A certain sense of liberation seems to have taken over Joseph Altuzarra since he brought his eponymous label back to New York in 2020, after years having showed in Paris. It was a logistical decision, but one which has borne compelling new creative fruit—his last few seasons have been some of the best of his career, and today’s Spring Summer 2023 show was a continuation of that trend. The brand showed their latest offering at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Manhattan’s Chelsea, with clothing that took inspiration from Edward Abbey’s celebrated memoir ‘Desert Solitaire’. Altuzarra even went so far as to gift every attendee with a hand-wrapped copy of the book.
Written in the late ’60s, Desert Solitaire explores Abbey’s “season in the wilderness” as a park ranger in southeastern Utah. The end result is a paean to the restorative abilities of nature, and a love letter to the flora and fauna that humans so often under-appreciate or ignore. Altuzarra clearly had Abbey’s evocative desert-scapes on the mind when he began designing Spring Summer ’23, with its ‘Burning-Man-done-chic’ mix of delicate, coin-embellished wrap tops, and shibori-dyed day dresses. Both are long-standing motifs for the brand, and felt fresh on low-slung skirts and floating voluminous gowns (the latter were so complicated that they took almost two months to make by hand).
Elsewhere, Altuzarra experimented with more pragmatic fabrics: denim appeared in this collection, a first for the brand, with full-length denim skirts, shrunken tailored jackets, and loose-fitting jeans. The opening looks experimented with shirting—deconstructed and wrap-around shirts were styled with chunky cable knits, including a banana yellow iteration that was slashed at the waist and transformed into a mini skirt.
“The desert, as a catalyst for ideas about possibility, freedom, and myths, is the conduit for a collection that celebrates both pragmatism and the power of imagination,” Altuzarra wrote in the show’s notes. That biting point between the worlds of pragmatism and imagination is a natural resting place for the designer, who has been a firm favourite of in-the-know fashion insiders since his brand launched in 2008. Under his masterful eye and exacting hand, desert living never looked so good.