Early this morning on the fifth floor of Barneys New York’s Madison Avenue flagship was yet another moment of high fashion pulling away the curtain of exclusivity. For the benefit of a varied group of bloggers, fashion director Amanda Brooks played interviewer to New York design darling Joseph Altuzarra. The event was the first of its kind that the luxury department store has hosted, fitting right in line with its push into capitalizing on social media.
Brooks—wearing a white satin trench and a python appliquéd jersey dress from the Spring collection currently on the floor—ably guided Altuzarra through how he decided on the label’s ethos and where he sources inspiration. The designer talked about his original founding principle of clothes for the sexy older woman, but newly referencing the recent successes of Meryl Streep, Diane Lane, and Diane Keaton in addition to his perennial muse Carine Roitfeld. “There’s a myth that you’re designing for a 25-year-old model,” he said. “And we know that’s not true.” As for seeking the creative spark, his response was refreshingly unpretentious. “I do have to seek it out; otherwise, I’d be watching Glee all day,” he said. “I’m not the designer who walks around thinking I have to do something on the French Revolution.”
To the high-low collab question that’s now become standard asking, particularly for the bloggerati, Altuzarra didn’t pander. “For the moment, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think what’s special about the brand right now is that it’s so small and exclusive.” Instead, he mentioned his recent partnership with denim brand Current/Elliott and a strategic move to lower his entry price point. And on the subject of strategic business moves, the designer also announced he’ll be joining that ever-growing group of young designers putting out resort collections.
As for what’s selling well for Spring, it’s those great no-brainer chic silk knits as well as some of the more directional pieces, the latter of which Altuzarra found logical. “To be honest, if I have to spend $700 on a black cashmere sweater, I don’t know if I’d do it.” (By comparison, the Comme des Garçons Play V-neck he was sporting rings in around $260.) And while he rarely talks about it, the intel he picks up from talking to retailers—particularly Barneys, which has carried the label since its first season—is something he admits factors heavily into his vision. “Our buyer Mia [Kinney] knows the evolution of our brand and our relationship with her is like family,” he said. “I seem to recall thinking about linen for Spring and she was like, ‘Umm, that doesn’t do well.’ ” He added, “Those conversations can be really helpful. I probably should have brought the conical boobs before