Last season, Alessandro Sartori had us step through a giant, dark wardrobe to enter the transfigured world of Berluti the boot maker. This season's presentation in the magnificent gardens of the Palais Royal was reached down a long grass-laid allée, intended to create the same sense of slight displacement. "The idea is to think that there is a different dimension on top of seasonality," Sartori said, waxing as metaphysical as ever about pieces that are the luxurious apogee of the designer's craft. "These clothes are a collector's dream, for eyes that have seen a lot of things, hands that have touched a lot of things."
Again like last season, touching was facilitated by a series of quirky tableaux. The first was a labyrinth ("We get lost in beauty," Sartori enthused), where leathers, suedes, and denim pieces were artfully arranged among the shrubbery. Trenches, safari jackets, and bags had Berluti's signature patinated effect, achieved with a five-step process so laborious it makes the fingers cramp merely thinking about it. But the result was scarcely the trench as we know it. Likewise, a jacket in suede woven in chevrons, inspired by the late artist Gioppe di Bella, who weaved his canvas before he painted it. The denim was Japanese, hand-stitched by tailors in Torino.
Everything came back to the hand: prints drawn by hand and hand-blocked on fabrics woven by hand on 50-centimeter looms (quarter the size of normal looms). Sartori wanted the irregularity you can't get with machines. The effect it created in silk evening jackets was subtly spectacular.
Sartori also wanted history. He loves family portraits from his favorite decades, the forties and fifties, with the sons wearing the cherished hand-me-downs of the father. Like those evening jackets with the texture of time woven into them. And the fine linen shirts with which they were paired, which had pleated bibs abraded by sandpaper (obviously by hand) to create another kind of patina.
This is fashion in a different dimension, just as Sartori says. So rarefied, so demanding that it can only be produced in small amounts (no more than 200 shirts, for instance). But the designer's dream is anything but small. The presentation ended where Berluti began, with a rainbow of shoes in a style named, appropriately enough, the Alessandro, after Alessandro Berluti himself, who created it a century ago. There were 100 different colors available for order. Collector or not, that sounds like literally something for everyone—or, at least, anyone who fancies getting lost in beauty.
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