After several seasons of spectacular tableaux vivants at Berluti, Alessandro Sartori had reached the point where he wanted to do a show: a living, breathing, moving advertisement for the extraordinary work the Berluti artisans are doing. The decision was made early enough in the process of designing the new collection that the show could become an extension of it. Which meant that everything about tonight's presentation was, according to Sartori, calculated to convey the character of the company that he is building as creative director with CEO Antoine Arnault.
With that in mind, it was slightly discombobulating to walk into the venue. Berluti has assiduously massaged its niche as the best of the best, and yet here we were in a parking garage on an afterthought of a street somewhere behind the Eiffel Tower. But walk on. We strolled through a "forest of creativity"—plinths supporting miniaturized wooden shoe lasts covered in the hundred different colors of leather that Berluti has on
offer—into a pinewood studio that looked like the set of Lars von Trier's Dogville. "Doors that are going somewhere else, walls that are creating new volumes," Sartori rationalized at a preview earlier in the day. His cryptic statement made sense once the models appeared.
Menswear is traditionally a composite of minute details, which means that you'd be safe thinking that radical shifts, especially at this elevated stratum of the luxury market, are chimerical. So picture men's fashion as the caboose on that train, and then appreciate how, throughout his career, Sartori has managed to shove the caboose a few yards down the track each season with his tailoring tweaks. Here, he introduced a slash pocket to his jackets. Instantly, a new way to make your jacket work for you. He also added an intarsia pleat to the top of the sleeve, creating an articulated effect that allowed the arm to move with greater ease. As Sartori described it, it sounded so elementary that you wondered why no one had done it before.
Another innovation: outerwear featuring a technical membrane of wool sandwiched between two layers of boiled cashmere, a combination so durable that Sartori imagined the coat and bomber jacket he'd cut from it would be passed from generation to generation. If this isn't exactly the planned obsolescence of fashion as we know it, that only points to what is still essentially an experimental phase for Berluti. One jacket featured a checked pattern that had been literally scratched into the fabric; the surface of another—in mohair, for evening—had been pad-stitched for a total of seventy hours to create its texture. There was a kind of irresistible madness in such ideas, the rush of doing something because anything is possible in the zone where, said Sartori, "craft and quality meet technology." He made his fashion statements
tonight—top-to-toe camel or black reflected the season's trend toward monochrome dressing, ties matched shirts
throughout—and he also offered the straightforward luxury of shirts in two-ply cashmere and sweaters in twelve-ply cashmere bouclé. But it's in that other zone where Berluti's character is taking shape.