Reviews of Altuzarra & AMI Alexandre Mattiussi Spring 2021 Fashion Shows
Back to the Heart
By Long Nguyen
Saturday at Paris Fashion Week is normally a race against time especially in the morning that normally started early with Junya Watanabe, then to Haider Ackerman at the Palais de Chaillot then to Altuzarra midday show. Oh, don’t forget to throw in the Noir Kei Ninomiya show, before last season by word-of-mouth rather than on the official calendar.
But all this has changed since the Comme des Garçons decided to stage mini shows in Tokyo like they did for the men’s in July rather than participating now. So the morning the schedule was just open air.
And not much was happening at night either except for the AMI extravaganza, well by pandemic standard.
It was a day that Hermès demonstrated the house’s firm command of craft and innovation and the day Joseph Altuzarra delivered a masterpiece he hasn’t been able to in a long time. Then the day ended with the AMI show by Alexandre Mattiussi with models walking on the right bank of the Seine River where the dark evening water reflected their shadows.
Digitally Taped Show
“The collection came from this idea of wanting to look at very traditional garments and deconstructing them and really playing with volume. We are looking at these super light weight plaids that have a very clear weave structure and same with these linen gauzes,” Joseph Altuzarra said in a video from his studio as his hands showed the light khaki plaid fabric on a wall along with several other swatches. “This linen has kind of a slub (a slubbed fabric with slight knots and knobbles raising threads on fabric surface) and I have a clear idea of what I wanted to do,” he said as the camera focused in on a white short sleeve side buttoned open collar dress with a thin waist belt, “I like the idea of cleaning it up in the front.”
“You have the corner of the fabric that is heat presses and then it’s pleated and then all stitched together and then they just degrade down. You can get this beautiful kind of like a jellyfish,” Altuzarra said as he drew on white papers the pleats lines of a white shoulder less long pleated dress that became the closing look worn with a black leather thick belt that accentuated the overflowing volumes of the entire collection. He then added a cape-blouse over the dress to his sketch, showing one on the shoulder of a navy dress. “I love also the idea of inside of garments and how things are constructed. Like all these loops and grosgrain ribbon tapes,” he said pointing to the details of a patchwork linen stripy dress.
A ‘clear idea’ coupled with a sharp and flawless execution gave this Altuzarra’s spring collection an emotional uplift that his recent shows in Paris had failed to deliver with clothes this time that weren’t as overtly sexy but cut with precision.
Allowing those extra volumes to slide on the models like how the yellow silk cape sleeve flaps in the air with the bottom sides of the slit front dress created floating along the legs. Perhaps the rigid concrete of the location so bare that each outfit stood out against the solid stark walls and floors – a roomy trench with puff sleeve, a slim fitted black leather sheath dress, or a black sleeveless dress with white pearl belt. These light tropical wool and linen fabrics enhanced the slouchy and relaxed shapes of the daywear suits that came in light blue grey slightly slouchy with a sharp v-neck cut instead of lapels or in light brown linen with a brown satin front closure and erased any sense of formality of these suiting.
Those Altuzarra signatures built over the years – the side or front slit on a skirt or a dress he had shown since his debut showing at Milk Studios – shone through in an olive green folds dress with front slit or its sister version of a light grey plaid skirt and light tan ribbed v-neck sweater. Now, these slits now didn’t really incite immediately the sex and the exhibitionism that they might have in the past, perhaps reigned in by the softer fabrics that tamed any potential that seeing bare skin and high exposure of the leg these slits cut once provoke.
There is something deeper in this show though – it is a sure sign of Altuzarra’s maturity as a designer that he can now cut his skirts or dresses with not with impunity and raw energy he once displayed and eagerly so then but with the sophistication and the thinking that gave these looks their classiness and their punch.
The black evening dress adorned with a vest made of white pearls was a perfect example of the beginning of a new mood from the Altuzarra brand going forward. The clothes engendered this sense of confidence as none of the looks showed any signs of hesitance or doubt.
This show and the clothes, I think, are what Altuzarra meant by having ‘clear ideas’.
If you had follow Altuzarra’s career, you will see that fashion is just like any thing else – you try, you experiment, you fail, and just at an unexpected moment, all the tangencies, all the different points of thoughts, of ideas suddenly converged and sometimes they converged in a magical way.
This time Altuzarra gave his customers all of that in one collection that appealed to the heart. You can see how he had perfected the pleating from the initial sketches on paper to the fold effect on a light yellow gauze skirt; you can see how he transformed a rigid couture shape cape into the softest cape-sleeve of a flowing shirt dress; you can see how he can offer ‘fashion’ in this current time with the intimate home feel of a double corset and cotton plaid cargo pants.
I think the idea of making clothes right now just to make products isn’t interesting to me. It’s more interesting to make clothes that feel emotional that people can have a relationship with.
– Joseph Altuzarra, at the end of his virtual studio talk
Alexandre Mattiussi has brought his AMI brand a long way since January 2011 when he started his first presentation during the men’s Paris seasons that included small gatherings in a public square, in a mock up metro station and train car and even a faux airport departure lounge like his fall 2014 showing. I remembered those intimate presentations in the early days of AMI being the anti-thesis to the big brand displaying not just corporate might but the resources to spend endlessly, something a startup brand did not have access. I remembered the crowds at his small first store not far from the Bastille on the Boulevard Beaumarchais that was mobbed with people waiting to get in during a brief repose from shows in the spring of 2012.
What was special and what made AMI stood out in its first half decade was its singular declaration of aesthetics of making clothes for regular people – like the people the designer encounter on the metro or those waiting for their flights or friends going out on a Saturday night. The clothes then and now were not the kind of clothes that would stand out in a crowd and that were their purpose and their reason.
AMI was the anti-branded fashion until it became a fashion brand on its own.
That AMI charm that Mattiussi had cultivated assiduously in the beginning seemes to have dissipated. These new clothes shown are fine and will surely do well commercially. Think black single breast skirt suit, black v-neck wool caban, navy jacket and short suit paired with bra top, or navy short coat dress for women and black leather blouson and black wool knee length shorts, navy jacket and blue polka dots pants, and a navy raw denim blouson and jeans. All the possible combinations of each look were perfectly fine clothes but they were not really the kind of clothes made for a big fashion show.
Along of the bank of the river Seine late on a Saturday night, the show collected and displayed all the accouterments of Paris but did not managed to deliver, well, the juice. What were truly amiss in this high production show were the intimate camaraderie and the authenticity that the brand had cultivated in its first few years before things got too expansive or the preemption for global expansion.
But what do these clothes say? What do these clothes mean? Well, succinctly nothing and not too much.
This spring show was purely an exercise in branding and perhaps in the extreme, a marketing event masquerading as a fashion show. That is all fine and good, but is this really the new Paris cool?