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Two days later, we are in Mattiussi’s new, much expanded showroom on the Rue des Arquebusiers in Paris’ fourth arrondissement, around the corner from his year-old store. Upstairs, his office is still stacked with moving boxes waiting to be unpacked. The move has coincided with the coming of the season, and there’s been no time.
The showroom is abuzz with activity, and Mattiussi says he’s had more than two hundred requests for appointments—up from around a hundred last season. Press has been warm from the beginning, and so has retail support. Ami currently has 167 stockists worldwide, including Barneys, Selfridges, 10 Corso Como, and Beams.
The collection this season is boiled down to essentials even more than before. Previously, Ami had been experimenting with wilder options—an allover print of birds had briefly become a street-style favorite—but a new gig consulting for the high-end Swiss label Bally forced Mattiussi to focus his energies on making only what was absolutely needed. A recurring motif of polka dots—printed, woven into jacquards, or burned out on velvet—was the most graphic aspect of the new collection. Otherwise, it skewed toward the most hardy of standards: a trenchcoat in mackintosh fabrics, slim suiting and unstructured blazers, a new skinny jean, and thick-gauge sweaters with matching scarves. The furthest foray into runway fashion was a blazing red suit. It may seem like a tall order for many men, but Mattiussi explained that he and his stylist, Darcy Backlar, consult with their models to get a real-guy perspective. “I said, ‘Can you deal with it?’ ” he asked model Adonis Bosso. “He said, ‘I’m taking care of it. Don’t worry.’ So I felt very, very happy about this.”
Part of the commercial appeal of the collection is due to its easy style, and another part to its price point. Ami is what the industry calls “contemporary”: shirts and sweaters retail for around $200, tailored jackets for around $800. The lower price is accomplished by producing garments outside of Italy and France, where many of Ami’s designer competitors produce their wares. “I always say there is not so many ways to a shirt,” Mattiussi shrugs. “A shirt is one, two, three seams and the collar and the buttons.” He experimented with Portugal, Tunisia, Italy, France, and Romania before settling on Romania, which has delivered a balance between price and quality that he’s comfortable with.
“It feels important to keep the price point, because this is part of the success of the brand,” Mattiussi says. “I wouldn’t be here today if I did a very high-end, luxurious brand.” (He is quick to point out that the fabrics he uses are, in many cases, the same as those of his competitors; it is the production, and often the margins charged, that differentiates his label.)
Whatever hackles may be raised, all indicators, from the bustling showroom to the new offices to the well-attended show, are of success. Wholesale sales were up 87 percent from last season, and a second Ami store, on Paris’ Left Bank, is set to open in the spring. He’s been approached by corporations and labels looking to sign him and his company, but, with the exception of Bally, which he will consult on for two seasons, he hasn’t taken the bait yet.
“I have an ambition for Ami,” he says. “I don’t want it to be a small French brand. Because I’m generous, I want to share this dream with as many people as possible.”
Walking around the showroom, he enthuses about the collection with a laugh, ticking off everything he likes: a jacket, a pochette, a sneaker emblazoned with his logo—a new development. Does it signal a new willingness to claim his title?
“The word is cool,” Mattiussi says. “Ami is not a bad word.”