Joseph Altuzarra is empire-building. Unlike some of his contemporaries however, he has being taking his time, slowly but carefully and considerately taking the next step. After all, the Kering minority stake investment was announced a year and a half ago and only now are we seeing the designer’s first offering of handbags which, as he called it in his show notes, are merely 'complimenting' the ready-to-wear. Altuzarra is smart and patient and, having already established the codes of his brand, in no rush to dismantle them. Following last season’s pearl of a collection a certain sensuous romanticism has become part of his lingo too, so who better than some 18th century dandies and Capote’s 'swans' for muses?
Yes, there was a skirt with a slit in the opening look but this season its hem was fluted so it bounced and danced with every step. The accompanying peacoat came cropped and with a luscious fox collar and underneath it a whisper of a white Chantilly lace high-collared blouse. Over-the-knee lace-up boots had their very own white frilly lace peeking over the top. A camel houndstooth coat thrown over a barely-there lace dress seemed straight out of a dark romantic novel and yet, when teamed with sharp tailoring like a navy felt and wool trouser suit the lace instantly felt modern and, on this Valentine’s Day it has to be said, pretty ridiculously sexy too. Flute hemlines aside, it was all about the collar and how it can frames the face. From fox fur and white shearling to poetic lace piled high Altuzarra’s women seemed straight out of a Flemish master’s canvas. Eveningwear found the designer in Tibet, artfully transporting a Tibetan pattern onto burgundy and gold velvet devoré that fell on the body like feather-light chainmail. Those finale dresses with their white lace lapel and collars, the buttons undone, ought to be fought over for a red carpet soon.
Altuzarra’s name was whispered around a few weeks ago when talk turned to Gucci. Perhaps it was the modern velvet and lace tailoring or maybe it was the molto sexy eveningwear or just the classic tassel handbags that made me think of what an interesting choice he would have been for that role. Never mind. Joseph Altuzarra is building an empire all of his own.