These days, it can be hard to get excited about a new designer appointment. Thanks to the popularity of two-year contracts, the times when a label was headed by the same designer for fifty of so years (think Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi and Chanel) or even a mere five years (Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton) are long gone. Now, brands seem to join and part ways with creative directors with the same speed that dictates all of fashion - fast, fast, fast. Remember, Justin O’Shea lasted just one season at Brioni. Ouch.
Here’s hoping that Berluti realise that they are on to a good thing with Haider Ackermann, who was appointed creative director in September of this year. His debut was focused, elegant and confident in its sense of calm. This has been the season of gimmicks - flashy, smile-raising collaborations, shouty slogans on the runway and so on - but Ackermann steered clear, focusing instead on repositioning the classic, timeless pieces Berluti are known for into a more modern arena, building on the work of Alessandro Sartori but adding in elements of his own spirit - the crocodile boots, the backpacks containing guitars, the wine tones, the velvet, the vague sense of a bohemian spirit. He hammered home the desirability of his clothing by sending out some female models in them. Mixing menswear and womenswear is big news today - but so many collections rely on a few scantly clad women, awkwardly taking to the runway in heels, to sex up a collection. Not Ackermann. Confident in his pieces, he simply dressed his women in his menswear. They looks fantastic - modern, refined. The statement - Berluti looks good on everyone.
Ackermann has always felt like something of an outsider on the menswear scene. He is a romantic, a dreamer, a drifter. His eponymous shows are both sensual and vaguely punkish. One wondered if this signature would feel awkward or even vaguely uncomfortable at Berluti, which is, after all, a LVMH megabrand - it’s hard to convincingly rep the outsider when you’re working for a conglomerate (that’s perhaps the exact same realisation Demna Gvasalia had when he whacked 'Kering' on a sweater - it’s better to acknowledge, with a joke and a smile, than ignore your position). The most important thing in fashion today is authenticity - the brands doing well are the ones that have managed to create a veneer of it. People want to buy into things they can believe in. Those that fail are the ones with no point of view. Ackermann’s subversive spirit ran lightly and subtly through today’s show - it gave it edge. But his skill for vibrant elegance, for tactile, sumptuous clothing shone. There was just enough of him, and just enough of Berluti - no tussles, no tugs, just great togs.