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02 Alexandre Mattiussi: “The growth of AMI was exponential, and I didn’t want to miss out on my story”

Alexandre Mattiussi: “The growth of AMI was exponential, and I didn’t want to miss out on my story”

Fashion

In the name of friendship, symbolized by a gigantic red heart that charmed the cool kids from all over the globe, Alexandre Mattiussi embarked on a phenomenal success story. Although his brand AMI knows a tremendous growth now, nothing has changed since he first started his project in 2011. This passionate designer stays in charge of his own narrative.

Double-breasted new wool coat, denim pants and hat, AMI ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI. Earring and rings, CARTIER. Vintage tank top. © Pierre et Gilles, De l’autre côté des docks, Alexandre Mattiussi (2022). Hairstyle and makeup: Louise Garnier from Marie-France Thavonekham Agency using N°1 DE CHANEL cosmetics.
Double-breasted new wool coat, denim pants and hat, AMI ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI. Earring and rings, CARTIER. Vintage tank top. © Pierre et Gilles, De l’autre côté des docks, Alexandre Mattiussi (2022). Hairstyle and makeup: Louise Garnier from Marie-France Thavonekham Agency using N°1 DE CHANEL cosmetics.
Double-breasted new wool coat, denim pants and hat, AMI ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI. Earring and rings, CARTIER. Vintage tank top. © Pierre et Gilles, De l’autre côté des docks, Alexandre Mattiussi (2022). Hairstyle and makeup: Louise Garnier from Marie-France Thavonekham Agency using N°1 DE CHANEL cosmetics.

In North-East Paris near Pantin, the metro station Hoche on line 5 would be the closest stop next to the studio of photographers Pierre et Gilles, who captured Alexander Mattiussi for this new issue of Numéro Homme. Unfortunately, by this end of January, Isabelle Huppert is no longer here to show us the right direction. It has been two weeks since the French actress, along with Carla Bruni and Pierre Niney, played the roles of agents from the Parisian public transportation company RATP to promote AMI Fall/Winter 2022-2023 show, staged in a public transport setting, on the brand’s Instagram. “The metro is the last place where you can find a crowd of various people […] I like this melting pot, the diversity existing in public transport, while everything seems to be divided between the left or the right banks, which are clearly delimited elsewhere in Paris”, the designer explains. However, this popular mix was somehow outshined by the show taking place at the Palais de la Bourse on January 19th. One could spot Catherine Deneuve – ambassador of the “Déjà-Vu” bag since last fall – intending one of the label’s shows for the first time. The three interprets of the fake RATP voice announcements sat in the front row, along with Eddy de Pretto, Louane, Caroline de Maigret, Jean-Paul Goude, Farida Khelfa, Théo Christine, Miguel Herrán and Jonathan Bailey, while Ben Attal, Laetitia Casta and Isabelle Adjani walked on the runway… an outstanding, almost unbelievable audience for a menswear label that doesn’t rely on any luxury multinational corporation. An achievement that calls for admiration and triggers even more questions about the success of Alexandre Mattiussi and of his brand AMI.

 

 

At the metro station Hoche exit, another poster advertising the upcoming show gives us another hint that this small company isn’t going through any crisis. “We have multiplied our [undisclosed] turnover by four over the last two years”, he confesses during our interview. Nicolas Santi-Weil, who has been working with him as AMI chief executive and main business partner for almost nine years, will not dispute that fact. In January 2021, the duo welcomed Sequoia Capital China as their shareholder. Up until now, the Beijing-based venture capital company used to invest mainly in new technologies, with over 600 companies, including Airbnb, JD.com and Alibaba in their portfolio. This association provides exceptional means to the French brand, and allows Alexandre Mattiussi to pursue his dreams, he, who has always “seen the big picture” as a kid. “Actually, I am determined to pursue all of my dreams”, he states without blushing, before adding: “I worked a lot on myself over the past few years… the growth of AMI was exponential, and I didn’t want to miss out on my story or wake up one day unable to recognize myself in my own company because I took too much distance, was tired or surrounded myself with people making decisions for me. I had this project in mind for a long time. I switched on the machine myself, and eleven years later, I still care about keeping my own two hands on the wheel to materialize my dreams… Calling on Catherine Deneuve was one of them. Collaborating with photographer Paolo Roversi, and more recently with Jean-Paul Goude for an advert campaign, was another one. And when the latter told me that we wouldn’t need a model because I was the ideal character for his staging, I didn’t say no. At this point, I think I have to enjoy myself first and if it feels good to me, then it will feel the same for people behind their screen or shopping around. AMI booms everywhere, but at the end of the day I remain the one who sleeps, dreams, wakes up full of ideas, meets new people and imagines his evolution through his own lens. I love to say that AMI lives to the beat of my heart.”

AMI Fall/Winter 2022-2023 show.

The growth of AMI was exponential, and I didn’t want to miss out on my story or wake up one day unable to recognize myself in my own company because I took too much distance.”

 

Today, AMI Paris has nearly 300 employees working on four different sites. Due to the pandemic and multiple lockdowns, its activity and its size have increased as a result. By the end of the year, they will all reunite in one main building – still under construction – at 9 Place des Victoires in the 2nd arrondissement. The future headquarters will be located a few steps away from the cafe in Rue Croix-des-Petits Champs where the brand made his debut show with a bunch of models gathered around the counter, like friends meeting for afterwork drinks one evening in January 2011. A couple of weeks earlier, in a showroom near Les Halles, Alexandre Mattiussi shared his desire to dress his own friends, their respective friends, and any man in general who might be interested in fashion without making a fuss about it. His pitch was on point. According to him, not a single guy could identify to the silhouettes on the runways. In addition to that, these models were expensive, and their quality hadn’t always been proved…

 

The thirty-year-old designer mastered his topic and came up with a market study, a business plan, a selection of manufacturers, and a collection outline ready to back up his vision. “In 2022, AMI matches in every aspect the project Alexandre presented to me before launching his brand”, Jean-Jacques Picart states, as he used to mentor large firms and young designers at the time. “I was struck by the precision of his pitch. Usually, people who aimed at starting up a project came with a dream whose core only was perfectly clear and defined. In Alexandre’s case, he thought everything through beforehand. He had even drawn hanging rails for the showroom”. Claus Estermann also adds that “the thickness of his dossier impressed our entire circle of friends. Alexandre talked with conviction, clarity, and concision, like only he knows how… It went down like a treat for the business angels.”. As for the rest of the story, the designer with a genuine business instinct tells it better than anyone else: “I always envisioned AMI as something big. I valued my brand at about one million euros from the very start. When my relatives would ask me where I got this number from, I would argue that investors gave me 5,000, 10,000, even 50,000 euros, and that I didn’t give them more than 10% of the capital share. It is important to remain one’s own boss, to have good working conditions, to be able to have a long-term vision, to be free and to avoid owing anyone an explanation”.

 

 

AMI Spring/Summer 2021 show

With no further delay, Alexandre Mattiussi bluffed his nine business angels in signing several exclusivity agreements in his first season with Le Bon Marché and Le Printemps France, as well as with Barneys in the United States and with the British e-shop Mr Porter. Among them, a friend of Nicolas Santi-Weil recommended the latter to take a look at the brand, while he was leading the gigantic growth of The Kooples in 2012. “I went to a department store during my lunch break and had a genuine encounter with the brand”, AMI current chief executive recalls, before adding: “The cut of the clothes were well-made, the quality and price range were coherent. And the sales assistant was all smiles, not snobbish at all… I cleaned out the shop and went back to the office telling everyone ‘Look at AMI, he gets it!”. At that time, the label sticked with easy-going presentations, thus reinforcing its initial intention to be an accessible brand for the ‘boy next door’. In January 2013, Alexandre Mattiussi (already) imagined the Parisian metro background of his fifth collection to address the issue of diversity. Brice Compagnon, who made his debuts with photographer Olivier Toscani on Benetton’s campaigns before launching CastingOffice in Paris in 2001, remembers: “When we would meet a guy who could be friend with Alexandre, he would select him for the presentation, whether he was small or tall”.

 

Presenting his clothes on different body types mattered to him, as opposed to the stereotypical and standardized runway models found in other fashion houses. There was a certain pleasantness in his approach that made me think he could succeed in Paris, as well as in the provinces, and even abroad.

 

As a closing act for that presentation, Alexandre Mattiussi asked Benjamin Clementine to sing Emmenez-moi [Take Me Along] – an appropriate song given that the designer met Nicolas Santi-Weil a few days earlier and invited him to his event. Mattiussi and Santi-Weil found some common ground before the summer in 2013. They both complement each other, are passionate, ambitious, and form a solid professional duo… Something rare in the fashion industry. During that same year, Bpifrance invested in AMI Paris through the Fashion & Finance fund. It would later be replaced by NEO Investment Partners, then by Sequoia Capital China in January 2021. Nicolas Santi-Weil, who also injected some of his money into the project, now works on the marketing aspect of the brand, a field in which creatives usually fail. “I was convinced that Alexandre’s universal message would work anywhere”, the chief executive explains. “The guy had the casual style one could see on every street corner. It was a concept with a promising future anywhere, from Paris, to Tokyo, Seoul, or New York. We made sure not to depend on any specific market or distribution channel. We built a qualified network of international outlets, and parallel to that, we developed our own website. Then, we saw the bigger picture, we issued an invitation to tender. At the same time, the platform Farfetch announced the creation of individual websites for fashion houses. We were the first brand to sign with them and this partnership quickly became a beautiful story, a win-win collaboration that allowed us to improve ourselves one day at a time, to get fast updates about their investments on a new market, to have a regular cash flow…

AMI Fall/Winter 2021-2022 anniversary show.

Parallel to this flourishing e-shop without borders, AMI has opened new shops in strategic cities with a total of 20 shops today. The brand has given womenswear a successful try – a field which grows even faster than menswear – signed several short-term collaborations with other brands such as Puma in 2022, and started communicating through a variety of channels, materials, and images. Which Parisian haven’t spotted the gigantic adverts on the walls of the Louvres last fall? Or the “Ami de Coeur” [boyfriend or girlfriend] decorations on the Christmas tree in front of the Centre Pompidou at the end of last year? Or else, the metro stations underneath the Champs-Elysées painted in the brand’s colors and equipped with plasma screens to broadcast the next Fall/Winter show for an entire week last January 2022? “I love fashion for all”, Alexandre Mattiussi claims. “On my way to Pierre and Gilles’, a guy driving a scooter recognized me. He opened his jacket in a hurry to show me that he was wearing one of my tee-shirts… Nothing makes me feel better than seeing my clothes on people in the street. I am constantly proud of the fact that AMI’s success is organic, genuine, and grounded, especially at a time when everything is digital. I will keep following this direction. Aside from that, I am also thinking about creating foundation. I will not reinvent myself as a Coluche of some sort, but there is a lot to do at a local scale – for instance, helping the homeless we run into everywhere in Paris”. A big-hearted man on top of that.