“Everyone has their own journey of how they get somewhere and how they educate themselves and how they discover themselves,” says Alexander Wang, creative director of French fashion house Balenciaga and his own eponymous label.
“I’m always very interested in how clothing lives with someone ... how they feel it’s aged with them and lived with them.” Joseph Altuzarra
For Joseph Altuzarra, that journey began in Paris where he was born to a Chinese-American mother and a French father. Now based in New York, Altuzarra’s mixed cultural and creative heritage—he once practiced ballet and has a keen interest in art and film—is woven throughout his work as a fashion designer.
Judging ten finalists at Industria studios in New York, Wang and his fellow International Woolmark Prize (IWP) judges were on the lookout for a designer with a well-developed aesthetic—and Altuzarra stood out from the competition with a ladylike Merino wool dress and wool shoes.
“It’s critically important to have a unique point of view, an identity and a sense of self when you are a young, emerging designer, especially in a landscape like New York,” Wang says. “It’s the only thing you have that is yourself: the story you have to tell and the audience you have to connect with.”
For Altuzarra, despite his ballet training and diverse background, becoming a fashion designer was something inevitable.
“It was always a certainty, I always knew it was what I was passionate about and knew it’s what I really wanted to do,” he says.
What was also quite certain was that Altuzarra would rise to the pinnacle of the fashion industry: the young designer cut his teeth working with Proenza Schouler and Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. Taking out the IWP award for the USA region will only see his international profile grow even further.
"The opportunity to help a designer like Altuzarra with such creative vision to have greater success is incredible,” says Wang’s fellow judge Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). “The International Woolmark Prize is about fostering a new generation of talent, recognising and celebrating young designers and playing a role in bringing them to the next level."
On being awarded the regional award, Altazurra said he was very excited: “I feel as though we’ve learned so much about working with wool. I feel very honoured.”
The designer will head to Milan Fashion Week in February 2014, having created a capsule collection from Merino wool, hoping to beat four other global finalists to the AUD$100,000 IWP grand final prize.
Wang and Kolb were joined on the judging panel by Colleen Sherin, Senior Fashion Director of Saks Fifth Avenue; Malcolm Carfrae executive vice-president of global communications at Calvin Klein; W magazine editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi; and Financial Times fashion editor Vanessa Friedman.
The winner crowned in Milan will see their capsule collection on the shelves of leading global fashion retailers including Harvey Nichols (London), Saks Fifth Avenue (New York), 10 Corso Como (Milan), Joyce (China), David Jones (Australia), and My Theresa (Germany and online).
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