Success in Style: Joseph Altuzarra

5 years ago by


I’ve always been impressed by anyone who can draw longevity from instant success. I’ve also always had a thing for Joseph Altuzarra. And not just because he is French and an absolutely delightful person, but because his designs don’t only speak to the fashion woman, they are for every woman, at every age of their life.

I was so happy to meet with him at the MATCHES event, at the occasion of MATCHESFASHION.COM 30th anniversary, in New York. It was quite the wonderful event, with a wonderful crowd. Thank you MATCHES FASHION and your amazing team for collaborating and making this happen in a most elegant way! and now, meet Joseph!

pardon my french joseph altuzarra photo

Success in Style: Joseph Altuzarra

On how he dressed as a teenager…
I cannot stress how nerdy I was as a teenager. I think I felt very different, not very at ease with who I was. I didn’t have a particularly happy high school experience and so I think I had this feeling that clothes could somehow be a way to change that. I always had this sense that clothes had this transformative power, which in my case it didn’t necessarily do that. I actually wore more or less what I’m wearing today. My style hasn’t changed that much since high school.

On how a job at a modeling agency made him realize fashion wasn’t frivolous…
It did give me some insight into how fashion is actually a business. Once I got a sense that this is a place where business is done and there is an ecosystem, there are writers, PR and retailers, that made me really rethink wanting to work in the industry.

On interning for Marc Jacobs…
I was in college and hadn’t graduated yet. I sent out my resume to a lot of different people. I got a call from someone at Marc Jacobs, they needed someone right away and I was available, so they hired me. I realized later they had asked an intern to alphabetize the resumes they’d received, and thankfully, my last name is Altuzarra so I was the first one they called!

On working with Riccardo Tisci…
I ended up meeting Riccardo who was at Givenchy and he was looking for a designer. In hindsight, I feel incredibly lucky he chose me because I was relatively young, had very little experience and he just sort of took a chance on me. So I started working with him at Givenchy which was wonderful, intense and such a steep learning curve. I feel like in a lot of ways, my process and thinking was really shaped during that time.

pardon my french joseph altuzarra photo

pardon my french joseph altuzarra photo

pardon my french joseph altuzarra photo

On drawing being a creative constant in his life…
Since I was a kid, I always drew. I pretty much always drew princesses. So there was some fashion component in the drawings. I was also very obviously gay from very early on. Drawing was always a really big constant and still is. I spend 80% of my time now at my job drawing.

On deciding to go out on his own…
Honestly from a pragmatic point of view, I felt like I was relatively young and if it didn’t work, it wasn’t really the end of the world. I was either 26 or 27, I can’t remember, but I felt like, I have the energy now, so I should do it now!

On the difference between French and American women’s approach to fashion…
One of the biggest parts of the brand identity is the half French half American thing. I think French women feel it’s very seductive to love your body no matter what. That is something that’s very important to me. American fashion is very pragmatic. It’s a lot about separates, sportswear, workwear and it’s the melding of the two cultures that I’m very interested in.

On listening and being mindful when designing…
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the fashion of it and not keep in mind your clothes are going to be on someone’s body. I was keenly aware of that when I was working in Paris. I wanted to start this company and have a process that was very mindful and creative and pushing a certain vision and silhouette and idea every season. But I wanted it to be a listening process as well and to have the lack of ego needed to go into a store and talk to your customers and talk to women who wear your clothes and what they don’t like about your clothes, which is always painful to hear but necessary.

Success in Style: Joseph Altuzarra
Success in Style: Joseph Altuzarra

On his introduction to Anna Wintour…
I went to Paris to sell the collection and was supposed to meet Anna when I got back from Paris. I was on an Air France flight and my entire collection of 15 to 20 pieces was in one suitcase. It was on a Monday and I was meeting Anna on a Tuesday and Air France lost my luggage. I was obviously in a full panic because the luggage had been left on the tarmac in Paris, they couldn’t locate the suitcase. I had to call Anna and cancel my appointment, which was soul crushing. She rescheduled for ten days later and they found my luggage, but in that moment, it was like NOOOO!

On following trends…
You have to know at a certain point what your business is and who your customer is and if something is right for you or not. That’s a really important lesson for anyone in every day life but also if you own a business.

On the decision to have his wedding in Vogue…
Vogue was interested in covering it and the idea that it was the first gay wedding in Vogue, from a societal point of view, I thought it was really important. I think it was great for people to see. And I’ve gotten a lot of really sweet messages from gay teens from around the country, saying, oh we’re so happy to see a gay couple in Vogue and it makes me feel like I can get married. We got such a wonderful, heartfelt response from it and that was really nice.

On preparing for his CFDA nomination…
I didn’t prepare anything the time I won and I actually got an email from someone the next day saying, if you need to work with someone for next time on a text, here is a number. Basically telling me my speech was awful!

Success in Style: Joseph Altuzarra

Special thanks to MATCHES FASHION for making this recording possible. Check out Altuzarra and follow the brand here!

List of other things we discussed…
Gypsy Sport
Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling
Sies Marjan


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