PARIS, France — Haider Ackermann is used to adoring throngs after his shows. He has a way of touching people’s hearts. But his new job at Berluti is an entirely different proposition: menswear with a classic stance. Something more purely sartorial than the carnal delights his own collections for men promise. The reconciliation of discipline and indulgence promised one of the highlights of the men’s week in Paris. And the fact those throngs were undeterred in their adoration suggested that Ackermann managed to pull off the balancing act.
Berluti chief executive Antoine Arnault certainly had no doubts. “Colour, impertinence, rule-breaking — these are the essence of Berluti,” he offered after the show. “And Haider took them to the next level.” It was always going to be intriguing to see how Ackermann resolved his appetite for colour in a context other than his own collection, which, as he readily admitted, was all about a kind of boundary-free creativity. But the new Berluti palette had the familiar deep jewel tones. A purple suede jean jacket is always going to say “Haider Ackermann” whatever the label. And a dusty rose parka, one of the collection’s signature departures with the past, could also have stepped sideways off a Haider catwalk.
But it was surely more relevant to track the ways on which Ackermann built on the foundation that Alessandro Sartori created for the house. Both designer and chief executive acknowledged the debt. But where Sartori came from a traditional tailoring background, Ackermann’s approach was more deliberately fashionable: cropping, layering, texturing, twisting. He sent a handful of his favourite female models down the catwalk in men’s clothes: Berluti tomboys. And he added his own nomadic signature: backpacks, guitar cases, a big old bag bearing everything its owner possessed. But still, the essence of this collection is its tailoring, and, with access to more skilled craftsmanship than he’d ever had before, Ackermann was able to elaborate on that newly formed heritage by sculpting the suits he’d always dreamed of, in fabrics he’d also only dreamed of. What did he learn about himself in this process? “I can work hard.” And he said that like it was a new, but illuminating, experience.