Fall 2021 Review

Review of Berluti Fall 2021 Men’s Fashion Show


Layers of Handcraft Colors Imitate Art, but these Clothes Don’t Shine

By Long Nguyen

During the Paris men’s fall season in mid-January, Kris Van Assche, the creative director for Berluti, showed a brief video directed by Antoine Asseraf, where he collaborated with Yoann Lemoine, aka Woodkid, the musician and video director. Titled ‘Living Apart Together,’ Olivier Casamayou choreographed a few models walking around a white stage with black lines on the floor wearing a couple of this Fall looks.  The preview was a prelude to a more significant live event in Shanghai in the first week of March. 

Today, Van Assche showed the extended version of the taped video revealing the Berluti fall 2021 collection in Shanghai to a limited audience. This actual collection showing is a special presentation during the city’s fall fashion week, with an invited in-person viewing of the clothes. 

At the time of the Paris men’s preview, Van Assche mentioned that the focus of his work at Berluti, now starting on his fourth year since his hire in April 2018, is on crafts – “Craft is the center of what I do. Craft has become the inspiration, the justification, and the essence.” 

Kris Van Assche

In this fall collection, the designer fulfilled this commitment to crafts. The designer made the relaxed approach to tailoring a centerpiece with the wool blend brown shirt collar soft jacket, and short pantsuit to the more fitted and proper look of a two buttons patch pocket slim pantsuit a light to dark purple wool. This color erases that touch of formality. The shirt collar jacket pantsuit allows this particularly tailored handiwork a sense of dressing up without much ado about looking stiff in a single breast pantsuit. Perhaps it’s a nod to the fluid present moment between in and out of homes. 

This Berluti fall collection’s main thrust is in transferring the optics of the colors, textures, and layers of silicone in the Russian-born Berlin-based artist Lev Khesin’s into the actual colorful clothes and accessories, a feat of ‘engineering’ so to speak. But, it also exposes the dangers of too much reliance on men’s fashion with art. 

Khesin once said the purpose of his art isn’t in the final result of the actual painting itself, but instead in the interactive process of making the art – in the multiple layering of paint on paint and colors over time that grows into the final work. The burst of expressive colors on 3D surfaces and the bas-relief of silicone and pigments often spilled outside of the wood panels’ boundaries give Khesin’s paintings a sense of the art being alive with vivid natural patterns flowing and settling smoothly on the chosen surfaces, whether woods or canvas. 

Khesin’s art is about the artist’s interrelationship, the material, the tools, and time. This same principle applies to how Van Assche sees his role as a designer. He is less concentrated on producing the upcoming trendy items but making clothes, shoes, and bags that follow a certain rhythm, an interplay between crafts, materials, cuts, and tailoring. 

Berluti’s signature patina is not a print – it is the unique process of coloring and bleaching of the leathers by trained artisans through hand application of solvents, oils, pigments, and dyes to induce the resulting lived-in shades and textures. Here, Berluti artisans employed a similar handcraft process of the patina techniques to create the degrading shade in the brand’s shoes’ leathers. 

The colors and texture of the artist Lev Khesin’s paintings into the virgin wool orange fading to green shirt-jacket and matching loose pants, green and Fuschia mixture mohair bucket hat and turtleneck, or red ocher and dark indigo stripe three-button drop shoulder boxy short coat or on a shoulder Venezia leather bag. 

The Canadian philosopher, educator, and media theorist Herbert Marshall McLuhans once chose the phrase ‘The Medium is the Message’ as a title of his influential 1967 best-seller book, a sentence that became an aphorism that all media are extensions of human senses and knowledge. The Berluti message here lies with the colorful mix of a tawny brown wool slim jacket, an orange and green silk shirt, and vibrant Fuschia wool cigarette pants or in the multiple examples of the various degrading colors on a dark indigo patina leather jacket worn with a crimson shirt and black wool trousers. 

That said, the attention to crafts and the luxurious materials of the garments – all requisite elements for any products deemed luxury – often miss out on what can connect a collection on an emotional level to the audience and prospective consumers.

These fall clothes feel too manufactured and too well thought out and planned, even with the relaxed tailored grey wool single breast pantsuit worn with a charcoal cashmere puffer coat in a perfect balance of the tailoring-street axis. Above all, the clothes don’t feel new. 

In this fall collection, every meticulous detail, whether from art or fabrication, is taken too literally instead of using different ideas as points of departure. Khesin’s art palettes surely outshined the reproduced colors of these fabrics made into these plain luxurious shirts, wool pantsuits, and leather jackets. 

In other words, these are not exciting clothes.