Interview with Alexandre Mattiussi of AMI

“I love my city,” says Alexandre Mattiussi, creative director of AMI, who has lived in Paris for 18 years. “It’s so inspirational. The French dress in a very particular way – there’s definitely a sense of effortlessness.”

This effortlessness is underpinned by an appreciation for timeless, well-made pieces, as worn by Paris’ bon chic, bon genre for decades past. Picture the 1960s and you can imagine Mattiussi dressing the young poster boys of a restless generation, from Nouvelle Vague cinema legends Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo to France’s revered musical provocateur, the late Serge Gainsbourg. The uniform? AMI’s classic trench coats, button-down shirts and classic matelot tops.

 

AMI's Alexandre Mattiusi

Alexandre Mattiusi – a Parisian through and through

“I believe you can only achieve modernity if you respect the past,” says the designer. “There is a very strong idea of heritage in menswear, and I like to respect this. I always play with classic fabrics; they are very inspiring to me.”

Mattiussi’s modernity also embraces a strong commercial appeal – elegant tailoring and sportswear define an everyday Parisian style that is adaptable and, above all, wearable.

AMI by Alexandre Mattiussi

For spring/summer 2016, this hard-to-define fashion insouciance – indigenous to the French capital – is best illustrated by AMI’s spring trousers. Cut loose, they are worn belted below vibrant knits, draped shirts and zipped tracksuit tops, or paired with acid-wash denim chore jackets.

“Our spring/summer collection is about a man’s wardrobe,” explains the well-groomed and bearded designer. “It’s the way I want to see a guy dress in summer; a kind of modern elegance. Something you wear every day for any occasion. A classic trench coat, a navy sweater, a washed denim jacket, tracksuits, colours. Very Paris!”

Alexandre Mattiussi may have a clear idea of who his customer is, but he doesn’t need a muse. He’s the
best ambassador for his own label, because he designs for himself and those he “knows and loves”. Indeed, the name of his brand – derived from Mattiussi’s initials and the last letter of his surname – is also the French word for ‘friend’.

“I have to admit that I always project myself a bit in my design, but I think about my friends, too,” he offers. “I personally dress that way, and I love to mix

things together. I love to wear a suit with trainers.” Alexandre Mattiussi’s designs have nostalgic relevance, too, recalling the clothes of his youth – in spirit at least. “I was 14 in the mid-’90s,” he says. “Our daily uniform back then was Levi’s jeans and a sweatshirt, with Dr Martens shoes. I stole a classic double-breasted navy wool coat from my father that I wore all the time.” One item in particular has been resurrected from his teenage years: “I used to wear the same red beanie back then that I do now.” At AMI, the red beanie has been upgraded; made of supple summer wool, it is finished in Portugal “with love”, according to the label’s website.

Mattiussi, who is of Italian extraction, was born in Normandy and moved to Paris as a student, enrolling at the Duperré School of Applied Arts, which is located in the 3rd arrondissement, a district that is now home to the AMI’s design studio. The move to the French capital helped him to cultivate his interest in multidisciplinary art forms, which surprisingly also included an early talent for dance. There was no doubt, though, that fashion was to be his chosen path: “I have always been passionate about clothing, scenography, art direction, music, photography, but fashion seemed to be the best field for me to explore and express my creativity.” Upon graduating, Alexandre Mattiussi spent several years honing his skills in the city’s big ateliers, working for the likes of Givenchy, Dior and Marc Jacobs in NY.

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He developed AMI for several years before its official launch in 2011. Luckily, the hard graft paid off. The label was immediately met with enthusiasm with buyers and press alike. In 2013, AMI was the first menswear house to win the prestigious ANDAM Fashion Award, a talent and mentorship programme supported by the French government.

Since then, the label has gone global, counting 300 international points of sale and a standalone store in Tokyo. Now, London is about to fall under its spell with the opening of the capital’s first AMI boutique, in Mayfair. “A store is the best way to express your creativity. It really helps to enhance the clothes we design,” says Alexandre Mattiussi of the London project. This was a collaboration with architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty of Studio KO, who conceived the first AMI boutique on Paris’ Boulevard Beaumarchais.

Mattiussi’s current staff numbers almost 50, but he has kept the design team to an intimate three, designing all ready-to-wear and accessories himself, including the best-selling Velcro-fastening trainers and sportif baseball caps. “I think it’s more than just the clothes, it’s the way we do it. Everything is finished off with love and sincerity,” he says of his close-knit entourage.

Alexandre Mattiussi embraces a wide-angled approach to his job. His advice to budding designers is to work at their craft, while also being aware of the non-creative aspects involved, from sales to production and communication. “Being a designer today implies understanding the other aspects of the business, too,” he says. “You have to trust yourself a lot and believe in what you do more than others do.”

With seasonal collections and many creative projects under his belt, it’s hard to believe the designer ever has time to take in the city that inspires his aesthetic. On these rare days off, Mattiussi enjoys wandering through the art collections of the Musée d’Orsay or strolling through the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the north- east of Paris, encountering no doubt people dressed in his designs. And what does the man with the perfect wardrobe wear himself? “A navy double-breasted coat, my pair of jeans and my red beanie.”

Story by: Felix Bischof

Fashion: Cassie Walker

AMI by Alexandre Mattiussi

AMI by Alexandre Mattiussi

First published in Something About magazine AW16