Archive - March, 2006

The Berluti

Manolo says, one of the Manolo’s many internet friends has forwarded to the Manolo the article from the Times of the London about the Berluti, the swank English bootery.

Olga Berluti makes the most beautiful men’s shoes in the world — and if you don’t believe me, take a peek in one of Berluti’s London branches. You’ll gaze in awe at the elegant lines and the burnished deep, layered finish and go: “Wow! When I’m rich that’s what I’ll wear all the time.” Then you’ll walk away sadly because you’ll know it’s never going to happen. Not when a basic pair of ready-to-wear shoes costs a minimum of £470 and a pair of bespoke ones upwards of £2,200.AlessandroAccording to Berluti, though, when we meet in her Paris atelier, there are quite a few non-rich people out there who buy her shoes. “Today young people with no money save and save till they can afford them,” she says.

It’s Berluti’s view that a shoe isn’t a proper shoe until it has been worn for at least 20 years — the point when it takes on its owner’s personality. So even for your bespokes, you’re paying only £110 a year.You’d agree it’s worth it if you tried on a pair – as I did in Berluti’s atelier. To wear they’re like ballet pumps. The fine calf leather has been tanned to such feathery lightness you could almost be barefoot — and the fit is perfect.

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In the early days, when the company’s clientele included everyone from Toulouse-Lautrec to the Duke of Windsor, 80 per cent of its shoes were black and the rest chestnut brown. It was Berluti who introduced the more experimental finishes — smoked blacks, blue greys, yellow-browns, and grey-greens — and styles (tattooed with calligraphy; scarred like African tribesmen, etc) for which the shoemaker is renowned today.

The polishing techniques she invented herself and they are a closely-guarded secret. She keeps all her magic ingredients in old Guerlain perfume bottles in her atelier, watched over by a dummy dressed as a samurai, and her personally decorated wooden lasts (ie, the blocks from which bespoke shoes are made) of famous old customers.

They include Richard Burton, Mr Royce (of Rolls-Royce) and Toulouse-Lautrec; Warhol is the only customer with five lasts because he kept changing his mind.

The shoes of the Berluti are indeed truly marvelous, and in the fact, many of them are among the most beautiful shoes for the mens the Manolo has ever seen; absolutely gorgeous shoes.

Sometimes, however, the Olga Berluti she takes the quest for beauty and novelty too far, such as with the collection she has named Rapiécés-Reprisés.
Duo LacedDuo
These shoes the have, according to the Berluti website, the distinguished artistic pedigree.

One day, Andy Warhol asked Olga Berluti: “I would like my right loafer to be patched. And it needs to be visible! It needs to be very Andy Warhol!’. 40 years later, Olga Berluti applies to Ready-To-Wear models the techniques of patching and darning traditionally reserved for clothes.

Yes, it is possible to admire such shoes for the superb quality of their workmanship, and for their cultural value, but they are to the mind of the Manolo almost unwearable, especially by those wish to be taken seriously. If you are the dandy, or the rich artist, then perhaps yes, but otherwise, almost certainly no.

Still, what is there not to love about the company that adores the shoes and the art of the shoes so completely?