WORDS BY ALEXANDRE MATTIUSSI + PHOTOGRAPHED BY PAULO MEIXEDO IN PARIS + MAKE UP BY METHTA GONTHIER
“Everything has changed for the past 7 years because we’ve gone from an idea to an international business; but at the same time nothing has changed from how I envisaged it. I really had a clear vision of what I wanted to do with Ami from the start and I feel like we are still very much going in that same direction. I have actual proof in fact! When I started the company, I made a brand book, putting all my ideas about the product, brand, image, boutique design etc. onto paper in a tangible way. I look at it now and it’s still very representative of the brand today. The most important moment of my caeer? I would say the first was when the idea of AMI was born: I was in the midst of designing a €2,000 sweater at one of the big fashion houses where I was working, and I stopped and thought ‘O.K., I can never afford the sweater I just designed.’ I loved the clothes, but I just couldn’t connect with them anymore. And that was really a eureka moment for me, and the start of the AMI brand. The second defining moment would have to be when I received the news I had won the Andam award, a very esteemed fashion prize in France. Like with all life changing moments, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I got the news. Apart from the networks and opportunities it opened up to me, the cash prize allowed me to put on my first runway show.
Ami is Paris. It is always a source of inspiration. Because I live here, and I grew up here since my adolescence. So the city naturally influences my collections. Paris is a city where so much happens in the streets. People walk everywhere, they eat and drink on terraces, there is always life in the streets.
This collection turns around that theme: it’s a wardrobe for guys I see in the street who I want to dress. Each of the collections naturally takes off where the previous one ended, it’s a continuous journey, revisiting familiar elements and incorporating new details inspired by new stories, taken from real life. In this sense I always take a very pragmatic approach to designing: a cool suit, a shirt, a stylish pair of pants. It has to be wearable. My female friends started wearing Ami early on, which led to girls coming in to shop too. They weren’t looking for womenswear – they were specifically looking for menswear pieces. It was very exciting to hear that girls, who have such a phenomenal choice of options with all these brands around, would came to Ami in order to find something different and specific; may it be a fabric, a style or a silhouette. In response to an increasing number of these female clients, we presented our first Menswear for Women collection at our Autumn Winter 2018 show. The styles are a declination of men’s looks, adapted and adjusted with female clientele in mind. We’ve just launched it during September 2018 exclusively in one point of sale worldwide: our Ami boutique at 22 rue de Grenelle on Paris’ left bank. I wanted to keep it really small and protected: in order to really understand who the Ami women is before expanding too quickly. We will definitely continue to collaborate with other brands. The next projects are in the pipeline!
Our collaborations are always born when there is a really natural fit between the two brands.
I like doing them because from a creative standpoint it’s an interesting challenge as a designer to combine two brand universes in one product. And from a commercial standpoint it allows us to have new launches and products mid-season. You also get to meet great people, have new experiences and yes, to open the brand up to new audiences. How do you I see AMI in 10 years? World domination! (Joking). I’m conscious about keeping the brand a ‘human’ size. I work closely every day with my teams, we joke around a lot, we have fun. Keeping this atmosphere and work ethic is very important to me. So the intention is not to evolve into a giant powerhouse. I don’t think that’s what our clients want that either – they like the proximity of the brand, that personal touch and knowing that there isn’t an Ami store on every corner. At the same time, there is a still lot to be done to bring our message and product to people without reaching that saturated stage. I do hope to expand to exciting and far away places! In terms of new stores we are eyeing Asia and the US at this point. I’ll be able to share some exciting news soon – but not just yet! We’re definitely not in a mindset of racing to open the most stores in the least time possible though. We are lucky to have a network of fantastic existing stores that we want to continually optimise and invest in. Our first ever boutique in the Marais in Paris is about to re-open after renovations in summer. We’ve also just renovated our boutique on rue de Grenelle on Paris’ left bank to house the new Menswear for Women collection. We’ve already seen a totally different clientele come through the door so that’s very exciting. Our online store is integral to our brand strategy: we opened up e-commerce to an international audience in 2016 and the response has been amazing. We’ve realized that the brand awareness reaches far beyond our core markets so we are investing in developing our online store to cater to those customers.”