There was more than the usual air of excitement and tension as guests streamed into the Grand Palais in Paris. From serious-faced, conservatively dressed journalists crammed into the front-row seats to the gaggle of flamboyantly coloured, bejewelled celebrities piled into the centre of the runway, everyone was gathered to witness Haider Ackermann’s first collection for Berluti.
His debut collection, after he was named the brand’s new creative director last September following the departure of Alessandro Sartori, was hotly anticipated not only because of the short time frame he had to put it together, but because his appointment was in itself lauded by fashion observers as a shrewd move by Antoine Arnault, chief executive of Berluti and scion of LVMH, which owns the brand.
Just days before, Ackermann had presented his own autumn/winter 2017 collection to an approving audience at Paris Men’s Fashion Week. The stress of producing two shows nearly back-to-back notwithstanding, the designer, known for his textured application and expert use of materials, managed to deliver on both fronts with aplomb.
The comfortable chemistry between Arnault and Ackermann was obvious; at the post-show dinner, Arnault told guests in his speech, “I’m proud of everything we have accomplished over the last five years with Berluti. I’m even prouder that we took the decision six, seven months ago and decided to work with Haider. You were always extremely straight to the point and precise, and what we saw on the runway tonight was exactly what I had envisioned…” at which point Ackermann interjected to laughter all round, “You mean I didn’t surprise you at all?”
Right after the high of stepping off the runway, Singapore Tatler grabbed 10min with the self‑declared “exhausted, elated and breathless” designer for a glimpse into his vision for the brand.
What did you take as your inspirations from the Berluti archives?
Haider Ackermann It’s not so much of taking as inspiration, as it was trying to learn the base and seeing what you can do with it and then making it your own story. There are so many things to learn from Berluti, there’s the handcraft, the patine, the colours, so there’s a huge learning process for me.
Many people have asked me what the difference is between my own brand and Berluti’s. My answer is, there are many things in common. First, there are colours. Many people refer to the colours [in the Berluti collection] as mine, but it’s not true when you look at the archives of Berluti, and what they used to do. You had all those patines in deep red, in camel grey, in midnight blue… they were there and they’re not new to Berluti. It’s just that I’m seduced by them and I’m trying to put them back on the streets.
What is the difference in the vision between your own collection and Berluti’s?
HA I put it this way: my collection is a part of me, like my arm. Berluti is more a projection of whom I’d like to be.
Would you say you are satisfied with this collection?
HA I don’t know. Satisfaction has never been my word. But as long as I satisfy the team and everybody who’s collaborating on this, I would be happy because it’s all about teamwork. If they are satisfied, then I am, too.
What changes are you noticing in the fashion industry?
HA What I think is interesting is that there is an increased vanity in men. Men are more conscious of what they’re wearing and that evolution is quite interesting. Before, it was all about women, but men are now taking their own revenge.
The modern gentleman is a world traveller. Did you think about this as you designed the Berluti collection?
HA Every working man is travelling, whether he’s jumping in cars, planes, or Ubers. We’re all nomads somewhere. Every man, the moment he can afford a cashmere coat, or an apres colour or crocodile, he travels. Clothes in general must be functional, because for me, clothes are not art. We [designers] try to be provocative or charming or elegant but it’s just clothes, so they have to be functional. The luxury is to feel comfortable, the luxury is to touch the inside of your pocket and appreciate the intimacy with your clothing.
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