"This is my dream," said Alessandro Sartori, as he invited guests to step into the wardrobe set up at the entrance of the École des Beaux-Arts. You exited the other side into the building's cavernous interior, which had been reconfigured as the world of Berluti, with five slightly surreal tableaux highlighting the first ready-to-wear collection from the iconic 117-year-old shoemaker. An "audience" of little gold chairs had been set up, on each of which sat a shoe or a last belonging to Berluti customers past and present, from Dean Martin and Yves Saint Laurent to Roman Polanski and Gérard Depardieu (big foot!). Andy Warhol's shoes had pride of place in the front row. "They're watching and judging me," said Sartori, waving his hand at the "crowd."

Stepping through a wardrobe into a fantasy is a familar conceit. Sartori had no lion or witch in his dream, but he certainly managed to bring the magic. "I want humanity, I want hands," he said as he caressed eight-ply cashmere suits. And indeed, everything in the collection from suits to sportswear has been handmade by tailors in Turin, hence the slightly obtuse name Sartori chose: Carving Couture. The carving concept definitely suited the silhouette, which was whittled long and lean, with a structured Neapolitan shoulder. And the couture element was obvious in details big (luxurious fabrics) and small (leather buttonholes).

Berluti is famous for its laboriously hand-patinated shoes (and for the time it takes to break those shoes in). They're about as traditional as traditional gets. Sartori has updated tradition, not only with the shoes (the leather is now kinder to the feet; some styles have Goodyear soles) but also in a hand-patinated biker jacket, and, inevitably, a full range of leather accessories.

The company's renaissance is being overseen by Antoine Arnault. LVMH was in the market for a luxury menswear line, when common sense and vision combined to turn the spotlight in house, where Berluti was already part of the corporate repertoire. It took common sense to recognize the brand's potential, vision to hire Z Zegna's Sartori to realize it. "This isn't hard," he enthused. "This is love." Could he be more right for the job?