All it took was a few seasons designing Haider his men’s line for Ackermann
to be called in as artistic director at Maison Berluti. Between respect for the house codes and some bold, well–judged gestures, he says he wants to take the brand beyond trends in a form of silent (but eloquent ) super–luxe.
VOGUE HOMMES What did you know about Berluti before they approached you? HAIDER ACKERMANN The shoes, only the shoes. I also knew a bit about the story of Olga Berluti, who shod some of the world’s most intriguing, sexy, and eccentric men, from Andy Warhol, to Churchill, Saint Laurent, and Cocteau. She has always surrounded herself with beautiful souls. That was all I knew about Maison Berluti. Not a lot. Plus its reputation for know – how and craftsmanship … … and those fabulous patinas. No, I didn’t even know about those at that point.
For a long time, you used to say that men’s fashions were not your subject. But you got involved gradually and finally launched a men’s line, and then that offer came along from Berluti. Was it a late epiphany?
I’d be more inclined to talk about a series of accidents. Doing men’s clothes was not something I’d always wanted to do. Creating clothes for women, yes: that was already there when I was a kid. But then Pitti Uomo came and offered me carte blanche. I was interested by the stylistic challenge it involved. I began asking myself who could be the man to stand next to the Ackermann woman. I did a few sketches, not thinking it would lead to anything. And then one thing led to another, the men forced their way into my life, so to speak. Were you hesitant when Berluti came calling? No, I was curious. The idea of exploring, learning something new, gets your heart beating faster. It’s what keeps you alive. The upshot is that, even if I spend three days a week working on my own brand, and three days on Berluti, and the weekends are short, I still have the sense of having got several years younger. So, what is it that interests you in them? Right now it’s their vanity, which I find extreme. Men seem to have become far more self – aware, recently. Too aware! Which makes them less sexy… But it’s still fascinating to watch. What does creating for men change? With womenswear, you’re trying to beatify them. With men, you want to give them an attitude, a walk. You can’t cheat as much ? Fewer big gestures? I don’t like decorating women, either. But it’s true that in men’s fashions you’re perhaps more focused on the clothes. Has the Berluti man got younger, too? I’m not keen on putting it like that because, right now, everything’s being made to look younger all the time and there’s something very vacuous in that. But I’m trying to open doors, to find the right balance between executives of a certain age who are already clients of the brand, and other, younger men, crazier, more eccentric. There used to be eccentricity at Berluti, but then it dropped out of sight. I’m trying to find it again. There’s this young guy in my team, covered in tattoos, who used to be in a punk group, and another who’s never without his skateboard and baggies, and a third who’s always super chic. We should all be able to adopt Berluti. That said, I don’t want to put the brand on the “fashion map ”. Yet you’re turning it into a real fashion brand … I hope not. I’m not trying to turn it into a trendy, or hype house. For me, it’s above that. I want it to stay discreet. Recognisable, but silent. Without the pieces shouting their refinement, and, it must be said, their price? Life itself is so shouty. Everyone is screaming all over the place. It’s deafening. Personally, I prefer the precious side of Berluti to be perceived when you take your man in your arms and wonder what the fabulous fabric he’s wearing is. A man who changes his wardrobe every season is … Not very attractive. It shows a lack of personality, don’t you think ? You have to keep your clothes. They tell a story. There’s that jumper you wore on that important evening with so – and – so, that T – shirt you wore at a particular concert …
“Without that quirky touch, luxury just isn’t luxury.”
Why include women in the line– up, right from your first show? Women wearing men’s clothes, I hasten to point out. The cuts weren’t adjusted for them, they were jut men’s pieces in XXS versions. Because there’s nothing more sexual than a woman who’s borrowed her lover’s jersey and shows a bit of bare shoulder. Not sexy — sexual, I insist. We’ve always come across the word punk in reports on your catwalk shows, right from the beginning. Are you comfortable with that? No, I feel I’m more bourgeois than punk. I’m quite happy for people to use the word “wild ”, though. I like the idea of going where people don’t expect me, taking other routes. I’m very difficult to grasp, but that’s another story. Who are your style icons? There are so many, but I don’t like to name them. It would be simplistic. I can be attracted by so many different people… You could still tell us who was the first man whose appearance struck you? I was still a kid. It was Joseph, our gardener when we lived in Ethiopia. It was his elegance, his bearing. That sublime ebony skin that took on hints of midnight blue in the sun. His hand movements. He was probably the noblest and most elegant man I’ve ever met.
What are the essentials of a well – judged wardrobe?
A macintosh, a leather jacket and a cashmere Do you yourself wear aT–shirt and pants every day? Mostly. The one thing that’s changed since my arrival at Berluti is my concern for my footwear. Before, I always wore very heavy boots. But now that I have the unheard–of luxury of wearing lizard skin shoes, I tend to find that the look is nicer with more delicate shoes. On Saturday mornings I do the supermarket run in sweatpants, but in a pair of crocodile Derbies.
With respect, who buys a hip flask these days?
You’re right, they’re completely outmoded. But that’s what eccentricity is all about — I keep coming back to that. And without that touch of quirkiness, luxury isn’t luxury. Does that change the way you walk? More the state of mind. You stand up straighter. Shoes can do that.
And what are the essential must – have accessories for a man? We recently saw a Berluti billboard campaign showing a hip flask…
Yes, because it’s a very masculine object that instantly channels the sort of raw virility that I find rather beautiful. I intend to create more accessories, like glasses cases, the sort of everyday object that you find in everyone’s homes, but that you can make sublime. Does creating men’s fashions help you design for your own label? Probably more for my own brand than for Berluti. Berluti man is the man I’d ideally like to be. The Ackermann man is more an extension of myself. A wanderer, a vagabond. A daydreamer…