Joseph Altuzarra is having a banner year. Last September, it was announced that French luxury conglomerate Kering would take a minority stake in his New York-based label. Days later at New York Fashion Week, the designer showed his spring 2014 collection, receiving some of the best reviews of his career.
Fall 2014 was another hit, and just last week Altuzarra followed up with resort 2015, where he introduced a new category: shoes. While the new line lived up to the hype — he’s about to start a revolution in black pumps, we say — that's just one nugget of news trailing the headline maker. Only a week earlier, Altuzarra had announced that he would be the next designer to collaborate with Target. And the night before, he had been named Womenswear Designer of the Year at the CFDA awards.
But what might be the biggest indication that Altuzarra has arrived — and not in an it-designer sort of way, but a real-thing sort of way — is that his very specific aesthetic has influenced the high street. Pop into any retailer, from Madewell to Zara to BCBG, and you’ll find pieces inspired by his woven stripe-printed silk dresses, subversive banker shirts and wrap skirts with slits up to there. Tassels, ponchos, engineer stripes: it all feels very "Altuzarra." That’s no easy feat for a six-year-old label.
In the beginning, you mightn’t have thought it would end up like this. While Altuzarra’s earliest collections were spirited, they could also be referential. Yet he quickly broke free of those damning constraints, and in an incredibly short span of time has managed to build the foundations of a solid brand.
Of course, there’s no better way to introduce your brand to the masses than through a collaboration. And Target feels like the right partner. Altuzarra often says that his customer is a woman, not a girl, and Target’s sell-out collaborations — Jason Wu, Missoni — seem to cater to a more sophisticated audience. (The brands that falter in the discount retailer are those with too much bite, or not enough vision.) Alexander Wang, whose H&M collection will drop just months after Altuzarra's Target line, likely chose the fast-fashion retailer because his future (and arguably current) customers shop there. For Altuzarra, Target will introduce his name to a group of women that might not have heard it before, but could very well be able to afford it. Savvy move.
It also helps that the 30-year-old presents himself as personal, but unaffected. He’s able to appear at once professional and unguarded, which puts him in favor with journalists, clients and the fashion cohorts who have adopted him as one of their own. People want to be around him, and that’s as valuable as a good marketing campaign.
This is Joseph Altuzarra’s moment. It’ll be fun watching him capitalize on it.
Homepage photo: Joseph Altuzarra speaks onstage at the 2014 CFDA Awards at Lincoln Center. Photo: D Dipasupil/Getty Images.