For spring, Joseph Altuzarra exhaled. Over the past several seasons he’s been in the kind of zone where major talents experience prolonged bursts of creativity, churning out powerful, capital-F Fashion of the sort that leaves women rapturously dizzy. His previous two: Dandies & Swans; “Rosemary’s Baby” meets Barry Lyndon — the heart raced.
The designer’s spring collection wasn’t that kind of major-statement fashion. Rather, it was a relaxed distillation of an increasingly defined aesthetic — sensual sophistication with a latent dash of the perverse. Here, it looked ultra approachable, and beautifully so. The tempering was not accidental, as Altuzarra sought a break from megafashion. “I’m not a woman, but I think this is what you want to wear during the summer. You want to wear very, very little,” he said during a preview.
Which is not a battle cry for bland. For inspiration, Altuzarra looked to his Basque heritage on his father’s side (the name Altuzarra is Basque, he said), specifically the region’s festivals. He found humble materials, rich colors and craftsy touches as well as an appealing earthiness, which he applied to the things he loves — the shirtdress, side-slit skirts, the essential sensuality. Dress straps slid off the shoulder; loose drawstrings suggested a willing state of undone.
The ease came via attitude, relaxed shapes, a penchant for pleats — both plissé and knife varieties — and in various rope closures, such as those that fastened (barely) a green dip-dyed shirtdress. Yet Altuzarra also knows the pleasures of a lean line, delivering them in curvy linen dresses, sleek jumpsuits and the collection’s most overt nod to opulence: a cinch-waist alligator vest worn over fluid navy linen pants.
By night, extravagance took a different turn — toward the Pearly Kings and Queens of London whose use of mother-of-pearl buttons for elaborate decoration sprung from a street-sweeper’s charitable aspirations. Altuzarra took it up a notch with button-embroidered broderie anglaise that bore their artisanal inspiration with pretty charm. Breathing room indeed, and something breathtaking as well.