The beautifully handcrafted shoes of Berluti will soon be sighted more frequently in Asia, as the brand embarks on an expansion led by its CEO Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH boss Bernard Arnault. Earlier this year Berluti announced that iconic British actor Jeremy Irons and Pierre Casiraghi, third in line to the throne of Monaco, will be their new brand ambassadors. These moves are all part of a gentle increase in the brand’s profile (and its product range) that has been inspired by Alessandro Sartori, who arrived at Berluti as the brand’s creative director by way of Z Zegna.
Founded in 1895 by Italian-born Allessandro Berluti, the shoemaker built its heritage from the founder’s vision of a perfect shoe but is now being developed into a lifestyle brand with a full range of men’s clothing and accessories. “The company started with a visionary shoemaker who decided to make shoes that were a piece of art,” says Sartori. “The brand has a lot of components – there is this strong soul and heritage which comes from the past but a lot of secrets and a lot of interesting recipes – like the way to create the colour on the shoes.” It is this brand mythology that has fostered a passionate clientele, many of whom still choose to polish their handmade boots with Dom Perignon, as tradition dictates. “If we look at the Berluti customers of the past, men like James Dean and Andy Warhol or Pierre Bergé, they all had a strong personality and were artists in their own right,” says Sartori. And what next? “We want to create a collection that has a classic soul but is modern, is not fashion but is very stylish and consists of a lot of pieces. Like a collection for collectors.” With wealthier Chinese consumers looking for more subtle versions of luxury, Arnault Jr. (who served part of his CEO-apprenticeship at Louis Vuitton) may find that many of his customers are men looking for a place to go now they have outgrown brands with a more obvious way of doing luxury.