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LEGACY SHOEMAKER

The founders

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ALESSANDRO BERLUTI, THE FOUNDER

Alessandro Berluti was born in Senigallia, a tiny Italian port town in in Le Marche on the Adriatic coast, on October 20th, 1865.

It was here that he began carving out his future as an apprentice, constructing carriages from wood, seats and reins in leather. During these years of hard work he made friends with the old master shoemaker of his village and discovered with him the shoemaker's craft and its severe demands : skilled wood carving to ensure the upmost accuracy of the last, due attention to the leather to ensure the quality of the shoe, and the necessity of perfection to please the client.

In 1882, with his skills now honed, he was ready to discover the world and took to the road. A few years of journeying and adventure led him to Paris, the city of light and joie de vivre.

Gaieté Parisienne
A hard-working perfectionist, Alessandro rapidly found work with orders from a number of fellow-countrymen, experienced shoemakers with their own establishments. Everywhere between the Opéra and the Tuileries the newly established grand hotels of Paris welcomed an international clientele in search of novelty and Parisian elegance. And here Alessandro set up his own bootmaking workshop, to craft shoes for these wealthy men who were not only connoisseurs but also extremely exacting clients.

Birth of a style : The Dandies
In the effervescence of change that marked the turn of the century, with scientific progress advancing at great pace, artists were exploring unusual and diverse paths. The Symbolists invented a poetic language strongly influenced by mythology and dreams, while the swirling curves of Art Nouveau challenged the rigid and regular patterns of architecture.

A generation of artists were challenging the codes of high society elegance and the smart gentlemen of the age dressed in exclusive and refined tailoring, immortalized in portraits by Boldini, Helleu and Sargent and in literature by authors from Proust to Loti. During this search for a poetic aesthetic, Alessandro was fine-tuning his own style, and in 1895 he created an extraordinary lace-up shoe for men, the Alessandro, in an unusual design using a single piece of leather with no visible stitching, smooth and supple as a leather glove. Defying both time and fashion, this iconic shoe, the first under the Berluti name, became the foundation of the House style. In that same year Torello was born, the fifth and last child of Alessandro and Zénaïde Berluti.

TORELLO BERLUTI, THE ENTREPRENEUR

Torello, motivated by the same passions and desires as his father, followed an almost identical path. He had inherited his father’s greatest gift: hands to express his creativity and intelligence.

An ideal son
The young Torello could turn his hand to almost anything, but what he liked best were the noble materials - wood, leather and cloth - from which he could craft accoutrements for the elegant living of the day. A carpenter, cabinet maker, his greatest pleasure lay in creating and shaping beautiful things, bringing a touch of the exquisite to daily life.

La forza del destino
By 1922, with the Roaring Twenties were gathering speed, Torello plunged himself enthusiastically into the bootmaker's craft that his father had taught him to love. His approach was very advanced from the start: he thought in terms of volume while others were still thinking simply in sizes. He was particularly focussed on the beauty of the finished shoe. Echoing the Art Deco style of the period he preferred simple, clean lines, introducing the “Richelieu à plastron” (lace-panel Oxfords) and comfortable “Sans Gêne” elasticated boots. In 1928, to satisfy the flood of orders and receive his clients in comfort and style, Torello bought the lease of a shop at 9 rue du Mont Thabor. From there his fame spread, to such a point that wealthy international clients from the nearby grand hotels had their names put down on his waiting list for the privilege of wearing shoes made by Berluti

Success story
Torello and his family were now living on rue Saint Honoré. Early in the 1940’s the shop on rue du Mont Thabor had become too small to receive a clientele accustomed to luxury and comfort, so he acquired larger premises at 26 rue Marbeuf. Here, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées, he was able to give shape to his passion for creation. With his characteristic meticulous detailing, he designed the refined interior of his new premises himself. Attentive and hard-working, he attracted intelligentsia and film stars to his shop and country house outside Paris. Gaston and Claude Gallimard, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Achard or Jules Roy, but also Marcel l’Herbier, Yul Brynner, Charles Vanel or Pierre Mondy, these personalities and many others became ambassadors for Berluti's excellence. Torello and his wife Assunta had one child, a son called Talbinio.

TALBINIO BERLUTI, THE INNOVATOR

Brought up in his father's world of creative discipline and elegance, Talbinio imagined a future tailored to his own ambitions: the international renown of a Maison entirely dedicated to masculine elegance. He was nurtured by a family that had successfully established its social standing, nevertheless he chose to learn the bootmaker's craft under the benevolent authority of his father Torello.

The personnal road
Talbinio cultivated his design talents, sketching elegant masculine silhouettes clothed from head to toe, shod in Berluti’s new creations, such as the emblematic lace-up loafers.

For him, a young man born into the dynamic post-War period, the time had come to change, innovate and give Berluti an international dimension.

 

With typical visionary enthusiasm and audacity, Talbinio introduced ready-to-wear de luxe shoes in 1959, a selection of entirely hand-made models in the great bootmaking tradition, but immediately available. This idea, at the dawn of a new era, opened the door to a very specific and younger clientele.

For the boutique, he designed a modern, functional decor, where new customers could mingle with established clients to discover both ready-to-wear and made-to-measure shoes. Even fervent advocates of bespoke footwear, such as Edie Constantine, Truffaut, Godard, or Chabrol found immediate satisfaction in the new ready-to-wear models offered at rue Marbeuf. Cultivated, charming and attractive, by introducing remarkable changes, Talbinio had written, with grace and some success, a new page in the history of the House. Subsequently, Talbinio was joined by his young cousin Olga, who injected yet another burst of creative energy into the family business.

OLGA BERLUTI, THE ARTIST

When she arrived at rue Marbeuf in 1959, straight from the Italian village in Emilia-Romagna where she was born, Olga, Talbinio's cousin, discovered a world whose manners and values were foreign to her, yet her lively and cheerful disposition rapidly won her the hearts and minds of Berluti's clients.

Little by little, she developed a long-lasting creative affinity with her cousin Talbinio, who was by now the head of the firm. Her youthful vitality worked its magic on all who came, turning their purchasing decisions into a charming game.

Colours
Talbinio's imagination paired with Olga's boldness worked wonders. Olga transformed the shop into a drawing room where clients could enjoy conver- sation in good company. Jacques Lacan would chance upon Roman Polanski and Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé or Karl Lagerfeld.

In 1962, Olga's perception of the young artist, both rebel and client, Andy Warhol led her to create an exceptional pair of loafers. The shoes’ clean, unconventional lines gave them an unmistakable stamp of modernity, and the artist imme- diately recognized their unique character, their avant-garde originality echoing his own artistic endeavors. He took possession on them enthusiasti- cally, and they carried his name ever after, with the model becoming one of the classics of the House.

It was a light-hearted period, the future looked promising, and bold colours made their entry into this now venerable institution. Olga brought a touch of spice to luxury, perfecting Berluti’s Venezia leather and introducing a hand-finished patina in a palette of exclusive shades. The House's very individual shoes and the soul Olga discovered for them made the magic that to this day remains the romantic signature of Berluti.

Berluti Art
Today, Olga Berluti is working on a collection of exclusive designs.
The Berluti Art collection will be available shortly in our Maisons.

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