It's a complicated frame of mind I'm in after looking at Joseph Altuzarra's collection for Fall Winter 2010. I'm torn between feeling that little jolt of excitement which comes from seeing a collection that I like, and feeling ashamed of myself for liking a collection that appears to be based almost entirely on an older collection by one of my favorite designers, which is largely considered by many of his fans to have been his best. See? Complicated.
Altuzarra's collection, his third since debuting his eponymous collection at New York Fashion Week last year, is, in a word, wicked. From the sheath-like pencil skirts and cinched waists to the buckled harnesses and pointed-toe pumps the look was dangerously sexy. It was also straight-up Gucci, F/W 2003 to be exact, with a touch of the iconic red velvet tuxedo from 1996 thrown in. The opening looks, comprised of fitted patchwork jackets with panels of shiny goat fur worn with pencil skirts spliced to the thigh and lace-up boots, pieced leather dresses or catsuits, and sharp, dramatic coats with harnessed closures made an instant impact paired with the spike heels and slick hair. I liked it right off the bat because there was nothing wishy-washy about it. Altuzarra went for it and made the first powerful statement of the week. There was a sleeveless jumpsuit with a plunging neckline worn with a mannish jacket shrugged on the shoulders that made for a cool, edgy kind of evening look, and a pair of skintight leather leggings had curving seams that were loosely laced together to show a winding sliver of skin. At this point any similarities to another designer's work were minimal, and if anything the collection seemed to be a continuation of the 80s inflected show he presented last winter.
It wasn't until look 21 that I kind of thought "hmm, that kind of looks like...", but I wrote it off as just a random similarity. They happen all the time in fashion. After a few more sharp black looks with lacing and cutouts Altuzarra sent out a series of looks in crimson velvet. The first, a fitted cocktail dress with body-con seaming and a satin tuxedo lapel was a sexy twist on two staple pieces. But then he sent out 3 different takes on a smoking suit, all in that same red velvet worn with matching velvet stilettos. Now, there is just no way that anyone who has either been following fashion for a while or is obsessed with Tom Ford's history at Gucci wouldn't recognize the similarities between these looks and an iconic look that not only appeared in one of Ford's most lauded collections, but also the campaign that accompanied it and on Gwyneth Paltrow at an event that year. But hey, if that was the inspiration, that was the inspiration. Altuzarra at least had the good sense to rework the suit from his own p.o.v. Unfortunately though he planted the seed of suspicion and that made me re-examine every look that came before it. Suddenly I was seeing similarities everywhere. The collection was good, especially considering that most of the early shows during each NYFW are filled with non-descript, non-impact clothing that is only meant to sell. That wasn't the case here. And some of the pieces, especially the coats and tailoring were really well done.
But those similarities, man. They were just too plentiful, and as much as I may like the collection, the fact that it seems reliant on another designer's work for inspiration bothers me. I'm actually willing to let the red velvet tuxes slide, same goes for the pointed toe pumps with the ankle cuffs that are nearly identical to the ones from Spring 1997. But so much of this, from individual pieces to the overall styling is reminiscent of Tom Ford's blockbuster F/W 03 collection that I just can't let it go. The dramatic upturned collars, the belted waists, the hobbling pencil skirts with body-con construction, the shaggy fur worked onto the sleeves, even the harnesses holding up some of the dresses. Like I said, I didn't even notice the references to Gucci until I had looked through most of the collection already, but once I did notice that's all I could see throughout the lineup. Really what this collection boiled down to was Gucci-lite with a hint of Edward Scissorhands thrown in for contrast. The examples I chose are just narrowed down to the obvious ones, but really the whole collection felt drawn from that Gucci show in some way.
I guess it's no wonder I like this so much, because to this day I still love the Gucci collection. Judging by the similarities, some more overt than others, I can only assume that Altuzarra either loved that Gucci collection too and it worked it's way into his collection without his realizing it, or that he actually was trying to channel it consciously. If it's the former, then it's unfortunate because anyone who notices how alike they are will probably jump right to the accusation that he was knocking it off. If it's the latter, then he's going to need to work on adding more of his own personality when he references another designer's work. At the end of the day though it might have been a smart move on Joseph's part, to target the woman who is still searching for a designer to cling to since Tom Ford left the scene and effectively ended the look he championed. It's not like the Ford woman is still shopping at Gucci, so why not cash in on that? I just wish that this had more of the spirit of old Gucci rather than just looking like it.
all photos from style.com and firstview.com