe for women of all ages, so they can feel confident and sexy as they go about their busy lives.

We caught up with designer to get a lowdown on his body of work 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 in the beginning, and has that changed/evolved over the past decade?

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 has definitely influenced the way that I design, and the way I look at things. My father is 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 showcase in Paris, so I’ve grown up with a lot of different traditions and a 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 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 both masculine and feminine codes, and 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 her positive outlook is really making a difference in the world. I’m really proud that she wears Altuzarra.

Your Pre-Spring 2020 collection - can you also tell us more about it?

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 practice it. In the Pre-Spring collection, we’ve used deadstock fabrics to create some of the pieces in the show and educating myself more about how we, as a company, can operate more sustainably.

10 years is a huge milestone. What are your plans moving forward as you begin your next tenure?

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 will be 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 stay in touch with all 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.


This article by Cindie Chan first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

Joseph Altuzarra on how he merges femininity and identity in his womenswear

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