Alexandre Mattiussi on family, friends and the milestone number nine
The French designer is celebrating a special anniversary of his brand AMI
Alexandre Mattiussi is full of surprises, as I learned after asking the French designer to submit a favourite image, one that encapsulates his work over the last nine years and celebrates the growth of his Paris-based brand AMI into a global success. The brand’s collections have been lensed by revered photographers including Oliver Hadlee Pearch and Paolo Roversi, yet instead of an image from a past AMI campaign, or a still from one of his Paris Fashion Week spectacles, Mattiussi selected a simple family snapshot.
Taken in the backstage area of an AMI show, the image (above) shows the designer with his parents. But Mattiussi’s choice is less surprising than I initially thought. Since establishing AMI in 2011, the designer has made effortless and joyful luxury his USP. Authoring clothing that his friends want to own, wear and treasure as part of their wardrobe, Mattiussi has placed those he is closest to at the heart of his enterprise. “For me, this picture represents who I am and why I do what I do,” Mattiussi explains on the phone from his studio in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris. “My parents are my biggest inspiration. They are very supportive, they trust me and have confidence in me.”
Marking a ninth anniversary as an important milestone seems equally non-traditional, but to Mattiussi, the number nine has long been talismanic. “I first discovered nine as my magic number when at school, when I was really young. My teacher asked me to write my name and surname [and] we discovered that I had nine letters in both.”
Mattiussi - who celebrated his 40th birthday a few days before our interview - was raised in Normandy, in northwest France. From age four, he harboured dreams of dancing ballet professionally in Paris, an ambition his parents supported. “Back in the day, in the countryside a little kid wishing to be a ballet dancer was not an easy choice for them. They never stopped me from dreaming, they never stopped me from doing whatever I wanted to do. I became a little dancer, like a Billy Elliott in my village,” he says, recalling ten years of classical dance lessons held at a local conservatoire. “Whatever I wanted to jump into, they were the first ones to say, ‘Don’t be afraid, we will be here with you’.”
Mattiussi did eventually move to Paris, but instead of treading the boards, he enrolled at the Duperré School of Applied Arts. As a student at the school’s Le Marais campus, he specialised in menswear: among others, his teachers included footwear designer Pierre Hardy, whose list of clients include Hermès.
After graduating, Mattiussi honed his craft at Dior’s menswear ateliers, before beginning a five-year tenure as Givenchy’s first menswear designer. This led him to work with Manhattan-headquartered Marc Jacobs, splitting his time between Paris, Milan and the US. Then, at the age 30, Mattiuissi set out on his own by launching AMI in 2011. “When I started my business nine years ago, they were a little bit concerned,” he says of his parents’ initial reaction to his plans. “My mother told me to be careful and that it was important to have a salary. I said, ‘Maman, if I don’t try now I will never have the energy again.’”
His perseverance has paid off. Today, Mattiussi’s AMI — a name that is both a play on the designer’s initials and the French word for “friend” – is stocked by 300 outlets globally. A network of standalone boutiques includes storefronts in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and London’s Mayfair. And in addition to winning a loyal customer base that last year saw Mattiussi add womenswear to his originally menswear-only offering, in response to popular demand, the designer has also garnered industry support. In 2013, a jury that included the late Pierre Bergé, Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Emmanuelle Alt and Sarah Andelman of concept store Colette named Mattiussi the winner of French fashion award ANDAM. “I feel very grateful,” says Mattiussi. “What is fantastic about what I am doing today is that it’s a family thing, it’s not just by myself.”
Along with his family and friends, Paris has long been among Mattiussi’s foremost muses. “It’s a kind of playground,” he says. “It’s a magic city, Paris.” In addition to inspiring his designs, the French capital has played a starring role in AMI fashion shows, which have unfolded against views of the Eiffel Tower and taken place at famous sights including contemporary art museum Palais de Tokyo and the Grand Palais.
To unveil this autumn’s collection, the designer was invited to Le Trianon: set by the foothill of Montmartre, the venue ranks among Paris oldest music halls. Mattiussi did not hold a fashion show earlier this year, however, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
But at the time of our interview, he is mapping out his return. “I feel that a fashion show is a rendezvous, a magic moment,” he says. “I want to see a body wearing my clothes with movement to the music. For me, this can’t be translated into [a digital presentation].”
When his creations do return to the catwalk, Mattiussi’s parents will be there to cheer him on, as they always are. “My father is always walking around backstage,” he reveals. “My mother is a bit shyer but [she is] always on the front row. They are amazed by how things are growing, season after season. While business is growing, I have not changed at all. I am still my parents’ kid.”