In an industry that generally promotes exclusivity and aspiration, Ami stands out as one brand that – quite frankly – does exactly the opposite. It's not just for the trend follower, but also for someone with a tentative relationship with fashion or who likes to stick a uniform line-up of wardrobe basics. Ami is for all of the above (and everybody else, too).
It is this endeavour to dress men from all different walks of life that founder and artistic director Alexandre Mattiussi always wants to exist at the heart of the Ami brand. Mattiussi is known to design not only with his friends and family in mind, but also people he sees on the street, and he has previously carried out street-casting for his runway models. In an interview with British GQ, Mattiussi said: “I do this job for only one reason: to see my collection on people... to show a collection for an everyday man who loves clothes without being a fashion victim.”
But what is it that gives Ami this universal appeal? Sitting comfortably at the crossroads between seasonal trends and timeless style, its collections blur the boundaries of casual and elegant, and are imbued with a Parisian nonchalance that attracts everyone. Think white button-down shirts, checked overcoats, chunky knitwear and logo-appliquéd sweatshirts – essentially, the kind of pieces with serious sartorial shelf life that make you ask yourself: why don't I already have that?
A Parisian at heart, Mattiussi grew up in Normandy and was hired to work at Dior at 24 years old, under the direction of Hedi Slimane. Ami was the first menswear house to win the renowned Andam award, with previous winners including Anthony Vaccarello, Giles Deacon and Gareth Pugh. It has also previously collaborated with the likes of Moncler, Eastpak and, this season, K-Way.
From Monday 22nd October, Ami will be setting up shop at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, so come and say salut and shop the new collection in the Project 109 space, which has been designed to recreate the rooftop setting of Ami's Autumn/Winter 2018 runway show. Plus, you'll receive a branded cotton tote bag with all Ami purchases (while stocks last). Ahead of the pop-up launch, we sat down with the man behind the brand.
What inspired you to start Ami and did you have a goal in mind for the brand?
I was in the midst of designing a €2,000 (£1,750) sweater at one of the big fashion houses where I was working and I stopped and thought, “OK, 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.
We started small, but with a clear idea of what we wanted to do: real clothes, for real people. I wanted to bring a luxurious feeling into something more accessible, more authentic. Ami offers everyday menswear that can be worn by everyone. It’s simple, but it is an appealing proposition.
How would you describe Ami in three words?
Natural. Stylish. Sincere.
Dress like the man himself with Alexandre Mattiussi's favourites from the new season collection.
And how would you describe the person who wears Ami?
He is myself, my friend, the guy I see walking in the street. Ami offers everyday menswear that can be worn by all types of guys. The Ami guy appreciates and embraces positivity, with a natural and effortless elegance. His style is honest and genuine, never forced or exaggerated.
Why is the concept of friends and family so important to you and the brand?
The word Ami is constructed from the initials and last letter of my name, but it also means ‘friend’ in French. This is a genuine value of the brand and also of my life: my friends are very important to me – I often say they are my ‘F.ami.ly’. I started the brand out of a desire to dress my friends and the people I saw around me. It is the purpose behind what I do.
You debuted the ‘Menswear for Women’ line during the Autumn/Winter 2018 show. What inspired you to create a line for female customers?
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 that be a fabric, a style or a silhouette.
So, it was in response to this increasing number of female clients that we decided to launch a Menswear for Women collection. The styles are adapted and adjusted from men’s looks with female clientele in mind. We launched it exclusively in one point-of-sale worldwide in September: 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.
The always cool and effortlessly laid-back essentials that struck a cord with editors and buyers.
You had creative stints at Givenchy, Dior Homme and Marc Jacobs. What did you learn during your time at these houses that you have maintained in your own brand?
Those years were indeed very formative. There was obviously a lot of emphasis placed on the quality of the garment in those luxury houses, which I brought over to my own brand. At Givenchy, I also had the opportunity to participate in a lot of things outside of design: I would go to meetings about marketing, production, supply… all that knowledge was critical when I started my own brand.
What does the average day look like for you and your team?
I am both the artistic director and the president of my company – a double role that I really love. I create and design every day with our studio, and I also take decisions about the business with our chief executive. It all sounds very serious, but I like to hear laughter coming from the office. If it’s too quiet, I go in and shake things up. I’m really proud of the culture we’ve created here at Ami.
Shop the signature pieces including the red beanie that has become part of Alexandre's own personal branding.
What's your go-to outfit?
I keep my style simple: a white T-shirt, jeans or chic carrot-fit pants and a pair of sneakers. I’ve spent a very long time perfecting these wardrobe basics and they work. And once something works I tend to stick to it. I actually still wear the sample of the first pair of jeans we ever made for Ami. Every time I wear them, I feel something special. It is like a link between now and the beginning of the launch of the brand. I also like to mix in some vintage pieces from time to time.
Are there any style mantras you try to live by?
Being elegant by being natural.
If we were meeting for a drink and a bite to eat in Paris, where would you take us and why?
Le Petit Célestin bistro near the Ami office for a long lunch in the sun. It’s French, it’s simple, it’s good food. Voilà.
What is most remarkable about Ami is that it manages to bring together themes such as preppy, cool and Parisian, but in a way that doesn't alienate any person or style tribe. Speaking to Out magazine, Mattiussi explains: “As a gay man, I like to send out an image of a man who is masculine, without creating a divide between homos and heteros... I like the idea of Ami being for the dad who picks up his kids from school, or for the young man who goes out to buy croissants for his boyfriend on a Sunday morning. To me, Ami is about real life.” And who are we to argue with that?
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