As the founder of Parisian label Ami, Alexandre Mattiussi has been heralded as the saviour of laid-back menswear. But for the 35 year old designer, it’s all about keeping his feet on the ground. Reyhaan Day chats to him on the opening day of his new Duke Street store.
Who do you have in mind when designing Ami’s collections?
“When I first started the brand, it was just about dressing myself. I felt that the clothes I wanted to wear weren’t available. I wanted to create a wardrobe for a real guy – a guy like you, a guy like me, someone you know; a friend or boyfriend. The guy I wanted to dress was around us. Sometimes with fashion, you feel that the shows and high luxury designers are a little disconnected from reality. I used to work for big brands like Givenchy and Marc Jacobs, but for me, it was completely unaffordable and hard to connect with. Ami is for guys that want to dress themselves in a nice way, but at a certain level of price, which is important. We have a special aesthetic: easy, cool and sophisticated – but not pretentious.”
What is ‘style’ to you?
“The clothes don’t mean everything; I think the way you wear them, the way you mix them and the way you put yourself in them makes a real difference. But ultimately, I believe in personalities. The guys I meet, it’s always about being charming, funny, clever, intelligent; and this is all that matters in the end. I don’t judge anyone based on the way they dress – we all respond in a different way to clothing. I think style is about being yourself, having a kind of self-confidence and believing in what you wear.”
Where do you think menswear has come from – and where do you see it going?
“The idea of buying clothes used to be different. I was born and raised in the French countryside; then I arrived in Paris to study fashion, and the only way to find clothes at an affordable price was to buy vintage pieces at flea markets. Then H&M and Zara came in, trying to find a solution for people like me. Now I think there is a big opportunity; we only arrived five years ago, but we got into the market at the right moment. Over the last decade, there has been an issue with menswear. Firstly, in terms of business, it was a good opportunity for big brands to develop the business through a menswear collection. But I think the internet has changed a lot of things over the last 10 years, mainly because of social media. We now have the capacity to understand fashion in a more attractive way. It’s now more about how you communicate your own style and your own personality. People can create their own story through tools like Instagram and Twitter.”
Why did you choose to open your London flagship in Mayfair?
“This was the first place we were contacted about visiting. I completely fell in love with it – I could really imagine ourselves in this space. The opportunity was amazing in terms of district and location; but I would say that Mayfair chose me, more than me choosing Mayfair. It’s how you meet, you know? I really believe in… not destiny… but coincidence. It was the right place and the right time. It’s like when you meet someone – you just can’t explain. That’s exactly what happened for us here.”
What are you inspired by?
“My inspiration comes from the way I’m connected with reality. I don’t have a boat; I have celebrity friends, but we do normal things – we eat pizzas and drink beers while watching the football; the real life of a 35 year old guy in Paris, having the chance to do this crazy job. I try not to observe fashion too much – you have to breathe. I watch a lot of movies, I like art, I listen to music. When I’m off, I spend time with friends and family just doing normal things. That’s the best way to disconnect. I always feel like I’m in the industry, but also apart from it. I don’t intellectualise fashion, so in that way I’m not the kind of designer that wants to create a concept. I really believe in clothing and I believe in people. I’m not going to revolutionise a chino or a jacket; I respect the heritage of the pieces, and I try and create a wardrobe that I feel is good for me and my friends. It’s just a proposition – it’s not about being a dictator. I just try to believe in what I do.”
Where would you like to see Ami in the next few years?
“We have plans, for sure, because we have to build a strategy in a way; but we don’t call it a ‘strategy’. We see what happens – we have opportunities, we say yes, we say no – we just feel things. You have to feel your heart beating with each decision. I’m really sensitive and really intuitive, and I’m very emotional in the way that I don’t want to put 300 Ami stores across the world – I want to keep it at a human scale. We’re learning day after day. I always say that I haven’t designed my best collection yet. I think the best is for the future, so I’m very positive and optimistic about that. But for now, this store represents something very important for me and for us as a company. To open a store is a challenge for a young brand because it’s a big investment; but it’s also the best way to help people understand who we are and what we want to do.”
75 Duke Street