photography by OLIVIER ZAHM
interview with ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI
models ANDREA CARRAZCO and ALEPH MOLINARI
according to the huichol people, the sun made its first appearance in the sacred region of wirikuta in the mountains of northern mexico.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So, for those who don’t know the story of Ami… Is it a personal matter?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — It’s a personal matter, and, astonishingly, it is more and more so. I wake up in the morning happy and proud to be finally succeeding. I have the impression that it’s something to do with the way the planets are aligned and all the choices I’ve had to make over the last 40 years are converging. Success consists simply in the will to make my dreams come true and to do it, today, with a lot of serenity.
OLIVIER ZAHM — A quote from Jacques Brel says that adults spend their lives running after their shattered childhood dreams, and that is what creating is about.
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — Yes, I know that one! I even quote it myself. But I don’t feel shattered. Maybe I am, subconsciously, but there was nothing tragic about my childhood, and everything I do today comes easily to me. I am guided by one single thing, which is desire, burning desire.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Were you already interested in fashion as a child?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — I was a dancer when I was a child. I discovered classical dance on TV when I was four, in 1984. The image quality wasn’t great, but I understood very well that what was happening on the little screen was marvelous! And I said to my mother, “I want to do that.” She said, “Okay, we’ll ask your father tonight.” When he got back, my father said, without a moment’s hesitation, “Yes, my son.” Much later I understood that he said that only because he had been told, “No.” They had shattered his dream of being a photographer, and there was no way he was going to shatter his own child’s. So, from the age of four to 14 years, all I could think about was dancing and listening to classical music. I was in my little conservatoire in the provinces in Gisors, in the Eure department of France. I was the Billy Elliot of the village. I ran around in my tights and tutu in front of the village church. My parents were supportive. I worked on my shows on Sundays after the family meal, with sheets hanging from the clothesline in the garden. I put on Mozart, danced for half an hour, waited for the applause, and went back to my room.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You called your brand Ami, French for “friend.” Does your brand still embody this desire for connection and friendship?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — Exactly. It’s the A for Alexandre, the M for Mattiussi, and the final I from my surname. I realized when I was very young that if I cut out the letters from the middle, it spelled “AMI.” It’s funny because at the time I wasn’t thinking about becoming a designer, but I sensed there was something I could do with this name. I’ve always thought that there’s no such thing as chance. My parents certainly didn’t decide to name their child with the idea that one day he would make it into an anagram and that it would help give meaning to his professional life. But in calling my brand Ami, I immediately understood that it suited me. It’s a perfume that clings to me. You see, everything in life counts: the first name you give your child, the gaze you bring to bear at a given moment in your own life, the choices you make with the people around you, with your friends, your family … I am well aware that you need to be kind, gentle, and attentive, and to harness the energies around you so that you can make your dreams come true, but without opportunism, without aggression, without trying to con people.
OLIVIER ZAHM — How do you manage to translate this connectivity into your clothes?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — My method is that I always relate everything to myself a bit, but not in a narcissistic or egocentric way. The point is to be sure that my judgment is right — the only one that maybe has to do with the truth. It’s important to tell yourself that in that moment — when I make creative choices — I am fully aware and know exactly why I’m making them and what is guiding me. It’s my private, personal vision, and it’s not complicated. Sometimes it can be complex, but it’s never complicated because, once again, it’s nourished by intuition and desire. And it evolves over time. It integrates fault lines, too.
OLIVIER ZAHM — The paradox of your work is that on one side you have to be able to establish a brand, and on the other you have to ensure that your brand remains a kind of non-brand, totally personal.
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — The thing that really freaked me out when I was at Givenchy is when I was asked, “Well, Alexandre, what’s the theme?” And I answered that there was no theme. We were talking about trousers, a man’s shirt, a nice sweater, and a jacket. People often said to me, “Alexandre, I won’t be able to sell your jacket, your trousers, your shirt … if you don’t tell me a story behind it.” That was a good lesson, actually. Later, in fact, when I started showing Ami, in the world we were living in 10 years ago, I knew we had to talk about a little extra something. And the only thing I had to say that was valid and credible for me was my story. So, I strongly connected myself to everything I was doing. There’s no way I can hide by talking about “inspirations” or using “themes.” That doesn’t work, so I have to relate everything to my history. That is why I love this sweater, this garment, this collection. It’s why I want it for me, but also why I want to see lots of people wearing it. I make collections that are very generous, in the sense that they’re accessible, democratic, open. I think you can show my sweater to 200 people, and there are some who will say, “I like it” or “I don’t like it,” but it should suit a lot of people even so, without having the impression that it’s being imposed on you for the wrong reasons, because it’s hip, because it’s the fashion. I like to think that when guys buy an Ami shirt, they say to themselves, “Ah, my shirt, I love it,” or “I feel good in it,” “It suits me,” “I love the material, I love the color, it’s good quality, and what’s more, it’s not wildly expensive.”
OLIVIER ZAHM — What’s your secret for not lapsing into a marketing formula?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — Never force it. The brand must stay true, stay alive. It’s the same with my logo, it’s the letter A with a heart, it’s the way I signed my drawings as a child. It has now become a very powerful brand signature, but it’s still very personal. And Jean-Paul Goude came along at that moment to celebrate this logo and put it into images with the rooftops of Paris. That’s my inner child’s soul. I don’t have a marketing strategy. If there was one, we’d no longer be here today. We’d soon have become boring, and we’d have bugged people. People would quickly have lost interest in our story.
OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s also because Ami carries a very Parisian image.
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — I really like this postcard idea of my brand, as I’ve always had the impression that I’m a tourist in Paris. I still wander around Paris discovering unknown places, taking one-way roads and little streets on my scooter. I still have that curiosity. Also, the year we have just lived through has created an enormous frustration in me because it’s the year when I wanted to drive all over Paris.
OLIVIER ZAHM—What have you gotten out of this period of Covid, this forced hiatus lasting nearly a year?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — This pause allowed me to dream again. That gives you incredible energy. Out of that moment comes something pretty amazing in terms of creativity — culturally and sexually, too.
OLIVIER ZAHM — For me, taking photos of your winter collection in the desert, in hostile, arid, uncomfortable conditions, in this magical place, surrounded by plants that are exemplars of survival, is a way of saying that with fashion you have to cross the social desert and rediscover essential values that inspire us. I have the impression that we’ve discovered the social desert, how empty cities were, with populations under surveillance, people who are scared, as if the desert had overtaken us. But, at the same time, the real desert is nature, and it’s an incredible source of beauty. It’s like minimal art, it’s essential.
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — Yes, and there is room for something else at those moments. There’s no showing off. You are not distracted by anything other than the place, and there, that speaks to the magma, to the cosmos, to the universe. That can fill you with extraordinary things.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Are there any designers, from the time of Courrèges to now, who have been references for you?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — Yes and no. If I go back to the moment when fashion started expressing things that touched me, it would be Jean Paul Gaultier. I thought, “Holy fuck, this guy is telling a story. He seems free. He invents things and constructs a universe around him.” I totally get it. And then, after that, when I was 20, it was Hedi Slimane who excited me for his storytelling, being impeccable, his surgical precision. And then Azzedine Alaïa for other reasons.
OLIVIER ZAHM — What do you do to keep success from taking over?
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — I told everyone around me—my investors, bankers, people — that this brand will live only to the rhythm of my heartbeat. My heart beats 120 beats a minute, sometimes a bit faster, but it also needs to be able to calm down, so I don’t want to overdose on fashion. I don’t want an overdose of success. My father, a cabinet maker in the provinces, always said to me, “Alexandre, whatever happens, you need nothing more than breakfast in the morning, lunch at midday, dinner in the evening, with a roof to sleep under, heating, and a bit of water to wash with.” Those are the essential things.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Exactly. That brings us back to the desert. It’s also an image of a tabula rasa, a new start. Of ecology, too.
ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI — Yes, you have to find other solutions. We have a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility. We’ve been working on it for two years. We have already changed a lot of things. We haven’t finalized anything yet, but we’re trying things out. We’re in the process of putting things in place. Today, I produce nearly two million pieces a year, which is not neutral. We know how much water and energy cotton consumes. So, when 40% to 45% of our turnover is in cotton, I switch to organic cotton. These are little things, but there’s a new generation that is very demanding about these things, and it’s driving me to innovate. I always work on the principle that a brand gets old when it stops asking itself questions. A brand that gets old is a brand that keeps only the designer’s ego, the narcissism, when you see yourself as the one and only reference point for everything. I’m surrounded by young people, and I’m already thinking of the children of those children. You always have to take in all the angles.
[Table of contents]
editoRead the article
cover #1 robert navaRead the article
mexico’s psychedelic renaissance
by Daniel Pinchbeck
all about corn
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paloma contreras lomas
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cover #2 paloma contreras lomasRead the article
fragments of mexican historyRead the article
best of the season f/w 2021-22
by Olivier Zahm and Ada Navarro
cover #3 bottega venetaRead the article
mezcal museRead the article
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by Samantha Ozer
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by Dorian López
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cover #6 josef albersRead the article
chanel f/w 2021-22
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cover #7 chanel f/w 2021-22Read the article
cover #8 fendi f/w 2021-22Read the article
the balance of improbabilitiesRead the article
manuel álvarez bravoRead the article
by Olivier Zahm
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tezontleRead the article
fendi f/w 2021-22Read the article
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angelRead the article
bárbara sánchez-kaneRead the article
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sacred peyoteRead the article
antonin artaud in mexicoRead the article
the peyote danceRead the article
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cover #11 louis vuitton f/w 2021-22Read the article
miu miu f/w 2021-22Read the article
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cover #13 dior cruise 2022Read the article
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