Couture for men only

di Chiara Bottoni

Alessandro Sartori has put together a deluxe wardrobe for Berluti with the aid of a network of 16 Italian craft workshops

Couture for men only
Pietro Beccari, Alessandro Sartori, Antoine Arnault

“My main concern as I embarked on this venture was finding craft workers who were capable of creating the products that I had in mind.” These few words from a visibly moved Alessandro Sartori a few hours after the Paris debut of Berluti’s main clothing line sufficed to convey the essence of the new luxury project. The scheme can count on entrepreneurial input from Antoine Arnault, the heir to Bernard Arnault’s LVMH empire, while the Italian designer formerly of Z Zegna is at the stylistic helm, and there is expert managerial supervision from Pietro Beccari. “Then I found a tailor in Turin who had a special production technique for the shoulders of men’s jackets which made it possible to leave a space between the armhole and the body, thus giving maximum freedom of movement even for very slim fits,” continued Sartori. “I asked him to use this method on outerwear. I have to say that I got a rather puzzled reaction from him, but this is the final result,” said the designer as he proudly showed off two real gems: a double-breasted grey cashmere jacket with antelope details and an oversize parka lined with nutria fur. While they are part of a prêt-à-porter collection, they look more like garments from a haute couture show for men, due to the exquisite materials and techniques used and the obsessive attention to detail. Sartori has taken this approach in all of his work on the collection.

You have only been here since July and you and the style office basically started from scratch as you put together not only the image but also the production chain for Berluti menswear. How did you manage it?

I began scouring Italy in search of the best craft workers, such as tailors, hide processing experts and masters of dyeing techniques. It was not easy, but I was surprised to find that there are still some highly specialized figures out there. I managed to put together a network of 16 workshops which have frequently worked together on the production of the items in the collection. For example, the leather trims of the jackets were specially prepared in a phase that came after the creation of the pattern by the tailors.

Does this mean that every item is essentially unique, like in the golden world of women’s haute couture?

I like to call the Berluti prêt-à-porter offerings “carving couture”, to emphasize the extraordinary power of the tailored constructions, which are capable of genuinely sculpting the garments and producing contemporary silhouettes. They give a modern touch to outfits which are designed to embody timeless elegance.

Which items in the collection are most emblematic of the craftsmanship?

I could perhaps mention the hand-painted biker jacket, which perfectly encapsulates artisan know-how. It took no fewer than 70 hours of finishing to get the colour just right, using a technique similar to that employed for the hand patination of a bag, which took eight hours of work to produce the perfect shade.

At the presentation of the debut collection, you set up a scene with surreal spectators, in the shape of a selection of old lasts for shoes made by Berluti for famous customers. How important was the house’s heritage as you mapped out the path that it would take in the future?

Berluti has always been renowned for making and finishing its footwear by hand. I wanted to introduce this unrelenting quest for quality in the clothing as well, to show how fashion can wonderfully bring together dreams and real life.