altuzarra delivers basque beauty for spring/summer 16

The designer kept it in the family with a sunny tribute to his southern European heritage. And you can bet there were espadrilles.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
13 September 2015, 10:25pm

The models at Altuzarra's spring show yesterday looked ever-so-slightly undone - like they'd just thrown on a dress after a day at the beach and run out the door. Two unbuttoned buttons on a pleated batik dress flashed some thigh here and a sheer tissue-thin cardigan fell off a shoulder there. While the silhouettes were elegant and figure-skimming, there was something easy and authentic about it all. "I wanted to achieve something that felt very graceful on the body and something very feminine and sensual without being overly tight," Joseph said. The clothes were pieces you'd want to throw in your suitcase for, you know, spontaneous summer trips to Europe and things like that.

That was partly due to the fabrics, which were luxurious but also "humble," as Joseph put it. The standout was a crinkled linen (thumbs up for packability), which the designer used for shoulder-skimming tops, tie-front dresses and simple button-downs, all in warm earthy tones and deep blues. There was also burlap in the form of wrap-front skirts, and lots of cotton -- fabrics you'd actually want to wear when the temperature pushes 90.

The inspiration? The designer's Basque heritage. "It came from my father's side and it was very much part of my childhood and cultural upbringing," he explained. He was especially fascinated by Basque pelota, an ancient sport played in the rocky Basque region of northern Spain, which involves throwing a ball using a strange-looking woven glove situation. (Little woven details popped up on the handles of leather saddle bags and belts.) "I've never actually seen a game, but the all-white uniforms were very anchored in my mind when I started working on the collection." 

He also looked at photographer Charles Frejer's images of European pagan costumes. "I became really interested in Basques festivals, and these materials they were elevating and using in very precious ways." Elevating his own pieces were paillettes made of mother-of-pearl that glimmered on jackets and made one dress audibly clack and tinkle as it came down the runway. The finale dresses were embroidered in patterns so intricate they brought to mind the magical costumes of London's Pearly Kings, but the fabrics - sheer and feather-light - were decidedly un-urban.

Anchoring each look firmly in the designer's region of choice were heeled espadrilles. They had classic wraparound ankle ties, and little jute toecaps - in keeping with Spanish tradition - but Joseph also played around with the formula. "I wanted to develop espadrilles in a way no one else had. I took away the cord sole and all of a sudden there was something very modern about it," he said. One thing he didn't change though was were the shoes are made: "All of the stitching has to be done by hand in Spain otherwise it's not a real espadrille." Authentic to the max.


Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Jason Lloyd-Evans

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