Every so often a designer comes along with enough skill to charm editors, enough charm to seduce socialites, and enough good sense—for both hemlines and bottom lines—to make you believe he just might stay a while. In the five seasons since he launched his namesake collection, Joseph Altuzarra’s carefully constructed, unabashedly body-conscious clothes have been embraced by such disparate icons as socialite Lauren Santo Domingo and pop star Rihanna. Though the Paris-born, New York–based designer interned at Marc Jacobs and landed his first real design job under Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, his most obvious influence is Tom Ford during the glam Gucci years. The result of his careful study? The sex goddess is returning to a runway near you.
It’s 7 p.m. and you’re having a coffee.
I’m drawing tonight, and I have a weird schedule when I draw. I end around 5 a.m. I really can’t work during the day.
But it’s a Friday night, and you’re a 27-year-old fashion designer.
Shouldn’t you be out doing cocaine or something scandalous?
I’m afraid of drugs. I honestly think that with our generation—Alex Wang, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Christian Cota, Robert Geller—there’s a different expectation of what our behavior should be. People expect designers to be good businesspeople and PR people, and I don’t think partying is a part of that persona the way it used to be.
A stylist friend of mine described your clothes as “whorish.”
That’s funny. It’s important not to take all this fashion stuff too seriously, and I kind of love the idea of cheesiness. But, yes, the clothes are definitely for a woman, not a girl. They’re in the vein of Azzedine Alaïa.
You didn’t go to design school, but you’re clearly educated. Does that
give you an inferiority complex or a superiority complex?
When I started in fashion after studying art history at Swarthmore, I definitely had an inferiority complex, because I didn’t learn about any of the technical stuff. The best and the worst thing about fashion is that anyone can do it. But because fashion can be the most unintellectual thing, you have to turn it into an intellectual exercise just for your own sanity. You have to start with a conceit.
What was it like to wear one of your dresses for this shoot?
This was my first time fully putting on a dress. Drag’s not really my shtick. Maybe it’s the very French-Catholic thing, but I’d have to be very drunk. Still, I like how you go to Fire Island and there’s an obese drag queen in a sequined bikini splashing around in the water, and it’s, like: Great! No judgment!