It’s only the fourth collection for Berluti — the heritage French shoemaker, which under the auspices of CEO Antoine Arnault has been transformed into a full-service menswear label — but it’s already clear that the brand doesn’t do mere runway shows.
Instead, creative director Alessandro Sartori (of ex-Z Zegna fame) showcases his collections in grand presentations, inviting guests to examine his creations up close: to feel the velvety nap of nubuck, discover the leather-lined buttonholes on jackets, and invariably, inspect the hand-patinated finishes on the brand’s famous whole-cut leather dress shoes. And naturally, the chosen location also informs Sartori’s sartorial narrative.
For fall 2013, Edwardian three-piece suits were exhibited in Paris’ Museum of Natural History alongside taxidermied animals to underscore the ‘endangered’ nature of handcrafted tailoring. But for spring 2014, the mise-en-scène was the lavish grounds of the Hôtel de Sully, a 17th century private mansion located in Le Marais, Paris.
In a recreation of Ormond Gigli’s signature photograph, ‘Girls In The Windows’ — depicting 43 women in colourful dresses posed in the windows of a crumbling brownstone on New York’s East 58th Street — the show started with male models standing in the mansion’s imposing three-storied fenestration before exiting through the central double-doors on the ground floor to join the guests in the hotel’s ‘secret garden’.
Once in the garden, the models arranged themselves on four elevated tableaux; allowing the audience to spend time with the clothes, and as a result, Instagram idiosyncratic details. Patrons whipped out their smartphones and captured utilitarian functionalities such as pockets within pockets and reinforced bindings, or the season’s signature motif, the raffia print (emulating the uneven texture of organic raffia or linen) found on jackets and shirts.
The uniform of French workers — namely gardeners, miners and rail staff — served as an interesting source of inspiration for a brand that's adamant in establishing itself at the apogee of male luxury, and found its expression by way of casual shirt-jacket hybrids upgraded in calfskin leather complete with patched chest pockets.
In a colour palette that included cobalt blue, canary yellow and aubergine, suits came in either single or double-breasted configurations and were constructed out of lightweight Irish double linen, raw Tussah silk woven into checked summer tweeds, or bleached Japanese cotton yarn woven and dyed into rustic drills in another tribute to the collection’s blue collar inspiration.
Favourite looks included a white ban-lon shirt with colourful horizontal stripe detailing worn under a raffia print oxblood blazer, and the short-sleeve camel and burgundy cardigan teamed with a single-pleat trouser and scarf. However, the key look for the collection was a new two-piece suit comprising a five-button waistcoat paired with slim cut trousers; both truncated for a contemporary appeal and routinely topped off with a straw boater with an undulating brim.
Yet, when the guests gathered in the adjacent courtyard after the show to enjoy a gourmet barbeque (which our editor-in-chief attests was one of the best he has ever had — high praise indeed from an Australian), it was Sartori’s eveningwear that occupied conversation. From a chalk-striped three-piece suit to a slim cut tuxedo in a shimmering midnight blue, all pieces were handmade by Atelier Arnys exclusively for Berluti (which recently acquired the company) and served as a sampling plate of its rich made-to-measure and bespoke service. These exquisite pieces will carry a distinct label from Berluti’s prêt-à-porter collection, and for those with the taste (and sufficiently deep pockets) to appreciate such refined suiting, will be available for order at its Paris atelier from October this year.