Collectively much of New York has decided on modern tailoring and soft neutrals for fall 2023. Brown pantsuits are everywhere—do we need so many of them? Group think on this level suggests that designers are proceeding with caution, reining themselves in because of outer forces like inflation, or inner ones like exhaustion. That’s what made Joseph Altuzarra’s show last night so outstanding, he’s on his own trip.
Alive with color, print, and texture, every look was long to the floor, and there wasn’t a pantsuit in sight. It read like a culmination of the three seasons that preceded it, in which he leaned into nature, mythology, and even shamanism. “I wanted it to feel like an exploration of imagination and feeling,” Altuzarra said at a preview. “There’s a sense of everything being so fraught right now, everything you read is so based in scary real things. I wanted to counterbalance that with something that felt out of this world.”
The show’s first looks delivered on that promise. The dyed parkas, both short and long, looked like they could’ve been based on butterfly wings or floral patterns. Actually, they were Rorschachs, inspired by the idea of seers and oracles—of reading the tea leaves. More vibrantly printed outerwear followed, only in brushed wool. A peacoat and long narrow skirt cut from the same fabric worn with elbow length gloves was a novel idea for a fancy evening: dramatic, while still relaxed.
The New York Public Library venue was kept purposely dim, lit as if by candles, as if to make the point that this was a collection full of entrance makers. A draped jersey section yielded several easy-to-wear jersey knockouts in the vein of Madame Grès. An ethereal white two-piece look paired a softly draped top sliced diagonally at the hem with a sinuous bias-cut long skirt, exposing just a flash of skin at the midriff. Another group of dresses featured botanical prints placed with care (and a great deal of labor, Altuzarra said) over specific parts of the body: the ribs, the spine, the hip bones, the femurs, “as if nature is reclaiming it.”
Altuzarra acknowledged a timely synergy with end-of-the-world TV sensation The Last of Us. The stuff that he’s been thinking about—mysticism, the rituals we turn to to make sense of the world—resonates for a lot of us. Then there’s just the simple magic of an extraordinary piece. Those came at the end: another group of evening parkas, these in satin embellished with crystals in those botanical patterns, for opening night at the opera or another out-of-this-world occasion. Bravo.