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Designer Dossier: Joseph Altuzarra

image: IMAXtree

image: IMAXtree

Joseph Altuzarra belongs to the small outlier group in the world of uber successful designers who have no formal design school training. In fact, he holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College (in Philadelphia) in art history. How did he get from college undergrad to high fashion superstar in under a decade? Pull up a seat, and read.

Altuzarra wasn't born in the states. His investment banker parents lived in Paris in 1983, which provided a rich multicultural upbringing that's known to influence his collections today. From the time he was a little boy, he began to sketch. He's said that because Paris is so in love with fashion, he was aware of it, and influenced by it from pretty much the get-go. He confessed to Opening Ceremony in an interview for their blog that he wasn't very popular in high school. He admitted to being a "kind of" boring dresser (and says it's how he dresses today). But perhaps it was the mashup of Parisian style and a belief he thinks led him to the world of fashion that can account for his designs often crossing the line between ready-to-wear and fantasy culture costume. The belief in question is that fashion has the power to transform. In his high school days, he thought the way he dressed would influence how well liked he was. And lucky for us, he took it all the way to New York after college, where he landed an internship at Marc Jacobs. An internship he was surprised to get, given his lack of formal training.

From there it was on to freelance design for Proenza Schouler, followed by an apprenticeship with Nicholas Caito, formerly of Rochas, to learn the fundamentals of construction. Altuzarra had one more stop before he launched his own label in New York. He returned to Paris and worked as first assistant to Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy. Though he may not have learned his skills in college, Alutzarra's work and dedication to being a student throughout his first years in fashion gives new meaning to on-the-job training. 

Now he's the owner of several notable awards, including a couple from the all-important CFDA. He's been put on 40 under 40 and 30 under 30 lists of important, successful, uber humans. His last two collections wowed me, personally, to the point where I thought it was time I pitch a dossier story about him. And, he also bears the badge of honor most relatable outside the exclusive world of fashion: he's made it to red carpet A-lister-loved status. Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson and Rihanna are just a few of the brightest stars to don his looks. In 2010, he told Interview magazine: "There’s a side to me that likes to make clothes for everyday. But I also think of fashion as an escape. It’s like a dream…Even in an economy that isn’t strong and where it’s important to sell clothes, you have to make things that let people dream a little." And with that, it's time to give you a show of a few of his most notable looks in recent seasons. Sweet Dreams.