French Evolution

By Michelle F. Solomon

Berluti_Miami_1As strikingly original as a pair of Berluti shoes, the Paris gentleman’s footwear and clothier store in the Miami Design District is anything but cookie cutter. The boutique — quite a coup for Miami since it is only the second location in the United States outside of New York — maintains the sophisticated air of Berluti, while letting in a bit of tropical flair. Slim Aarons’s classic American “jet set” prints adorn the walls, and fitting rooms are inspired by beach huts. The can’t-miss centerpiece of the store is a pool table designed by Ora Ito.

MIAMI-STOREThe white, cube-like gallery, which opened in July, still maintains the feel of a gentleman’s private retreat to showcase its displays of the brand’s signature shoes, leather goods, and the introduction of ready-to-wear stateside for the first time. It is an intriguing time for Berluti, and therefore, an exceptional time for Miami.

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In 1993, Bernard Arnault, the chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, bought Paris shoemaker Berluti, which was founded in 1895, to add to his company’s portfolio. Then in 2011, Arnault’s son, Antoine, was put in charge as its chief executive officer. No stranger to luxury brands, Antoine was Louis Vuitton’s marketing director and then its director of communications until taking the post at Berluti. An association that Antoine had with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was the brainstorm for Louis Vuitton’s uber successful global advertising campaign photographed by Annie Leibovitz, and credited to Antoine’s creative eye. He used celebrity ambassadors like Catherine Deneuve, Bono — even Mikhail Gorbachev — Francis and Sofia Coppola, and tennis champions Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff.

The game changer Antoine introduced to Berluti is equally visionary — growing the brand from footwear and leather goods, to announcing itself as the first new luxury menswear label in years. In 2011, Antoine lured Alessandro Sartori, a creative designer at Zegna for 14 years, to move to Berluti to be in charge of its sartorial style.

Today, Berluti’s bespoke and ready-to-wear collections of shoes and clothing offer a vocabulary for menswear that is innovative, yet faithful to its Paris tradition. This year, the brand introduced its third menswear collection, with the theme Galerie de l’Evolution. Sartori set out to explore where Berluti’s past could take it in the future. Central to the collection is the three-piece suit, which comes in four, five, and six-ply cashmere, angora, mohair, and cheviot wool. Accessories include hats made of water-repellent beaver, new backpacks and business bags in leather, and then, of course, the footwear. Berluti introduced a knee-high boot in waxed leather and a new derby shoe, the Vittorio, made in punched leather in three colors.

That Miami is on the cusp of Berluti’s evolution is no sheer coincidence. It’s entirely fitting.

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