The three most recent blog entries on Joseph Altuzarra’s website are pictures of carefully cultivated trees: A tightly manicured bonsai, the cascading waterfall of a white forsythia, and the rose-colored leaves of a Japanese Wisteria. Now, take those visual representations, especially the white forsythia, and merge them with paisley patterns and a faux bandana print and you can begin to imagine the interesting combination of floral on paisley that is this Altuzarra fall/winter collection for 2016.
With bulky sweaters and heavy coats lined with wool, tall boots and no shortage of leather, one might be pressed to think of a fall/winter collection as delicate. Yet, that is precisely what Altuzarra has given us this season. The discipline and precision required to care and shape a bonsai are found in the careful details of each garment, void of any sloppiness, each fold and cut carefully considered before it was made. As with the tree, one wrong cut, one hem out of place, and the whole collection would suffer.
What really shines are the prints based on the waterfall of petals on the white forsythia. Joseph uses this print often and as he carefully cuts and positions those panels, careful that they are just the right size, angled just the right direction, one sees the beauty of the print as an extension of the tree from which it was modeled. The frequent juxtaposition of paisley provides counterpoint, the bark of a fashion-laden wood, perhaps, a symbol of Western culture meeting the East, much like Altuzarra’s own family.
Unfortunately, away from the runway, and without knowledge of his influences, I fear the collection may appear a little ordinary. One sees a fringed sweater, not the precise balance of wisteria leaves. One might be dismissive of an asymmetrical dress that seems to be nothing more than large bandana patterns cleverly cut and arranged, not the influence of the bonsai. Will the harried shopper see the careful balance of shapes from both East and West, or will they just think, as one opinion I’ve already seen expressed, that this is a nuevo-boho collection that looks like clothes for a clean hippy?
Joseph’s clothes are created to be comfortable and practical. Only the sequined covered gowns at the end of the show are not suitable for every day wearing. That practicality may blind one to just how brilliantly crafted and precisely balanced each piece is. I would hope one would take the time to look closely and appreciate.
I should also mention the eye makeup on the first several models that is an homage to the late David Bowie. I’m not sure why Joseph didn’t keep the look all the way through the collection, but even there, he has struck a careful balance.
Watch this collection carefully and do not dismiss it hastily. The clothes may not shout, but they are some of the most wonderful works of art we’re likely to see this week.