The Haider Ackermann Era At Berluti Has Officially Begun
The Haider Ackermann Era At Berluti Has Officially Begun
- Words Asaf Rotman
- Date January 24, 2017
For those that weren’t paying attention, Paris Men’s Fall/Winter 2017 just wrapped up. Prior to the onslaught of presentations and shows that make up the most important week in menswear, there was one slot that everyone couldn’t help but anticipate: Haider Ackermann’s debut at Berluti. While Grailed has previously written about the only designer worthy of inheriting Chanel before, this outing was different, and glorious.
Founded in 1895, Berluti is the only exclusively men’s brand under the LVMH umbrella. Its namesake, Alessandro Berluti, began as a high-end shoemaker, famous for his lustrous treatment of exotic leathers—think, wholecut kangaroo oxfords that are as stunning as they are mind-bogglingly expensive. A century later, the brand established an extensive clientele of some of the wealthiest men on the planet. I mean, in order to afford $10,000 gator Chelsea boots you need some serious cake. In 1993, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault scooped up the brand on the low, hoping to bring their customers with impeccable taste and near-limitless wallets into his fold.
In 2012, Bernard’s son, Antoine, as rich sons tend to do, decided to take on Berluti as a passion project. With the purchase of French tailoring house Arny’s, Antoine hoped to transform the footwear specialist into a menswear powerhouse. He brought Alessandro Sartori on board as creative director, who had gained international acclaim following his tenure at Z Zegna. Under Sartori, Berluti established a strong brand identity: the man far too rich for merely Loro Piano and far too bold for, say, Brunello Cucinelli. Loud color, technical details and heinous sneakers, in both price and look, were abundant. Besides failing to recoup the supposed $150 Million investment for five-straight years, it was a smash hit. Then, last season, the prodigal son Sartori returned to Zegna to take Stefano Pilati’s job as Chief Creative Director. The house that he built was prematurely vacant. Who could fill his shoes, no pun intended?
After passing up offers at Dior and Margiela, it seemed Ackermann was thoroughly uninterested in leaving his eponymous line, which was finally gaining the mainstream recognition it deserved no thanks to unofficial brand ambassador Kanye West. That’s why it came as a bit of a shock when, last fall, Ackermann agreed to head up Berluti, particularly with his rather specific aesthetic. It was even more concerning given that just a month later, major luxe tailoring powerhouse Brioni fired their newly named creative director Justin O’Shea after a mere six months. This is not to compare Ackermann, a savant, to the classically untrained O’Shea, but rather illustrated the fact that Berluti—still a fairly tame suiting brand despite Sartori's legacy—could face similar troubles. While colors were bold under Sartori, hiring a directional designer like Ackermann, whose look is somewhere between rock god and Jack Sparrow, was an aggressive change of course, the type of move that had crashed and burned spectacularly with Brioni just prior. Would the oligarch customers feel alienated? How would Ackermann bridge the gap between Berluti and his skintight leather pants? Well, I'm pleased to report the answer is brilliantly.
The first look of his debut collection was an ode to both Sartori and Berluti: an exceptionally well-tailored pair of trousers, a white tee and a camel double-breasted overcoat. Only the slim lapel and an emory green leather wallet chain provided hints of what was to come. The second look was injected with a touch more of the new designer's DNA. A slim black trench with high collar covered metallic olive trousers, a fabric choice that screamed Ackermann. The model’s shoes, a pointed toe, heavily-treated brown leather Chelsea boot, were so good this writer would skip two months rent to buy them right now (inevitably that’s what they’ll cost).
The following looks incorporated more and more of Haider’s signature aesthetic. A slim four button double-breasted suit on top of black military boots led to a dizzying array of velvet three piece suits in cherry red, midnight blue and light brown. There were purple suede truckers and satin pink technical raincoats. Look 21, a red velvet blazer, long scarf, white tank and black trousers, over pointed boots seemed to shout: “Hedi is gone—fear not! I have arrived.” One model strode out in a single-button shawl collar black tuxedo with an untucked copper shirt and a lit cigarette, perhaps the most direct call that Berluti is indeed beckoning for a new, younger customer.
Still, amongst this parade of fabulously directional menswear were items the existing Berluti customer could relate to. The golden double-breasted topcoat? Perhaps. But the oversized camel greatcoat with contrasting yellow fur lapel? Most definitely. The Leather trucker lined with what must be beaver fur? Absolutely. The crocodile duffel in tan or black that will run well into the 5-digits? They’ll take both. Perhaps most enigmatic of the collection was look 7: a brown suede trucker jacket, high cowl neck sweater and black velvet trouser with pointed lace-up boots. Each item was palatable enough for the old guard, yet would please even the most ardent of Ackermann diehards.
There’s no question that it was wildly impressive. This marriage of avant-garde pirate and Wall Street CEO is now, in this writer's opinion, the most lust-worthy label in menswear. It remains to be seen what will make it from the runway to retail, and just how much it will cost. Ackermann's prices have always been up there and Berluti’s are notoriously sky high. Regardless, their new partnership will undoubtedly reach new levels of insanity. If he keeps this up, Ackermann may have a few new customers himself.
All images via Vogue.
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