Why mess with a good thing? Joseph Altuzarra's Spring collection was one of the most talked about of New York fashion week. Altuzarra remarked that editors called it in for photo shoots and made personal orders in equal measure. "That's powerful," he said. And so for his first-ever Pre-Fall collection, made possible by Kering's minority investment in his brand earlier this year, the designer hewed to a similar formula here, balancing elegance with a sense of unfussy ease and comfort. "Uncontrived," is the word he used for it. A popular peacoat from season's past got a boxy tweak, his signature side-slit skirt now comes in a swingy A-line shape (don't worry, ladies, it's still plenty sexy), and his clever sweater-shirt hybrids were re-envisioned in more casual cuts and fabrics. All welcome returns, but probably the happiest of all: his perfectly judged nip-waist blazers with the hemline that dips in back.
The difference this season was the sense of play. Just for fun, Altuzarra whipped up fine-gauge knits with the French SAPEURS-POMPIERS logo striped across the chest. He pumped up the colors—red especially—and found convincing ways to mismatch cotton plaids, a sleeveless sheath with an hourglass-enhancing curved seam at the waist being the prime example. For the woman who takes seduction seriously, he also showed a red silk Romanian-style blouse tucked into a draped-front black skirt that had its echoes on his most recent runway.