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 International (English) - - VOGUEHOMMANIA - POR­TRAIT Craig McDean Théodora As­part IN­TER­VIEW BY

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…

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