One step ahead

PARIS - For more than a century, Parisian brand Berluti made a name for itself as a purveyor of luxury men's shoes.

But it did not sit back on its heels when it came time to move forward. Two years ago, it launched a full ready-to-wear collection. This month, it launched a bespoke service, Grande Mesure, in its Rue de Sevres boutique in Paris.

Unlike many other bespoke services, which focus on formalwear, such as jackets and shirts, one can make everything at Berluti's, including suits, jeans and even sportswear, says artistic director Alessandro Sartori. He sees nothing unusual about this, noting that for far too long, bespoke tailors have been concerned with making only classic suits.

He may have a point. Within two weeks of launching its service, there was such an overwhelming response that there is now a four-month-long waiting list.

"Why is it that a man can have a bespoke suit, but not bespoke chinos or a safari jacket? I think we're just filling a hole in the market," says Mr Sartori, 47.

The 118-year-old brand's bespoke service is handled by another Parisian institution, Arnys.

The tailoring house was bought over by the LVMH group last year and placed under the Berluti brand, which the group also owns.

A Berluti bespoke suit does not come cheap, costing between 7,000 euros (S$12,000) and 10,000 euros. The expensive price tag reflects the care and service from start to finish, he says.

A made-to-measure order uses a pre-existing pattern that is adjusted to the wearer's measurements, while a bespoke one is entirely handmade.

Only one tailor takes the roughly 50 body measurements, cuts the paper pattern, does the fittings and makes the garment.

At Berluti, a bespoke suit takes about three fittings and 75 hours to make. It is one of the few menswear luxury brands offering a bespoke service; others include Brioni and Tom Ford.

The Berluti bespoke service is currently available only in its Paris Rue de Sevres boutique, but will be rolled out in New York City, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo too.

The bespoke shoe service has been available in Singapore since Berluti opened its boutique in Takashimaya Shopping Centre in 2008.

There are about 46 Berluti boutiques in 13 countries, including Singapore.

As a shoe brand, its fans have included artists such as Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, as well as designer Yves Saint Laurent.

According to a September article in The Washington Post, the brand is estimated to have had sales of about 90 million euros last year.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

Mr Sartori was hired in July 2011 to turn the former shoe brand into a full menswear brand.

The Italian, who spent a decade before that as artistic director of Ermenegildo Zegna's Z Zegna line, wasted no time in sending the brand's first ready-to-wear collection down the runway early last year.

The ready-to-wear collection starts at $575 for a polo T-shirt and can go up to $10,000 for a leather jacket.

In June this year, the ready-to-wear collection was launched in Singapore with the reopening of the refurbished 1,614 sq ft boutique at Takashimaya Shopping Centre.

Mr Sartori says he accepted the challenge of extending the brand because he had a vision for it.

"There are a lot of brands offering high-end couture quality clothing, but they are usually rather rigid. Then, there are also brands offering stylish clothing, but without much quality," he says.

"I wanted to create something stylish and elegant, but at the same time, respecting quality," says Mr Sartori, who is single.

He says he does not design for a particular age group, but for any man who appreciates style and quality. The brand's lookbook features both young and older models.

The self-described "maniac" has earned a reputation for being obsessed with design details.

He created the Lorenzo shoes ($1,760), which are made from kangaroo leather so soft they can be folded in half. This type of leather had never made an appearance at Berluti before his arrival, but was picked because of its practicality.

"I considered the needs of a modern man. He travels a lot and needs something that is easy to pack, but is functional," he says.

For the latest spring/summer collection, he treated silk with ceramic and turned the fabric into a jacket. The result was a silk jacket that looked like leather, but was much lighter and waterproof.

Although Berluti is now a full menswear brand, Mr Sartori says the heart of the label will always be its shoes. Footwear is so important that he designs the shoe collection before the clothing.

"The shoes are at the centre of an outfit. If I see a man wearing just a T-shirt and jeans, but with a fantastic pair of shoes, I would still consider him well-dressed," he smiles.

"But clothes are important as well because they help to highlight the shoes."

staceyc@sph.com.sg


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