Joseph Altuzarra: seersucker to loose spring gowns

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Joseph Altuzarra moved easily through pink seersucker gingham tailored for the over-16 woman into open leather lattice in vests and dresses, ending his New York Fashion Week show with breezy deconstructed gowns that included one glistening in gold.

It was a long journey, inspired in part by the girlish naivete of the devil's childbearer in Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" and the Irish rogue in Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon."

The finale's gold chiffon, along with two other loose gowns in red and pink prints, were Altuzarra's 21st-century response to the constraints of 18-century clothing for women.

Though he had some see-through moments that wouldn't work for most, the spring collection Saturday night seemed intended to make a woman's life just a tad easier.

"I really think about clothes that women want to wear," he said in a backstage interview after the show. "I think that's what's really interesting for me."

The finales, with deep V-necks and pearl embroidery, were re-imaginings intended for all body types.

"They were inspired by these 18th-century very restricting crinoline dresses, but what would happen if you sort of took out all of the underpinnings and you had this very deflated shape. I think it was a metaphor for this narrative of going from very constricted to freed."

As for Polanski's classic starring a young Mia Farrow and Kubrick's Lyndon, Altuzarra saw stories "about femininity that are, ultimately, doomed."

"It's this idea of naivete and almost a saccharine sweetness that is also quite perverse," he said.

But not so perverse for the marketplace he's climbing deeper into, in such things as a tunic dress in suede the color of cognac, or another in banker stripes.

Black outfits came in chiffon halter tops with pearl embroidery, worn with a wool tuxedo vest and pants. He used Moroccan Berberes blanket stripes in black and white in a dress and a coat, and he put a black Lycra swimsuit under one of several grommeted leather pieces inspired by Renaissance lattice architecture.

But back to Farrow and "Rosemary's Baby," where Altuzarra began this journey. He first saw the film as a teenager.

"I was terrified," but he always remembered the clothes. "I remember everything being really pastely and yellow. I remember how girly she was."

As for Lyndon, he watched the period drama first out in 1975 only this year on a plane and was impressed by the technology needed for the late filmmaker to take on entire scenes shot entirely by candlelight.

"I think I loved how nostalgic it was, but also how romantic it was in a very ill-fated way," Altuzarra said.

After his recent collection for Target out just this month, the 31-year-old Altuzarra said he plans to focus on his brand. In June, he was named womenswear designer of the year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, beating out the more established Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang for the top honor.

But can he make seersucker cool for clothes-buying grown-ups?

"Brigitte Bardot wore it in the '50s and she was all woman," he laughed, "so I think women today can do it."


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