Joseph Altuzarra had a productive pandemic. In November he introduced a small collection of home goods that quickly sold out. Then in December he introduced Altu, a new line of genderful—not genderless—clothes that’s won over Troye Sivan and Justin Bieber. “I’m much less risk averse now,” Altuzarra said at a showroom preview. That applies to both his new projects and his eponymous collection.
The fall lineup picks up threads from last season, which leaned earthier and craftier than other periods in the label’s 13-year run. “It was about communing with nature and giving into wanderlust,” Altuzarra said. “I loved the idea of this narrative of a sailor that’s seduced and then transformed into a mermaid.” You saw that evolution play out on the runway.
The show opened with marinière shirts, long wool skirts modeled on a kilt Altuzarra had made for himself on a recent trip to Scotland, and military-inflected outerwear, including the season’s definitive pea coat with a swaggering stand-up shearling collar. The middle section was punctuated with tie-dyes, a signature that Altuzarra revived to much success for spring. The news here was that it was knits, not wovens, that were dyed, which gave the dresses a more sensual feel, accentuated by ruching and midriff cut-outs. Dip-dyed cashmeres will be popular too.
As the collection continued, Altuzarra really dug into the theme, making a pair of dresses and a cropped cardigan and maxi skirt combo from a knit his studio developed that looks like the scalloped pattern of fish scales. They were marvels. His mermaids wore net dresses fully embroidered in graduated metal sequins with a patina that looked like it had been aged by seawater. These were strictly showpieces, but he’ll reproduce their effect for production with lighter-weight plastic paillettes.
A decade ago, Altuzarra’s breakthrough collection leaned into the kind of military tailoring here. “I’ve been in business long enough that I’m sort of looking back a bit,” he said. “I think there’s a recognition from customers, that sense of like, ‘Oh yeah, this is really Altuzarra, this is what the brand is about.’” Equally, though, there are parallels here with his new line Altu, where he’s made questioning the gender binary part of his design practice. Altuzarra is really firing on all cylinders.
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This article was first published on Vogue.com.