Friday 9th April

| BY Claudia Croft

Berluti: Menswear AW21

To Shanghai, where Berluti presented its AW21 collection with a specially choreographed performance filmed with a live audience. After a year of lockdown, Kris Van Assche wanted to create a collection that was a feast for the senses and his colourful, tactile pieces that thrilled with handcraft.

He followed up on his SS21 ready-to-wear collaboration with the ceramic artist Brian Rochefort with an equally vivid and textured collaboration with the Russian artist Lev Khesin. Rather than blurring the boundaries between mass and exclusive, Van Assche is choosing collaborators whose work and process relate to the way Berluti’s patina artisans work with layers of colour.

Khesin creates his colourful pieces by adding and removing layers of paint and resin, which reminded Van Assche of how Berluti craftsmen’s use layers of colour to create their distinctive leather finishes. The Berluti craft atelier translated ten of Khesin’s works into clothes including hand-stitched outerwear and silk shirting. Van Assche sees himself as the conduit between Berluti’s artisans and the contemporary artists he chooses to work with. “This was the right house to re-insist on what is exactly craft, what is exactly luxury,” says Van Assche of his approach.

His three-year tenure at Berluti has seen him double down and amplify the hand-crafted aspect. Another feature of the collection was the use of Norwegian stitch – the technique used to attach the sole to the upper of their shoes, became an embroidered detail on the clothes. The results, when applied to the designer’s modern silhouettes, are vivid, precious and distinctive. “I like to think I came into a house with a lot of tradition, but I did not fully understand how much future there is in that tradition,” he says. “By pushing their buttons and applying traditional craft to the weirdest situations, that has allowed for a window onto the future.”

Photography by Valentin B. Giacobetti.