In part two of our conversation with Joseph Altuzarra
, the designer and OCNY neighbor explains why he can watch The Ring
but not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,
what winning 2011's CFDA/Vogue
Fashion Fund means for his brand, and what it's like to watch Marc Jacobs at work.
Read about the spring collection's Hawaiian prints and Joseph's 90s music obsessions in part one
, and indulge your curiosity as we peep inside Joseph's new Howard Street studio in the photos below.
Shop all Altuzarra here
Alice Newell-Hanson: Did you always know you were going to become a designer?
Joseph Altuzarra: Well, I went to Swarthmore College, which is not a fashion school. I spent 4 years there before I started interning at Marc Jacobs. Fashion was something that I always liked and had an affinity for. I really liked drawing when I was a kid, but I never thought it could be an actual job! I was only in my last year of college when I decided I wanted to pursue it. I also felt I was at a disadvantage because I didn’t have a formal background in fashion design. When I applied to Marc Jacobs it was a total surprise that I got the internship and it was such a steep learning curve. I had to learn so much on the job, but it was such a great way to learn.
ANH: And then you worked at Proenza as well. How was that?
JA: It was great. At Marc Jacobs it was about the process of the collection, watching Marc work, and seeing where he would get inspiration from and how it would translate in his work. But Proenza was such a small company when I was there and it was about seeing how the company worked. Then, when I went to Givenchy, it was much more about design––how you cut a jacket, and how you merchandise a collection. And at Givenchy we drew constantly. It was a really different way of working––more research-based, and a lot faster too.
ANH: What’s your own design process like?
JA: I think my process is close to the one that I had at Givenchy, so it’s very research-based and two-dimensional for the first couple of months, and it involves a lot of drawing. Then, during fittings, a lot changes. But what I took from my experiences at other places is that I hate doing things at the last minute. So I actually do the work very early on and try to make sure that I’m on schedule. That way, I don’t make life hell for people around me!
ANH: And you design here in the studio?
JA: Yes, either here or at home. I live in Tribeca and I really like designing at home because I need to take a lot of breaks!
ANH: Are you running out for snacks all the time?
JA: I’ll get up, draw for a couple hours, watch 15 minutes of television, and then draw again.
ANH: What are you into right now?
JA: I’m a big fan of 60 Minutes
, and Dateline
. And I love crime shows, like Law & Order SVU
! I’m actually not into reality TV at all. I get so much secondhand embarrassment from all the housewives stuff!
ANH: Do you go to the movies a lot too?
JA: Yes. But I’m more of a movie-renter.
ANH: Cute! No one really rents movies anymore. What are your favorites?
JA: It fluctuates. I love good Woody Allens, like Manhattan Murder Mystery
. I’m definitely a romantic comedy buff. I’ll watch pretty much any romantic comedy and appreciate how bad it is but still really, really enjoy it. I’m actually not that discerning with movies! The only things I can’t watch are horror movies.
ANH: Me too.
JA: I can watch stuff if it’s horror but not if it's violent. I love sci-fi and supernatural horror, things like Signs
. So I can watch The Ring
but I can’t watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
ANH: What else do you do when you’re not working?
JA: I actually get asked that question a lot and the real answer is that I’m a big hang-outer. I don’t have any crazy hobbies. I don’t do pottery on the weekends. I’m just a big couch potato. I like doing nothing and I love just walking around.
ANH: Why did you decide to settle in New York, as opposed to Paris, where you grew up?
JA: I am definitely much happier here. I know everyone says that New York’s energy is better, but it really is. There’s an exciting youth culture here and there’s a general sense of excitement and optimism that I find very infectious.
ANH: Where's your favorite area to people watch?
JA: Going out, you see a lot of people who are just super weirdly dressed. And I actually get a lot of inspiration from seeing how men dress more than from seeing how women dress. So just walking around Chelsea or Tribeca, or even in this area, you see a lot of super well-dressed or unusually dressed men.
ANH: Do you think people are as adventurous in Paris as they are here?
JA: No, definitely not. I think people are much more adventurous here and that they have more of their own sense of style. Paris is much more about fitting in. I always say that in Paris when there’s a trend, everybody is wearing that trend. I remember in high school it was a big thing to wear jeans under knee-high boots, and everyone was wearing that. Whereas in New York you have people who are really into hip-hop and they have their own style, or people who are really into 50s pinup girls and that’s how they dress. So it’s much more varied and individualistic.
ANH: What were you wearing growing up?
JA: I was always kind of a boring dresser. I was not a very popular kid in high school and I had this idea that the way that I dressed would change how liked I was. It was that kind of Pygmalion story. I think, ultimately, that’s probably why I became interested in fashion, its transformative power, and how it can change your identity. But I always dressed how I do now.
ANH: Talking about transformations, you just won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund! What comes next?
JA: It’s been a really great ride and a great experience. One of the great things about the CFDA/Vogue
fund is that it forces you to sit down and have conversations with your team, to take stock of where you are, where you want to be in five years, and the concrete ways that you can get there. We’re really excited about where we’re going and we obviously want to be a bigger brand. I think we’re going to do accessories next and develop the shoe business more, then hopefully branch out into other arenas.
JA: I would definitely think about it. I’ve actually been wearing the parkas and bombers a lot, so I keep thinking, “Oh, there’s not that much tweaking to do to make it into good menswear!”
ANH: And even your dog Bean's parka is Altuzarra! Is he here?
JA: Yes! Let's get him in it!
Shop all Altuzarra here