We admit that we were not that optimistic when Berluti announced in 2012 its intention to broaden its scope from being a shoemaker to becoming a global men’s style brand. The first collection debuted as lackluster and heavily fashion-oriented—a far cry from the style we prefer in our encapsulated but ever growing world of elegance-seekers.
Until now, with the exception of the Berluti bespoke atelier (buzzing with tailors from Arnys…notably the excellent cutter Karim), we found very little to be convincing as a result of this admittedly challenging project, begging the question : Is it even possible for Berluti to mutate from a well-established shoe brand into a global men’s style giant, earning the right to dress elegant men from head to toe ?
In other words, how would Alessandro Sartori interpret the world of Berluti—taking a very specific world consisting of iconic and groundbreaking shoemaking creations, and merging it with Arnys, an atelier with impossibly brilliant iconoclast style? How could such a combination coagulate into a coherent whole, without losing the core soul of both of these worlds?
Alessandro found himself sandwiched between the outspoken visionary Olga Berluti (who shook up the planet of men’s shoes in the 80s), and the gifted endearing contrarians Michel and Jean Grimbert, known for their trademark disdain for classical conventions. Not an easy position.
We live in an age where the word “gentleman” is bandied about ad nauseam; a world where so-called sartorial authorities open fire on any collection in misalignment with the holy grail of tradition and convention…and of course, ’oh the horror!’ that a project should be financed by the biggest luxury group on earth!
Mr. Sartori has staunchly stomached the low blows and the naysayers as he waded through very deep waters, and his tenacity is finally paying off, as he delivered, in January of 2015, a very convincing collection.
To be frank, back in 2012, we were caught off-balance when Arnys was taken over by Berluti, as it seemed impossible to comprehend how any shoemaker (no matter its reputation) could gel with a house as peculiar as Arnys, and its legendary seminal crew of old-school shopkeepers.
But I must object to the wry intellectual posture that touts the rule that a small house may not be purchased by a large group without the consequence of sacrificing quality and savoir-faire.
I’ve crossed paths with Mr. Sartori on several occasions, quite unexpectedly, during engagements with Italian artisans, tailors, silk brokers, leatherworkers, and wool mills while working on my upcoming books (The Parisian Gentleman—to be released this fall, and the Italian Gentleman—to be released in 2016, both published by Thames & Hudson).
To witness an artistic director out in the field at this level bears witness to Mr Sartori’s resolve to deliver his utmost to each collection, and for that, he has earned our respect.
Acknowledgment is in order for Alessandro’s work and his hard-won struggle against those who called the game results before the game was played.
Here, we see an introductory showcase of Alessandro’s talent with his new collection and particularly with superb overcoats. While the more conservative observer may be bothered by the lack of shirts and ties, we understand the creativity and merit of eliminating distractions in order to place the emphasis on the design and cut of the coats.
However successful this particular collection is conceived, of course success isn’t made in one gig. But, we can’t deny that the Berluti style is beginning to take form.
The moral is that Rome was not built in a day, and even with the deepest of pockets, Berluti must continue to earn its stripes, one stripe at a time.
Ad Augusta, Per Angusta.