Altuzarra’s Pagan fantasies in a French Schoolyard
It’s a season of debuts in Paris. Though there are debuts and debuts. So, Saturday evening witnessed the vital Paris debut by the New York-based designer Joseph Altuzarra.
And talk about a returning hero. For this was a smash hit show by a designer who manages that difficult balancing act of fusing romanticism and fantasy with contemporary chic. Moreover, even though Altuzarra, of American-Chinese-Franco-Basque origin, was raised in Paris this was a great victory for New York fashion, since the collection contained the prettiest clothes seen so far in Europe.
The heart of the collection were a series of very smart dresses – cut with tremendous fluidity to the knee, and made in mixes of red, black or periwinkle bandana prints; fishnet, horizontal stripes or, most brilliantly, patterned gauze. Altuzarra topped these with quilted silver jackets done with Mongolian lamb and tribal motifs. Among his inspirations, the pagan rituals documented by Charles Fréger in his “Wilder Man” series. These gals looked classy yet faintly dangerous.
Altuzarra is also a great self-editor, so all the athletic straps, Turkish trim, pom poms and buttons with which he finished most looks never overpowered. Plus, his double length belts and fantastic high-tech Centurion boots were the perfect complement to a show, which the designer said mingled Industry with Nature. And his final quintet of acetate and metal slinky gowns was the perfect expression of that concept.
“I thought it was wonderful,” smiled a newly blonde Salma Hayek, standing beside husband François-Henri Pinault, whose luxury empire Kering owns a 45-percent stake in Altuzarra. Which looks like a very smart investment after this show.
Altuzarra actually asked his old lycée in the Sixth arrondissement if he could stage the show there; but after they refused he held it in Lycée Janson-de-Sailly, where the cast marched quickly along the extended porch of the school’s massive courtyard.
“Coming here I made a conscious effort not to do something especially French but instead very me. It’s weird coming back since this place looks like my old school. So I was reconnecting with this very insecure and nerdy part of me. And I was getting back to something very wild inside of me,” said Altuzarra, who had the season’s best casting of any single show with an almost totally new cabine.
“We really wanted it to feel that Paris is a new chapter. So, the models should look all new and totally fresh, which brings an energy and excitement,” he concluded.
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