Like many New Yorkers throughout the metropolis’s lockdown of 2020, Joseph Altuzarra found that being at dwelling for such an prolonged interval led to a lot introspection. Even earlier than March of that yr, although, life as he knew it had modified drastically, as the style designer and his husband, the actual property investor Seth Weissman, welcomed their first little one, Emma, on the finish of 2019.
One of many issues Altuzarra, 38, discovered himself pondering quite a bit about, whereas juggling the calls for of caring for an toddler, was gender. As an award-winning ladies’s put on designer — after learning at Swarthmore Faculty and doing stints at Proenza Schouler and Givenchy, he launched his namesake line, Altuzarra, in 2008 — his livelihood partly relied on him understanding no less than a sure sort of girl, however having a daughter made him newly conscious, he says, of “the pervasive nature of the gender binary in our tradition, and the methods by which we’re restricted by stereotypical norms.” He observed, as an illustration, that individuals usually described Emma with phrases referring to her look, whereas child boys had been described based on their conduct, and that purchasing for her at all times led to 2 racks, one hung with pink and flowery choices and the opposite with a variety of flannel. “Even with puzzles, there could be unicorn ones and ones with automobiles,” he says.
From there, he tried to unpack how he, too, had internalized these beliefs, diving into reminiscences of his personal adolescence in Paris, the place he felt strain to decorate and behave in a sure means. “There was an expectation that I’d by no means cry or present emotion,” he says. “It constructed a variety of disgrace that I’ve needed to dismantle slowly over the course of my life.” Being away from the workplace and out of the general public eye allowed him to additional this dismantling by experimenting with sporting skirts and attire, in addition to with pores and skin tints and blushes. “What quarantine did for me,” says the designer, “was take away a variety of my worry and inhibitions.” A few months into it, he’d determined to create a brand new line — Altu.
Whereas some designers are content material to launch diffusion strains that include little greater than inexpensive variations of items from their major one, Altu, when in comparison with Altuzarra, is an actual departure. Gone are the brightly coloured fitted pencil skirts and beaded attire, the patterned pleats and handkerchief hems. As a substitute, it options on a regular basis staples like hoodies, body-skimming attire, tees and trousers — together with two pairs of leather-based pants modeled after those who Altuzarra himself has been sporting for years — which might be deliberately genderless, although he prefers the time period “genderful”: “We needed to consider gender as one thing that was optimistic, optimistic and playful, versus what’s implied by ‘genderless,’ which is about negation,” he says, including, “Altuzarra has at all times been an alter ego. It’s a lady who’s superconfident, attractive and unapologetic. She was the particular person Joseph, as a teen, wished he may turn into.”
In actuality, he says, “Adolescence was not a very joyful time for me and, as an alternative of shying away from that, I needed to re-engage with it and make one thing lovely and productive out of it.” Certainly, there’s some teenage angst seen in Altu — on the web site, the fashions glower whereas slouching in suburban bedrooms and on streets — however there’s additionally a understanding confidence. After I ask Altuzarra what he would say to his 15-year-old self, he turns into wistful and emotional. “I felt so completely different and alone,” he says. “I’d inform my teen self that I’m gonna prove OK and discover my individuals.”
Thus, Altu combines components of Altuzarra’s teenage self with who he might need been had he come of age in 2021. Low-slung pants, slinky tanks and crop tops nod to a brand new technology, one which isn’t afraid to point out pores and skin. Take the singer Troye Sivan, who gave a preview of the model when he wore an Altu black scoop-neck body-hugging gown with massive cutouts on the waist to September’s Met Gala. “I simply needed to be sizzling,” Sivan mentioned to Vogue, and, on Instagram, hundreds of thousands agreed that he’d achieved simply that. The gown was additionally one of many few seems on the occasion that would translate to actual life — a breath of contemporary air amongst so many fantastical robes.
The opposite 35 items within the inaugural assortment even have an interesting versatility. Each a cotton tee and a wool sweater function a slit on the neckline, added as a result of Altuzarra likes to slide his pendant necklace — a present from his husband — by way of the outlet to make it extra outstanding. A matcha inexperienced cotton hoodie seems prefer it has 4 sleeves, with two tied on the shoulders to present the phantasm of layering minus the majority. And a cross-body leather-based fanny pack contains a nylon lining that may be yanked out to transform it right into a backpack. These things are additionally accessible by way of sizing: most can be found in sizes starting from 0 (equal to a ladies’s additional small) to five (a ladies’s additional additional massive), whereas the trousers go from sizes 0 to 7.
Altuzarra’s (different) infants, nonetheless, need to be the leather-based pants, one fashion with a wider leg and one other that’s extra tapered. “I’ve had my factories make [versions] for my very own use for the final 10 years, and I put on them nearly day-after-day,” he says. Nonetheless, Altuzarra desires to maintain privileging experimentation in all its types, and so Altu isn’t actually about uniform dressing. For the following launch, count on pastels.