Berluti’d: to be enamoured by the luxury and intricacy of a brand famed for its shoes, now applying its eye for detail and craftsmanship to mens’ ready-to-wear.
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Alessandro Sartori is the Creative Director taking ‘boys and their toys’ to another dimension through his work on Berluti’s debut clothing collection. When i-D online met Alessandro in Suite III of the Knightsbridge-based (and, like Berluti, LVMH owned) Bulgari Hotel we got well and truly Berluti’d. With the brand’s debut thirty-nine look strong, AW12 collection filling out the suite’s walk-in wardrobe, we had our very own Clueless moment. Rifling through the rails, Cher’s bubblegum pop colours were replaced by autumnal hues and her plastic fantastic accessories gave way to the buffest of boots and bags. Alessandro needs little encouragement to explain the Berluti ethos, just over a year into the job he still has the spritely enthusiasm of a teen fashionista clutching their first pair of designer shoes. Preaching to the converted he spoke to i-D online about the design narrative he’s woven, the brand’s new Harrods home and going hungry for Berluti booties. Go on, get Berluti’d.
Given this is the first ready-to-wear collection for the brand, could you give us an introduction to all things Berluti… The idea is to put together something that belongs to the heritage of the brand as a kind of customer profile, so authenticity, beautiful quality, a nice human feel behind the product. We work with tailors, everything is handmade and we have seventy laboratories in Italy. We’ve just designed a stylish collection, but using the best craftsmanship. We work with interesting cashmere and silk and we have a lot of details. Take this jacket for example, it looks like a vintage Porsche seat, this patina is handmade on the jacket. You can change the colour if you want, you can come back after two years and we can do it in the factory.
They’ll just buff it down? Yes, the same with the shoe. We have 100 colours.
It’s like buying five different jackets in one! Exactly.
The translation from the footwear buyer to the Berluti ready-to-wear buyer is someone who very much wants to invest in the whole brand, they want to wear it from head-to-toe? Exactly, that is the idea behind it. Since the collection is a collection for collectors, it’s also nice to blend different pieces in different seasons, because they all belong to the same identity. I think this guy is choosing these pieces with the value they have. I think he’s wearing and then changing the look with a new pant, new shoe, but still keeping it and using it again. The collection is currently available exclusively through Harrods and what is happening there is that old Berluti customers are coming to buy shoes and discovering ready-to-wear. At the same time new customers, who’ve maybe watched the show online or read some articles, they come to buy the ready-to-wear but end up buying shoes. So we have both ways.
When did you first become familiar with the brand? Actually, I have a pair of grey Andy loafers that I bought when I was at school. I travelled to Paris to buy them because I was addicted. I still have them.
How much were they at the time? Oh, very expensive, I think more or less the same value twenty years ago as they are now. I was at design school in Milan so I just went to Paris just for a visit. I saved money for four or five months. Then more recently I got invited to a very interesting meeting with Antoine [Arnault, heir to the LVMH throne and Head of Communications at Louis Vuitton], but I didn’t even know it was for Berluti. He invited me for lunch and we had a really interesting connection. Mostly we were sharing the same vision of a man. I had several interviews, the last one was with his father. Antoine came with me to speak to him and I was nervous but happy to go. The interview was supposed to last 15 minutes but after an hour and half I was still inside! It went well…
Well congratulations. And so that was a year ago? Just over.
What did the AW12 ready-to-wear collection look like then? There was nothing there, not even a single sketch. When we met there was nothing. I finished in the office at Zegna on June 30th at 7PM, went to my Milan apartment, dropped my bag, picked up my suitcase, went to the aiport and went to Paris. Then in the morning I met Antoine and we travelled to London to meet Marigay McKee, Chief Merchant at Harrods.
So the relationship with Harrods has been going on for more than a year. Have they always stocked the shoes? No, not all. I am delighted that they have had this first experience with us because I really admire the work that they do and I really wanted to be there as much as Antoine did.
Do you consider yourself to be the Berluti man? Yes I wear everything. I try the socks. I try the hat. It’s not just that I want to, it’s a pleasure.
When you were growing up were you always interested in men’s clothes? Absolutely. My Mum was a tailor and she had a whole laboratory of people working for her. She was doing womenswear. I remember her doing fittings, going with her to buy the fabric and choosing the zips and buttons, buying pure cashmere for coats.
Given you’ve known luxury from such a young age, how do you feel about the mass consumerism that’s rife in fashion now? With Berluti I think that there is a real value to each piece. Even if he only wears the piece once or twice, he will still keep it for life. Maybe one day he will have the pleasure of giving the garment to his son or his friend. For sure it will last.
It goes back to what you were saying about travelling to Paris to buy your first pair of Berluti’s. You wanted to make an investment… Yes I didn’t go to a club or have pizza with my friends for three months after but it was a fantastic present for myself!
Text: Sean Baker
Pictured top. From left: Antoine Arnault, Pietro Beccari, Marigay McKee and Alessandro Sartori.