by Stephen Garner

Berluti presented its winter 2021 collection on Thursday with a performance art installation staged digitally in Paris and in Shanghai. Artistic director Kris Van Assche teamed up with video director Antoine Asseraf and creative consultant Yoann Lemoine (aka Woodkid) on the virtual show experience.

The scene uses the floor signage of social distancing – graphics now familiar to us all – as an illustration of the limitations of our moment in time. Through choreography, models express a sense of freedom found within the boundaries of constraint, mindful rather than physical.

As for the collection, Van Assche adapts the works of the painter Lev Khesin, whose color and texture form the basis of the brand’s newest collection. Khesin, a Berlin-based Russian contemporary artist, expresses himself in abstract, tactile patterns created through multiple layers and colors of silicone paint. His practice echoes that of Berluti’s artisanal patina methods, drawing a natural connection between both the visual and practical domains of Khesin and Van Assche.

The need for a tangible and tactile reality is reflected in this season’s motifs, colors, and textures informed by the work of Khesin. Interpreted in garments and accessories, these motifs create the foundation for a collection embodied by fluidity, adaptability, and the human hand. Subtly unstructured lines cut a soft and relaxed tailoring silhouette. It’s a feeling of comfort expressed in neo-suiting fusing traditional formal dress codes with those of the workwear and sportswear wardrobes, often carried out in double-face cashmere.

Suits executed in block colors picked up from the palette of the artist are deconstructed in styling, their components mixed up for a multi-color tailoring expression. The signature coloration of Berluti’s classic shoes, patina evolves in leather jackets dyed and faded by hand. In a fully hand-stitched coat evoking one of the artworks, the stitching becomes the pattern itself. A hooded jacket and a jumper in hand-woven leather interpret Khesin’s visual universe in geometric patterns. In suits rendered in exact prints of the artworks, the motifs are painstakingly aligned between jacket and trouser.

Intensifying the artisanal value, point norvégien is applied to outerwear and suiting. A white stitch embroidery traditionally employed in shoe-making – and which can only be achieved by hand – it translates into the piping of quilted leather jackets, the trims of a leather suit, and the cushioning of a padded puffer coat. Observing similar notes of the hand-spun and folky, a reversible puffer jacket is realized entirely in off-white shearling.

Bags echo the fluidity of the collection in soft and supple manifestations. They are adorned with charms including Berluti’s signature shoe tree and multi-color pendants by the Spanish artist Jorge Penadés, whose practice revolves around the upcycling of leather overstock into compressed solid objects.

Shoes embody the techniques of garments, from the upcycled triple-layered platform sole of a derby to a textured platform foam sole morphed with a classic leather shoe. Square-toed brogues are embellished with point norvégien, while new sneakers in patina leathers hybridize the dress codes of sports and formalwear.