PARIS — Berluti has tapped Kris Van Assche as its new creative director, succeeding Haider Ackermann in the latest shake-up in the top design ranks at parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, WWD has learned exclusively.
The Belgian designer will show his first collection for Berluti in January as head of shoes, leather goods, ready-to-wear and accessories collections at the brand.
Van Assche recently exited Dior Homme after 11 years at the helm. He was succeeded by Kim Jones, in the first big change at Christian Dior Couture since Pietro Beccari arrived as chairman and chief executive officer in February.
Antoine Arnault, ceo of Berluti, said he was “delighted” to welcome Van Assche to the house. “I have known him for several years, have always admired his work at Dior Homme and I am looking forward to working with him,” the executive said in a statement.
Van Assche thanked Bernard Arnault, chairman and ceo of LVMH — and father of Antoine Arnault — for his renewed confidence.
“I have always wanted to build bridges between the savoir-faire, the heritage of a house and my clear-cut contemporary vision. Antoine Arnault spoke to me of his ambitions for Berluti and it is with great pleasure that I accept this new challenge which fits perfectly with my own will and vision,” the designer said.
LVMH has been reshuffling its decks to keep up with the red-hot streetwear sector, with the nomination in rapid succession of Hedi Slimane as artistic, creative and image director at Céline, where he will launch men’s wear; Jones as artistic director of ready-to-wear and accessory collections at Dior Homme, and, just last week, Virgil Abloh as men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton.
The French luxury giant has also been investing heavily in Berluti, with store openings planned this year in the U.K., Australia and China, and Loro Piana, which is embarking on a growth phase under a new chief executive officer.
Van Assche, who worked under Slimane at Dior Homme before rising to the top design post in 2007, evolved the slim tailoring pioneered by his predecessor with athletic and workwear influences, often harking back to the edgy club culture of his youth.
Since shuttering his namesake label in 2015 because — in his own words — juggling the two “was really no fun anymore,” he had injected more of his personal affinity with streetwear into the Dior aesthetic, bringing back a sense of youthful energy with show sets including a skatepark and a funfair.
At the same time, he partnered with management to lead the brand even further upscale; extend its global reach with a range of fashion shows in Asia, and broaden its image with a range of celebrity pitchmen spanning from A$AP Rocky and Boy George to Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan.
In recent seasons, Van Assche trained the focus on the house’s tailoring know-how, with a new Christian Dior Atelier label that appeared on the sleeves of the nip-waisted suits in his fall collection for the house, and in logo form on blousons in muddy workwear shades.
A graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Van Assche moved to Paris in 1998 and was part of Slimane’s team at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Homme before joining him at Dior Homme.
In an interview last year as Dior celebrated its 70th anniversary and Van Assche a decade at the head of the brand, he elaborated on his vision of luxury men’s wear.
“Do I believe suiting is over? No. I really don’t believe so, because I just feel like you have to keep on questioning the suit and how do we present it, what trouser is it worn with, what is the context that it’s worn in?” he said.
“It’s always about contrast. If it’s a suit, I’ll try to make it sport. If it’s sportswear, I’ll try to make it more couture, so it’s always this tension between the two,” Van Assche said.
Ackermann joined Berluti in September 2016 — something of a left-hand turn for the Paris-based brand, which accrued a reputation for suave tailoring under its previous creative director, Alessandro Sartori.
During his tenure, the designer introduced a more languid, feminine edge into the collections, which were shown on men and women — an attitude personified by Timothée Chalamet, who bucked convention by wearing a white Berluti tuxedo and bow tie to the Oscars ceremony last month.
Arnault assumed the management helm of Berluti in 2011 and set out to create a luxury men’s house to mirror such female-driven brands as Fendi and Céline within the vast luxury group.
In driving its transformation from an elite cobbler to a luxury lifestyle label for men, the ceo has been vying to bring a more casual component to the brand, amid a wider shift in men’s wear from uptight suits toward athletic-tinged, laid-back clothes.
LVMH does not break down sales by brand in its core fashion and leather-goods business group, but reported “solid growth” at Berluti in its full-year results. Industry sources estimate the label generates revenues in the region of 190 million euros, with footwear and leather goods accounting for around 70 percent of sales.
“Berluti delivered excellent results in all its markets and opened its first store in Australia,” LVMH said in its most recent annual report. “Berluti’s leather-goods lines are making strong headway. Footwear saw solid growth and the brand is expanding its range of exceptional products.”
Today, Berluti counts 52 boutiques worldwide and 23 wholesale accounts, and offers a bespoke service through its workshops on rue Marbeuf and rue de Sèvres.
The brand was founded in 1895 by a transplanted Italian and is famous for such celebrity clients as Andy Warhol, Pierre Bergé, Jean Cocteau, Alain Delon, Dean Martin and Yves Saint Laurent. LVMH acquired Berluti in 1993, adding leather goods in 2005 and a complete clothing collection in 2011.