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Joseph Altuzarra on Moving to PFW and French vs. American Style

Also, fun fact, the Altuzarra woman is Française

Let’s be serious: America is in a little bit of a rut at the moment. Sure, we in the good old U.S. of A. are trying to stay positive in the face of adversity, but it’s undeniable that a cloud of anxiety and devastation currently looms from sea to shining sea. And while some designers did their darnedest to combat that with creativity during NYFW, gloom was still in the air. 

Not so in Paris. Like Milan, Paris has been an upbeat embrace of beauty and positivity. That’s something that Joseph Altuzarra, who moved his show from New York to Paris fashion week this season, finds very attractive. “I came to Paris a few months ago, and I think the optimism and positivity here was so palpable—it just felt like a different place,” offered the designer after his Saturday evening show (which you can see in its entirety here). “The energy here was so different, and that really made me miss it,” continued Altuzarra, who is half French and spent his formative years in Paris, living here until he was 18. “Obviously, there have been [terrorist] attacks in Paris, but I think the French are very resilient. They’ve gone through a difficult time…but there is a strong sense national pride and people are happy and proud to be French.” He suggested that the election of 39-year-old French President Emmanuel Macron was a major contributing factor (though, it’s worth noting the young leader’s approval ratings have been on the decline of late).

“[Showing in Paris] is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, and for a while,” Altuzarra admitted during a cocktail fete with MAC after his Spring outing. “I felt to a certain degree that people had sort of pegged me as an American designer. That can happen when you show in a specific city, but I’m not just American. I’m also French, and I grew up here, and I wanted to be able to show the diversity in my background. We’re going to keep on showing in Paris, and our company will be based in New York.” French company Kering also owns a minority stake in Altuzarra’s brand—chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault and his wife, Salma Hayek, were both front row Saturday night—thus furthering the designer’s ties to the City of Light.

However, just because he’s moved his runway across the pond doesn’t mean Altuzarra isn’t fond of the fashion week that gave him his start in 2009. “[NYFW] was such an incredible platform, and there was room on the calendar, which was not the case in Paris. Starting out in Paris would [have been] really difficult, and I’m incredibly grateful to New York and the New York community for giving me that platform and for helping us become the business that we are now,” he said. What’s more is that he feels that, despite his departure (and the decampment of top brands like Thom Browne and Proenza Schouler), NYFW is as exciting as ever. “I’ve felt, over the last few seasons, there’s been an interesting renewal of energy in New York, and you really saw it this season, with brands like Vaquera and Brock Collection and Brandon Maxwell. I think that’s a wonderful thing, and I think it’s something that New York stands for.” 

Seeing that Altuzarra is straddling two fashion capitals at the moment—both of which have very different aesthetic signatures—it felt appropriate to ask him how French and American style (and women) differ. “There are two big differences that I see,” he explained. “American women are really about correcting their flaws, and I think French women are so much about highlighting their assets. It’s a different outlook on your body and how you age. I also think French women have a very different relationship to their sexuality. When it comes to sexuality in general, they’re a little freer with their bodies, and that’s always something that I find super inspiring.” 

So is the Altuzarra Woman more French or American? “I think the Altuzarra woman is French,” the designer revealed. “She’s much more free. She’s very seductive. But I think she’s also very easy. She’s not trying to be something she’s not, and she’s not wearing, like, a super body-con dress. I think she wears a button-down and it happens to be four buttons open, or she wears a slip skirt and it sort of falls open onto her leg.” There’s a lesson in there—embrace your flaws, flaunt your assets, and be proud of who you are. Sure, it’s fashion week, but that’s advice that extends far beyond style.

 This piece includes reporting from Amber Kallor

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