"At Their Feet”

Flipping through “At Their Feet,” a Rizzoli tome cataloguing shoes that Berluti made for 26 VIPs, the brand’s creative director Alessandro Sartori would be able to identify roughly 80 percent of the famous men just by studying their footwear — proving you can tell a lot about a man from what he puts on his feet.

This story first appeared in the November 11, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Everything, absolutely his personality,” marveled Sartori. “It’s interesting because there are different characters.”

Indeed. Maurizio Cattelan’s red ankle boots bear the creases and scars of a twitchy and daring artist. Writer Glenn O’Brien notes that red shoes were popular during the Middle Ages.

“Madeleines for the feet,” O’Brien writes of Marcel Proust’s caramel brogues, the patina recording the effects of time.

Gérard Depardieu’s perforated lace-ups come with the slogan: “To understand a man you must walk a mile in his shoes. Maybe carrying a sack of potatoes.”

Timed to coincide with Berluti’s 120th anniversary, the 64-page book, due out at the end of November, exalts the perfectionist aesthetic of the founder and subsequent generations of Berlutis, who drew an eclectic and exacting clientele of writers, artists, philosophers, directors and actors.

Shoes and boots belonging to Andy Warhol, Pierre Bergé, Jean Cocteau, Alain Delon and Yves Saint Laurent were among those photographed by Erwan Frotin and then juxtaposed with illustrations by graphic firm M/M Paris and snippets of text.

“While bespoke shoes achieve a perfect fit, they also suit clients in a psychological sense,” O’Brien muses. “The man who thinks himself as unique is flattered by a shoe that’s his alone, that has no size.”

The sentiment applies to women, too, as Sophie Marceau, Greta Garbo and Patti Smith were also Berluti’s bespoke clients.

According to O’Brien, Dean Martin was unable to get his fellow crooner Frank Sinatra into a pair of handmade Berlutis, as Ol’ Blue Eyes was too impatient to wait. By contrast, Martin went to great lengths to get the right shoes, requesting that Olga Berluti, a third-generation bootmaker, show him the skins being used after they had been washed — which the brand did during the first quarter of the waxing moon. Hocus pocus? Not according to Berluti, who noted that such a wash is “essential for the hazy transparency of the sheen.”

A limited run of 200 books is to be crafted in Venezia leather, which can be tattooed, monogrammed or stained with a particular patina, just like the shoes. These will be available only at Berluti flagships and Colette in Paris, which is to host a signing on Nov. 30.

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