École des Mines is an engineering school in Paris, with a garden that is incongruously beautiful in light of the fact that teachers and students are more interested in what is going on under the surface. But the garden, a relatively secret space, was exactly the sort of place Alessandro Sartori was seeking to present his first runway show for Berluti. You could find a metaphor in there somewhere. Berluti's end product is the tip of an iceberg of incredible imagination and artisanship. For his new offering, the designer extended the brand's reach into the realm of the familiar—sportswear, rather than the elevated stratum of bespoke menswear. He claimed that was a response to a number of customers who are perfectly happy to have Berluti make everything for them: jeans, bomber jackets, cabans. The ateliers were ready. Ninety percent of the new collection is handmade.
This might have been the Berluti collection where Sartori's own instincts truly asserted themselves. In his previous gig at Z Zegna, his experimental bent gave the label its character. Here, the creative impetus was origami. No cutting, just folding and pleating for pockets, collars, and lapels. It's difficult to convey the effect in words, but it was definitely 3-D, even more so when seams were hand-painted to give a patina of age. It was a novel notion in fashion, with its fresh-flesh fixation. Your Berluti will grow old alongside you.
And on the evidence of this collection, it certainly seemed resilient enough to do so. Leather jackets of a supernal softness rolled effortlessly into a small ball. A silk and linen coat, with an enzyme glaze printed like leather, did the same. And using that treatment inside any garment meant that Berluti could get rid of canvas interlinings, so everything was light. Then there were the colors—rich natural tones, from sand and pond green to coral and purple. A suit of linen and paper was radiant in a shade called sunflower.
Berluti is still insinuating itself into the men's luxury market. If you were looking for one item to define its capabilities, it might be the Playtime, the trainer the label launches this season. It is cut from one piece of leather, shaped by the artisans who have made Berluti shoes for decades. The feat is technical, and the feel is physical enough to clarify exactly why you would want trainers made for your foot—and your foot alone.