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House Party

Berluti opens its Madison Avenue maison

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Alessandro Sartori and Joshua Jackson   
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Berluti has been scooting. Under the direction of LVMH scion Antoine Arnault, the 119-year-old marque has moved beyond handmade shoes and leather accoutrements and toward a domain of sumptuous, precision-tailored men's vestments that it no doubt hopes to occupy all on its own.

But mere luxury goods are not enough, the brand's artistic director, Alessandro Sartori, explained at last night's opening of the new Madison Avenue store. "The customer profile told us a story, which is that we need to complete the Berluti world with a full environment." What others might call a flagship, Sartori and co. call a maison—a house, and the new one on Madison (fifteen blocks south of the old boutique and definitely a step up) is fit for an old-world prince: Louis XV chairs, Art Nouveau porcelain, prints by photographers Elliott Erwitt and Rodney Smith. There's leather on the floors, walls, and furniture, and—last night—waiters in leather aprons serving champagne.

"Six to eight customers at a time is a good number," Sartori said of the new shop's size. No such quietude at the opening, which drew the likes of Joshua Jackson and André Saraiva and a small army of editors. Arnault, one of the hosts, headed before too long to one of the bespoke rooms upstairs, where his pregnant partner, Natalia Vodianova, sat and received well-wishers from a gilded desk. "I feel very important," she admitted.

One room over, a last-maker who'd been flown over from France for the opening stood at his bench. Berluti, he explained, is one of the few interests buying and restoring traditional shoemaking tools like this one, as the craftsmen that have used them for decades retire. Meanwhile, the novelty factor is with the clothes. "I'm telling Alessandro that I want suits," Alexia Niedzielski said. "Look at the colors, the materials, the cut—come on, it's not fair that they're only for men!"

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