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Award-Winning Fashion Designer Joseph Altuzarra '05 Discusses Building His Brand

Business of FashionTurning Point | How Joseph Altuzarra Found His Signature Silhouette

NEW YORK, United States — “It’s really not a race,” designer Joseph Altuzarra ['05] told BoF, sitting in his studio on New York’s Howard Street. “I don’t know if it’s a by-product of starting the company during a recession. But it’s really important to me to take the time to think about how we do things; to take the time to craft something that we’re really proud of and really feel like we’re on solid ground before building on top of it.”

The 30-year-old designer’s carefully plotted approach has paid off. In five short years, he has become one of the hottest new names in fashion. His sexy, body-conscious silhouettes are championed by industry opinion-leaders Carine Roitfeld and Jenna Lyons, as well as ultra-stylish actresses Cate Blanchett and Diane Kruger.

He has also been showered with high-profile prizes: just last month, Mr. Altuzarra won the USA regional award for the International Woolmark prize, worth $100,000, while, earlier this year, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund — another prize which he won in 2011 — provided him with the resources to realise his first ever advertising campaign, which appears in American Vogue’s September issue.

Altuzarra is stocked by all the right retailers — Barneys New York, Lane Crawford, Colette, Net-a-Porter and others — with over 50 doors in total. Revenues still hover under $10 million per year, so the company has plenty of room for growth: the brand has yet to launch handbags, a pre-Fall collection, e-commerce and a physical flagship, which the designer says are all on the horizon.

Born and raised in the very epicentre of fashion, Paris, by a Chinese-American mother and a French-Basque father, Joseph Altuzarra discovered his taste for high-impact power dressing, now his signature, early on. “I was obsessed with that whole Tom Ford era of Gucci and Saint Laurent,” he recalls. “He was sort of the Gianni Versace of my generation; he very much embodied all of the glamorous things fashion could offer and I found that very attractive when I was younger.”

But Altuzarra has no formal design training. He studied art history at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, where he worked in the university costume shop and became interested in fashion through his school research on “how fashion advertising would use very classical art history references and iconography to suggest luxury.” Intrigued, Altuzarra applied for an internship at Marc Jacobs during his senior year at university and is still convinced that he was hired, not for his skill, but because “they had asked an intern to put all of the resumes alphabetically and I was probably at the top of the pile. I actually sort of know that this happened.” . . .


Born and raised in Paris, Altuzarra majored in art and art history and was a member of the track team at Swarthmore, graduating in 2005. Recently, Kering, the multi-national luxury corporation, obtained a minority interest in Altuzarra. New York Magazine's The Cut fashion blog asserts that "This may also mark the beginning of a grooming process for Altuzarra to eventually take over at one of Kering's other major houses, which include Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, and Saint Laurent."

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