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Trends run in a 20-year cycle. Or is it 30? Joseph Altuzarra seems to think the latter, pulling from three decades — the 1930s, 1960s, and 1990s — to cobble together his hodgepodge Pre-Fall collection.

Lucky for Altuzarra, he’s confident in his work and ideas, which means that adding a bit of kookiness to his ladylike identity didn’t wholly disturb the natural order. “Playing with the idea of retro, but making it modern and wearable for today,” was how he described it at a presentation.

Incorporating many of his signatures — the peacoat, the shirt dress, the sequined gown — the designer said the line had a “much wider range of end uses” than most, nodding to the transitional feeling of the season. But polka dots were the starting point of the collection. Tiny sequins on the neckline of a seamed frock represented the 1930s, blown-up paillettes brought the 1960s to a pencil skirt, and hybridised polka dots — one printed, the other flocked — gave a shirtdress a 1990s feel. Altuzarra mixed these media to great effect, grounding each outfit in reality by styling them with leather ‘shooties’ and new versions of his popular saddlebag, which the designer says have performed very well commercially — to top it all off, he added charming bell-shaped earrings done in resin.

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With their jumble of colours and textures, these were real outfits, not fantasy. Indeed, what may separate Altuzarra most from his peers is a sharp pragmatism. For instance, the cricket stripe on a silk dress lined up in such a way to complement the body instead of widening it. And a pair of elastic-waist polka-dot pants — something the designer confessed he never imagined making — were as flattering as they were comfortable-looking, thanks to a simple kick flair.

But his eye for the chicly practical may have been represented best in his new “Shadow” capsule collection, a range of six classic Altuzarra silhouettes — two blazers, a pencil skirt, pant, top and dress — rendered in a wrinkle-defiant technical jersey. (A smart detail: the zipper on the namesake dress is long enough that the wearer need no assistance doing it up.) The concept came out of conversations with retailers, but it makes so much sense for Altuzarra’s dream customer. His clothes might not be basic, but they are worthy of daily wear.


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