Interview: Joseph Altuzarra

The luxury fashion designer on his process for transforming the greenroom at the Emmys

by Mya Stark


Like a modern-day fashion Midas, everything Joseph Altuzarra touches seems to turn to sleekness and sophistication. He launched his eponymous luxury ready-to-wear brand, in 2008 when he was a mere slip of a Chinese-American, French-Basque, Paris-raised lad (he’s now 30 years old) and it quickly skyrocketed to several awards and critical acclaim.

Just a few weeks ago, it was announced that Kering, the European owner of Gucci Group and partner to brands like Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, bought a minority stake in his company.

Surely it came as no surprise when Audi knocked on his door, however his time Altuzarra wasn’t asked to design clothing, but a space: the Emmys greenroom. His task was to take a simple plywood box on a cavernous soundstage and work his magic to conjure up a glamorous hideaway for television’s big night, taking place this Sunday, 22 September 2013. Altuzarra did it with elegance and ease. CH spoke with him about his inspiration and the process he used to create the lush lavender haven.


Tell us, what was the inspiration for the room?

It was the idea of efficiency and luxury. Efficiency without sacrificing the aesthetics and message of the room, and thinking about how this space would function. I wanted it to feel like it was an Altuzarra-branded room and also an Audi-branded room. Altuzarra is a duality of worlds, the Frenchness of the brand came through in the moldings on the wall, and then there’s also a very pragmatic American side. That came into play with the furniture, which was kind of 1970s, and had sort of a roundness and a softness to it. We worked this idea of efficiency and luxury in a lot of different ways. One of those is how modular the furniture is, things are sort of built in; that it’s multi-use—a lot of the furniture was sourced in Los Angeles.

Where does the very witty and surreal moss in the fireplace and above the mantle come into it?

I loved the idea of botanicals as something that subtly hinted to this idea of efficiency, something that was green. I think there’s something so comforting about having greenery in rooms, and also it feels very luxurious. The moss idea is that it would be slowly overtaking the molding, and it just felt like a really beautiful centerpiece and a beautiful image.


How much have you worked in spaces rather than clothing prior to this, and how was your process different?

This is the first time we’re working on a space so wholly. I don’t think the process or the considerations are all that different from clothing, I think you’re working with form and function and balancing those. In the case of clothing, you have an aesthetic message and you need it to function on a person and in their lives, and in the case of a space, it’s very much the same. You have this vision for what you want to say, but you also need to make sure it functions how people are going to use it. There were—for this space—many considerations taken into account, like having a variation in heights of seating so that women in big gowns would be able to sit, USB cables for people to plug in their phones, etc. Those were all really important things to talk about and to take into consideration.


What were the considerations behind that spectacular mirrored entrance?

We were really thinking about how people were going to use this space. We wanted it to feel like a break from the rest of the spaces in the center, so having that entrance be something that was private, that was also reflective, having also those beveled mirrors where presenters would be able to look at themselves while leaving or entering, was also quite functional. The shape of it was more meant as a shield for privacy, but also the roundness is very welcoming. Those were things that were important.


This lighting design—with the beautiful purple glow around the ceiling—is what we’re seeing right now the lighting design that will be used on the night?

Yes, this is the lighting. We were thinking about white or something lighter, but there is something very—I hate to use the word “cozy”—but, very reassuring about the lower light. And we wanted something that acted as a frame for the presenters and the winners in this space. We didn’t want the space to overpower the people in the room, and we loved having a more dimly lit space and something that feels more inviting.

This could easily be the make-out room for the Emmys.

It could!


Finally, you always hear designers talk about how film has influenced their inspiration, but since we are in such a golden age of TV, I wondered if there are television shows that are influencing you right now.

I actually watch a lot of television, and I think television today rivals the movies in terms of production and talent. A lot of the things that I watch that I find very inspiring are tied with narrative more than with how things look. I think the narratives today are really interesting, and much more challenging than they once were, and tackle larger issues and cultural shifts. What’s so great about television is that because it’s a much faster process, you get a lot more zeitgeist from television than you do from movies.

Photographs courtesy of Audi