The Kamala Harris fashion effect is real, according to designer Joseph Altuzarra, whose pantsuits are in regular rotation in the vice president’s wardrobe.
“Our e-commerce has been doing really well and we see a direct correlation between what she wears and what does well on our site,” he said during a preview of his fall collection and short film. “She’s such a role model and a great dresser; well I guess I’m biased because she wears a lot of Altuzarra,” he laughed.
For his “first post-COVID-19 collection,” he wanted to mix “decadent comfort” (love that phrase) with optimism for what’s to come when life gets more back-to-normal, and more women can suit up and get out into the world.
“I wanted to shoot in a house, because I have been watching a lot of Hitchcock, and I love the idea of the home as theater,” Altuzarra said of choosing a West Village townhouse for his set, and bringing in 1970s and ’80s furniture to create the elegant-at-home feeling he noticed flipping through features in Architectural Digest from back in those days, when subjects would dress to the nines to pose in their living rooms. For the film’s soundtrack, he also added a personal touch, readings of his favorite passages from Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway.”
The result was quite charming and so him, underscoring how Altuzarra has been able to use this digital era of shows to further crystallize his brand identity, transmitting a sense of intimacy, all the way down to the novels he sends out as collection primers, stuffed with fabric swatches, Polaroids and collection notes. This season’s were by a selection of female authors.
“I’m a big reader, and have found solace in reading all my life,” he explained. “My mom and dad, when I came out, I know they were not comfortable talking about it. But they started giving me books with gay protagonists. There was something touching about how they didn’t know how to have a conversation, but were accepting and taking an active part in self-reflecting about it.”
For fall clothes (which are really spring, high-summer and fall now that the designer has reoriented his business to two instead of four seasons), he was inspired by the narrative arc of a butterfly’s life cycle, from cocooning, generous-sized leather and cashmere shawl coats and sumptuous, layered-on heavy gauge knits, to joyful silk dresses, skirts and tops in colorful shibori dyes and wing-patterns.
Like many designers, Altuzarra put a special focus on knitwear this season, showing great-looking tonal long and lean cashmere sets, worn with covetable sheepskin-lined gladiator sandals with natural pearls dotting the ankle straps. A brilliant blue spidery knit sweater dress, embellished with natural pearls “like dew drops,” was another special piece.
He fused the coziness of an ivory knit, off-shoulder top with the sleekness of a blazer, paired with trousers for a new-look suit. The best of both worlds! Another great suit, in a pale pink, came in a boxier, strong-shouldered silhouette, with a buttoned-back belt to cinch the waist and make it more of an hourglass over baggier trousers. “A lot of pieces have different ways you can wear them, the work-from-home way and post-COVID-19 way,” he said. Smart.
As for what the future of the runway holds, Altuzarra said he doesn’t necessarily miss live shows. “If you are a huge brand like Chanel, the show probably is a sales driver for makeup, perfume and small leather goods. For us, we’re selling what’s in the collection. I have come to realize in the last year that what I can offer that others can’t is a sense of intimacy.”