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LONDON — “Les portes” of Berluti’s first maison are open.
The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand, run by chief executive officer Antoine Arnault, has expanded its existing store — which previously only sold shoes — on London’s Conduit Street into a lavish three-floor tribute to discreet masculinity, stocking the label’s ready-to-wear collection, leather goods and shoes, as well as having a dedicated space to handle bespoke appointments.
“We wanted to create a men’s club where the atmosphere and feeling belongs to a private place where men can feel at home,” said creative director Alessandro Sartori in the leather-walled space on the second floor, where bespoke appointments with French or Italian tailors, or one of the house’s bottiers, will happen. “We chose London because the idea was to open the first maison where the history of the brand was.”
There has been a Berluti shoe shop on the site for the last 15 years. “It’s also where we launched ready-to-wear at Harrods last September, and it’s right around the corner from Savile Row. London has a lot of tradition that we love.”
Berluti has expanded from the two floors it occupied as a shoe store, and taken over five floors of a Victorian town house, three floors of which are given over to 3,820 square feet of retail space. Rtw and shoes are merchandised on the ground floor, bespoke and more rtw on the first floor, and an additional selection of shoes in the basement. Leather goods are sold throughout. Also on the ground floor is a Patina bar, where clients can go for Berluti’s “glaçage” service (a color-refreshing treatment for its famously colorful shoes), and for tattoos, which are applied to leather goods and shoes.
Designer Gwenaël Nicolas is behind the new-look space. In keeping with the 118-year-old brand’s footwear heritage, he put leather all over the walls, on banisters, furniture, door handles and on the floor, and used colored glass, velour curtains and waxed parquetry to create an atmosphere of classic masculinity. “The idea was to create a jewel box full of surprises that reveals the affluent world of Berluti attuned with the originality of the space,” Nicolas said.
For the opening, Sartori — who came to Berluti from Z Zegna — has designed a limited-edition bespoke version of the Andy loafer, named for Andy Warhol, who was a regular Berluti wearer. The shoe is available in three colors: Rosso (red), Indigo Denim inspired by the Union Jack, and the label’s signature Tobacco Bis color. They come in patinated leather with a tone-on-tone ostrich strap trim and an outsole engraved with “London 2013” and Union Jack design on the tip of the shoe. These retail for 2,250 pounds, or $3,400 at current exchange, and have a lead time of 12 weeks.
The London maison is the first of four that will open this year as part of an ambitious expansion plan that LVMH hopes will position Berluti as a luxury leader in the robust men’s wear market. It will be followed by stores in Paris on Rue De Sèvres in Saint Germain and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, as well as a maison on Madison Avenue in New York. Berluti will open 20 stores in 2013, and another 50 over the next four years.
According to Sartori, footwear makes up about 50 percent of Berluti’s revenue, with rtw accounting for 20 percent, and leather goods supplying the remaining 30 percent.
The brand hosted a cocktail reception to celebrate the opening on Wednesday night, to which Arnault arrived with Natalia Vodianova on his arm. His other guests included Bay Garnett and Tom Craig, Dinos and Tiphaine Champan and Katie Grand.