Award-Winning Fashion Designer Joseph Altuzarra '05 Talks Philly Style, Start in Industry

Philadelphia Style: Swarthmore Grad Joseph Altuzarra Arrives

Spring 2012

"I couldn't be more happy or optimistic about the future of the fashion industry in America," says Joseph Altuzarra ['05]. The fashion darling is still brimming with emotion after winning the industry's most coveted accolade, the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund Award, this past November. It is one of the most esteemed recognitions for designers and their contributions to American fashion. ...

The prize also comes with a large boost in national exposure, an established mentorship program, and a hefty $300,000 prize. "I think winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund has really helped us to get to the next level, and it also reminds me of the fantastic support we have in the industry," says Altuzarra.  ...

Altuzarra has been on the path to such success since his graduation from nearby Swarthmore College more than six years ago. Majoring in art history and studio art, the undergrad prescribed to the typical college uniform of jeans, T-shirts, and baseball caps, a look that proved comfortable for enjoying the sights of the city. "I always loved going to South Street as a college student, and I also love Rittenhouse, for the obvious reasons: It's beautiful, cosmopolitan, and peaceful. ...

As he approached graduation in the spring of 2005, Altuzarra boldly sent résumés to New York design houses without a slim fit leg to stand on. He lacked the experience in design needed to attain a job in fashion, but Altuzarra's letter made a believer out of one house: Not long before graduation, he received a phone call from the office of Marc Jacobs offering him an internship position. From there Altuzarra continued to hone his skills at prominent design houses such as Proenza Schouler (its founders, designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, were the 2009 Fashion Fund Award winners for Accessory Design), as well as the famed Parisian house Givenchy.

"And that's how it all started," he explains. "At Marc Jacobs, I learned about the process of how a collection is made, from the initial idea to the sales floor. It was an amazing experience to watch Marc and the design team develop an idea into a drawing, and then into a collection. That process is something I still very much adhere to now...

It wasn't long before Altuzarra had established his own brand and cultivated a growing number of followers, including well-known socialites and celebrities, some of whom he calls close friends. His collections were recognized for their sophistication and creativity while maintaining a youthful appeal....

"I think women in Philadelphia have an incredibly developed sense of style, which is quite different from New Yorkers. I think they are quicker to embrace color and print, as opposed to New York women, who will more often than not stick to black or gray. I could imagine women in Philadelphia going for my pastel-blue printed eyelet blazer, with a pair of faded blue jeans and a white button-down shirt-a perfect outfit for a stroll around Rittenhouse Square."