Sensual and elegant are two descriptors upon which Joseph Altuzarra has built his enviable ready-to-wear and accessories empire. As well known for his high-slit dresses as he is for his Ghianda saddle bags, the designer possesses a magic that comes from exploring the classic, romantic aesthetic as well as a more provocative one. In his new Play bag, he brings these worlds together. “The bag evokes the two sides of the Altuzarra woman’s identity,” he says. “It speaks to the public persona—classic and timeless—and the hidden alter ego that’s darker and undone.”
The striking style took Altuzarra two years to create from concept to production. “The mix of materials and hardware that is inspired by the sensuality of Mapplethorpe images, and also the unique take on the classic hobo shape, took many seasons to perfect,” he says.
Available in small and large sizes, and in multiple neutral colorways, the Play bag features a grained leather exterior and a soft suede interior. The substantial top handle can be adjusted in length for multiple styling options.
In true Altuzarra fashion, the Play bag contrasts its soft, feminine silhouette with gold metal buckle embellishments resembling bondage straps that cinch the sides and bottom together. The juxtaposition is meant to be playful—in a provocative sense—leading to the style’s name. It feels modern in some ways, traditional in others, and above all else reflects the high quality of production the brand is known for. “The intention was that this bag should be timeless and transcend seasonality,” the designer says, explaining he wanted to find a balance between practical and edgy in its aesthetic. “It is an evolution of the Altuzarra handbag category, but a rethink in terms of approach.”
While the designer conceives his ready-to-wear and bag collections independently of one another, there are always cross-references. “The Altuzarra woman who carries this bag and wears our clothes is the same woman—she is confident in her own skin, and she is not afraid to be playful in her approach to dressing,” he explains. “Throughout the process, I was thinking about how the Altuzarra woman would carry this bag and incorporate it into her wardrobe: Would it be held in the crook of her arm or used as a crossbody? That was always a through line in coming up with the design.”
The brand’s traveling display of the Play bag showcases the accessory against simple backdrops and hoisted in midair by silk scarves and an industrial steel piping structure. Each still life is paired with strong, sensual images of nude women holding the bags, photographed by Ethan James Green. These images are recreated as part of an installation and trunk show celebrating the bag’s launch, available at the Madison Avenue store until April 28. Sensual, confident, modern, provocative. Luxurious. Whatever Altuzarra calls it, we want it now.
Now means NOW: Altuzarra’s Play bag is available now through April 28 at the Madison Avenue store, and online at barneys.com until May 1 only.