Kris Van Assche leaves Berluti, as brand plots new direction
His departure, announced Tuesday, comes as the house becomes the latest brand to pivot away from the classic Paris runway schedule.
“In order to maintain our commitment to both savoir-faire and innovation, we have decided to let Berluti lead its own rhythm and give freedom to its presentation schedule,” Berluti CEO Antoine Arnault said in a statement.
No successor has been named.
The Belgian-born Van Assche joined Berluti in 2018, replacing Haider Ackermann, who barely lasted two seasons; who in turn had succeeded Alexandro Sartori, the Italian creator who launched the brand’s ready-to-wear business.
Sartori, an expert Italian tailor, staged Berluti’s first runway show back in 2012 in Paris, and won acclaim for his cool yet classy style. The brand, however, now looks set for a potentially long hiatus from the catwalk.
Berluti will now “take a new approach to the collection calendar, choosing its own path for presenting its exceptional products, including collaborative projects and pieces,” its release read.
Van Assche, 44, joined Berluti from Dior, where he had helmed the menswear division for 11 years. Prior to that, he was the right-hand man of Hedi Slimane. Initially at Yves Saint Laurent as the French designer's first assistant, and then at Dior, another LVMH label, before taking over the reins there when Slimane left the company in 2007.
“I definitely think I became a better designer thanks to my work at Berluti and I couldn’t thank enough my studio and the artisans there. I have always loved working with ateliers - be that on tailoring, shoes or leather goods - and the level of expectations on quality and research was definitely stimulating,” said Van Assche on leaving the 126-year-old house.
Van Assche also had his own brand, though shuttered it in 2015, after sales were decidedly sluggish.
He was a surprise appointment at Berluti, where Sartori had developed a following with his classic with an edgy take on high fashion; and Ackermann had taken the brand somewhere very new with his avant-garde artist vision.
While in charge, he did stage the first womenswear looks for Berluti, sending Gigi Hadid out in a sleeveless suit at a show outside the Orangerie in the Luxembourg Gardens.
While at Dior Men, Van Assche more than doubled annual revenues over a decade; however, Van Assche’s successor Kim Jones garnered far more positive reviews and greatly accelerated the division’s turnover.
Van Assche debuted at Berluti with a grand show inside the Opera, winning moderately positive reviews. However, his more recent collections, where he teamed up with obscure artists, were seen as an odd take for Berluti, the only brand in menswear that boasts both a bespoke footwear and tailoring division. Instead, Van Assche concentrated much of his efforts on developing new high-end sneakers, rather than revamping classic men’s footwear. At the end, his sartorial street style never quite jelled at the house.
In his release, Arnault thanked Van Assche, saying his tenure at LVMH “has shown remarkable talent in the world of men’s wear. He has brought his own vision to Berluti, particularly integrating new codes into its signatures.”
Berluti has grown to possess a network of some 60 stores worldwide and developed a sophisticated global audience, though the brand is still probably better known for the unique patina of its highly coveted boots and shoes rather than its fashion direction.
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