The Parisian legacy house Berluti has unveiled its first China art event and, with it, a dynamic new form of presentation that explored the spatial limitations people around the world faced during the pandemic. Staged at One On The Bund, a cultural hub located in Shanghai, “Living Apart Together” introduced Winter 2021 with previews of selected products on April 8.
Attended by the brand’s celebrity partners and industry insiders, the event sparked dynamic conversations about the multi-disciplinary crossover between contemporary art and fashion. The physical curation of the exhibition played with social-distancing floor signs, which now symbolize the physical and emotional barriers of the lockdown. Based on the hope of finding spiritual liberation by breaking through these physical restrictions, the event embodied Berluti’s commitment to social awareness for this upcoming season.
Transitioning from a shoemaker to a full-fledged luxury house, Berluti is undergoing an expansive shift in China’s market and betting on its promising younger consumers. Here, Jing Daily looks into the menswear house’s ambitious strategy — from reinvigorating craftsmanship and heritage to a digital transformation across offline and online activations.
Craftsmanship and heritage with a modern twist
Established in Paris in 1895, Berluti’s craft heritage began over a hundred years ago. Though it later expanded its offering to include fine leather goods (2005), followed by RTW (2011), Berluti earned its artisanal value from the house’s preceding four generations of shoemakers.
This season, Berluti, helmed by creative director Kris Van Assche, collaborated with the Russian contemporary artist Lev Khesin to fuse traditional shoemaking techniques with contemporary art via the house’s artisanal patina methods (the signature color of the house’s classic shoes).
Berluti’s approach intensified its commitment to its heritage but also diversified the brand’s image through art. Khesin’s palettes have been reconstructed into block colors and interpreted within garments and accessories — all while manifesting the fluidity, adaptability, and handcraft of the brand’s “neo-suiting” innovation.
Also, Point norvégien, a type of white-stitch embroidery commonly seen in shoemaking, has been used throughout the collection, amplifying this collaboration’s emphasis on cordwaining mastery. Conversely, dressmaking techniques have been applied to shoes, reinvigorating classic leather shoes with upcycled, triple-layered platform soles and foam textured platform soles.
The collaboration’s emphasis on artistry and its China-first launch show the brand is mapping out a broader picture in China.
Tapping into China’s male luxury shoppers
Since men have begun experimenting with self-expression via fashion in the workplace and daily life, this segment is now actively demanding higher market attention than their counterparts. In light of the radical transformation of masculinity in the Mainland, Berluti is, with its specialty in menswear, among the luxury houses capitalizing on rising male buying power in China.
But this shift has also brought a lot of competition, not only from newcomers and disruptors but also from leading luxury houses, which are extending their menswear lines. Still, as consumer profiles of the segment tend to be sophisticated and dynamic, ranging from mature high-net-worth individuals to Gen Zers influenced by global youth culture, this plays well for the house.
To better engage the potential of the younger part of this sector, the brand has leveraged extensive celebrity endorsements, such as with brand ambassador Eddie Peng. With 33 million followers on Weibo – Peng has allowed the brand to develop a broader reach overall.
At One On The Bund, the presence of young faces like Zhang Binbin, Lai Kuan Lin, Dong Youlin, Tang Xiaotian, and Lu Keran also drove high social traffic on the event’s livestream, which amassed 5.4 million total views on Weibo. Meanwhile, Peng’s virtual attendance at the event, which was featured in the livestream, smartly echoed the presentation’s theme, “Living Apart Together.”
Ingraining omnichannel communication and digital transformation
In the run-up to the event, Berluti’s strategic reinvention of the digital arena began when it tapped Little Red Book during Chinese New Year 2021 and launched its Douyin channel this season. The brand also customized pre-show, short-video teasers starring its five young idols, garnering substantial social attention for the launch campaign. Together, these initiatives ensured a lot of social engagement for the event.
Furthermore, online boutique visitors can pre-order Winter 2021 products and Khesin’s artwork-inspired camera filter from Berluti’s WeChat Mini Program. As such, the brand reinforced its digital transformation by elevating its e-commerce experience and heightening its exclusivity.
Among the international labels that have embraced a digital presentation along with a physical launch, Berluti’s integration of contemporary art and legacy craftsmanship stands as a leader in the high-end menswear evolution. From offline reactivations to omnichannel communication tactics, Berluti is strongly determined to revolutionize Chinese men’s wardrobe.