July 30 2014

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Ami’s Alexandre Mattiussi Looks Back on His Best Year Yet


AlexandreIt’s been a year since Alexandre Mattiussi, the founder and designer of burgeoning menswear brand Ami, took home the €250,000 ANDAM prize. As he prepares to pass on his crown and sash—and to show his Spring ’15 menswear collection in Paris—Mattiussi reflects on a fruitful year that included a new Paris store, his first runway show, and a revamped website. Here, the designer speaks with about his forthcoming collection, the importance of accessibility, and his little red cap.

It’s been a year since your ANDAM win. How are you feeling now?
Before ANDAM, I thought, Maybe we could win, and we did. When I do something, it’s a thousand percent, whether it’s creative or commercial. Winning the ANDAM is like winning the César. Since then, I’ve had lots of requests for advice, and I always say, “The point is to see your clothes worn.” If I were a baker, my attitude would be the same—I’d want people to line up for my cake, and it would not cost $15,000.

Renzo Rosso, who’s mentoring you post-ANDAM, said that he sees a lot of himself in you.
We share a birthday—September 15—and a lucky number, so there must be something to it. He’s helped us a lot with gaining international visibility, and he brought us cred.

So what did you do with the money?
I got a total makeover and liposuction, can’t you tell? We moved offices. I hired my intern. We redid the website and launched e-commerce. We hired a PR for the U.S. market. We held a fashion show in January; our second one is Saturday. Now I have more time to think about how I will create the wardrobe I’ve always wanted to, with a little more spice. We feel like we’re building. Three weeks ago we opened a new boutique at 22 Rue de Grenelle on the Left Bank. We’re looking at London for 2015, and New York, of course.

What’s changed for you personally?
My personal life changed. I quit smoking. People start recognizing you—I feel like a singer or something. They see me riding my scooter around town and yell, “Ami!” I love that people love the brand. They recognize my red bonnet—it’s not a gimmick, I’ve been wearing one since I was a kid. My father just unearthed a picture of me at age 8 wearing one. It’s like we’re creating this little character—people are coming to expect it. I was in Tokyo recently, and all these young people were asking me where that bonnet was, so I had to go back to the hotel and get it.

Alex M

What’s different about the new boutique compared with the original one on the Boulevard Beaumarchais?
I love the Left Bank. My mother worked in a shop there for a while. I love the energy of that neighborhood. The idea was a tailor’s shop, a neighborhood place, with a coffee bar in back. I wanted it to be chic but easy. And a photographer friend, Nicolas Wagner, is putting up a rogues’ gallery of friends wearing a red bonnet.

What should we expect from your show this Saturday?
We’re doing it at this very French high school, the Lycée Carnot. I wanted to stage a little youthquake, starting in the cradle of amitié [friendship]. That means a lot of color—yellow, red, blue, green—oversize coats, technical fabrics. But there will always be a navy jacket and a camel coat at Ami. We’re also doing more accessories, like backpacks and sneakers. I just want it to be fun, joyful, and no beards.

Why did you gravitate toward this youthful theme?
When I was in fashion school, people were less invested in their personal style—we couldn’t be, we had no money. Today, I notice that even the students are really styled and there are always super-interesting things going on in the street. When you look at young people, you realize that they are seriously cool. That said, my mother thinks I dress like a teenager—she’s shocked that I don’t wear socks with my sneakers.

This question’s been following you since Ami opened: What about women’s clothes?
I like keeping Ami for men, although women do buy our clothes. When I sketch, it’s always [a] masculine [silhouette], even if it’s on a feminine form. I love dressing women in menswear—Caroline de Maigret walked for us in January wearing a men’s suit. I say without pretense that I love what Hedi Slimane did with Dior Homme for Parisian youth. Also, I just finished working for Bally on a women’s collection that will be available next season—they gave me carte blanche, and I really had fun with it. I have one other collaboration coming up. But we’ve registered Ami(e), and I am thinking about a capsule of iconic men’s pieces for women. No dresses. But I’m 33. I have time!

What’s your creative process?
I don’t really have creative hang-ups—I can sketch out a collection at the dinner table with friends. You have to know yourself. When I first worked at Givenchy men’s with Riccardo [Tisci], we did pink lace Bermudas for Spring 2005. But I realized I couldn’t do that, and that’s why I would have made a lousy assistant. Later on, I realized that I did not want to design things that I could not afford myself. Fashion is dangerous that way. There’s an imbalance between dreaming up a dress that costs a bomb and the real world.

So what is your ambition?
I have an ego. But being a star or going on vacation with celebrities or whatever is not the goal. If it happens naturally, great. But I know who I am and what my reality is. C’est ça la vie [That's what life's all about].