While the fashion industry is geared towards women nowadays, a lot of the most famous luxury brands actually targeted men during their early stages. A number of them were leather goods shops, making various accessories for men, while some were makers of military uniform, from which came some of the most classic fashion staples. Even a lot of today’s modern tailoring emanated from traditions such as Saville Row in England, where creating the best menswear suits, especially for royalty, have been a cultural traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation. And while such labels ventured into womenswear where they’re getting more success, Berluti remains to be one of the few still devoted to the male population.
Alessandro Berluti’s Love For Extravagance
Founded by an Italian shoemaker named Alessandro Berluti in 1895, Berluti became one of the most successful men’s shoe labels throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. Around the time of its establishment, the men’s shoe industry was already booming in Italy, with countless companies and family businesses making top-notch footwear for men. In this environment, Alessandro Berluti came to Paris to open his own namesake, which back then was a city more focused on women’s haute couture than leather goods. Upon opening his brand, he introduced a new shoe known as the “Alessandro”, a product he named after himself. It’s a pair of lace-up leather shoes with round tips and no visible stitching, revolutionary at the time, a classic for now.
Coming into the 20th century, Berluti saw commendable success over the years. It became one of the very few men’s labels in Paris, operating against a barrage of women’s fashion which, at the time, was a more lucrative venture. The business was later passed down to Olga Berluti, the founder’s granddaughter, who eventually made it popular among Paris’s elite by inviting them to an annual soiree called “The Swann Club”, an event named after the hero in the Marcel Proust novel, “Remembrance of Things Past”. In this extravagant party of Berluti’s clients, it’s said that Dom Pérignon is used both for drinking and polishing the guests’ shoes. Such extravagance became the toast of men’s fashion in Paris, and soon, Berluti was on everyone’s lips.
Success and Progress
In 1993, the brand was bought the luxury holdings group, LVMH and from then on, the business expanded worldwide. Even though prior to this, Berluti were already accommodating international clients, with the help of LVMH, the business grew exponentially, selling in various prominent retailers around the world.
Berluti shoes have become indelible staples in modern men’s high fashion. Their quality is that of nothing else, which is a marriage of inexplicably-fine leathers and other material and traditional craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation. Their styles are often clean and refined, usually without any bells and whistles despite it being the trend every now and then. Even the classic ‘Alessandro’ pair is still made and sold to a new generation of clients after every era. It is said that to this day, very much like in the “Swann Club” parties in their olden days, Berluti products are still polished in champagne to achieve their signature shine and luster.
Berluti in the 21st Century
In 2011, as part of expanding the company, it opened their first ready-to-wear line for men. With a similar approach, the label’s tailored menswear pieces are classic silhouettes and styles made with modern materials and styled according to the dress codes of contemporary men’s fashion. The line was first led by Italian designer Alessandro Sartori, who introduced the Berluti menswear customer as a modern man unafraid of color and print. A lot of his designs were both well-cut and tailored but designed with the fearless use of textiles and bright pops of different hues.
In 2016, Sartori exited the brand and was replaced by designer Haider Ackermann. Ackermann’s designs were comparatively more subdued but also a little bit more adventurous when it came to silhouettes. Like his predecessor, he delves into exploring different materials for menswear, and during his shows, which have become highlights during men’s Paris Fashion Week, have even offered a few womenswear looks. At times, he has even strayed away from traditional men’s tailoring and offered freeform or draped pieces to add a bit more modernity to the Berluti wardrobe.
Throughout this century-long business, even with a number of risky ventures, Berluti has amassed a faithful following of high-profile clients. It includes the likes of Andy Warhol, Frank Sinatra, and Jean Cocteau—men of high status in their respective fields. Even the great American president John F. Kennedy was an admirer and faithful client of the Parisian label. Today, modern men like basketball star Dwayne Wade, rapper Kanye West, and actors Joshua Jackson and Timothée Chalamet have worn the brand on the red carpet. They’ve also been spotted watching the label’s menswear shows during Paris Fashion Week.
Today, as men gravitate once more to the fashion industry, Berluti is among many brands that lead the way for many to cultivate a legacy of fine men’s shoes and clothing. Their rise to prominence was lengthy, but the quality of work and the caliber of clientele they’ve formed over the years speak for themselves.