A fashion guy exits a show characterizing its runway persona as “a naïve and dirty woman.” His female companions leave clicking through mental checklists of the looks they’d like to own right now. Sounds like a definition of fashion done right.
In the collection he showed on Saturday night, Joseph Altuzarra did fashion very right. His inspirations — “Rosemary’s Baby” and Barry Lyndon — suggest a sinister romantic world in which relationships are cloaked in darkness and perversions, where nothing can be taken at face value. Yet part of Altuzarra’s proposal could not have been more straightforward: beautiful clothes as adaptable to real life as they were provocative in procession, the kind of clothes for which the runway was intended.
He opened with ginghams in baby pink and blue, their surface innocence belied by lean, seductive dresses held together with half-tied strings, and slim skirts worn with hastily buttoned shirts. Berber-inspired stripes took a sturdier path to seduction, as did pieces made from articulated leather grids that referenced heraldry and bondage, making an honorable argument for innocence lost. Just when you thought he’d taken a definite tough turn, out came a gentle dress in the prettiest pink ikat. This signaled a passage of big florals and wanton smokings, hard against soft, rows of pearl teardrops beating against fabric and skin.
To close the show, Altuzarra came full circle in a manner beautiful and bizarre. As if unleashing the naïve seduction of those tied-up ginghams, out came a trio of sensual angels in glorious, billowing silk gowns.
Altuzarra is in the midst of a branding exercise, working with creative director Thomas Lenthal to codify the elements that have become his signatures. “Once you find your voice and find your path, you are able to build on it,” the designer said during a preview. “I think a lot of the brand understanding was inside me but not necessarily articulated.”
Well-articulated here: In six years, Altuzarra has forged a powerful foundation on which to build.