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Photo: Dior Homme SS2018, Catwalkpictures

Berluti parts ways with Kris Van Assche

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

23 Apr 2021

Berluti, the LVMH-owned label best known for its high-end footwear, is bidding goodbye to artistic director Kris Van Assche. The notorious three-year contract re-shuffle was perhaps not entirely unexpected after the Maison’s fashion codes (and its logo) were fully disrupted and did not achieve the growth LVMH has come to expect.

Belgian designer Van Assche announced his departure via Instagram, stating “these past three year have been extremely intense” and “reshaping the brand DNA” was a challenge, compounded by a pandemic and restrictions.

Berluti CEO Alexandre Arnault said in a statement: “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. I would personally like to thank Kris, who throughout his journey within the LVMH Group has shown remarkable talent in the world of menswear. He has brought his own vision to Berluti, particularly by integrating new codes into its signatures.”

Van Assche’s final collection is Fall Winter 2021, presented earlier this month. The brand confirmed he will be finishing “some projects” in the coming weeks, but no other appointment or re-shuffle with LVMH has been announced.

The designer succeeded Haider Ackermann in 2018 to helm the luxury label’s ready-to-wear collections, accessories, shoes and leather goods, which were debuted during Paris Men’s Fashion Week in 2019. Prior to Berluti Van Assche spent 11 years at Dior menswear.

What went wrong

While Van Assche may have been expected to focus on building Berluti into a more commercial brand for a wider and younger audience – he introduced streetwear styles like sneakers and slides – they may have been more data-led additions than genuine category items sought by Berluti’s wealthy clientele. A cotton and polyester logo t-shirt retailing for just under 500 euros sums this up: marketed towards Gen Z, it is unlikely to hold the same appeal to a loyal customer purchasing the brand’s hand-made boots in its signature Venetian leather.

A similar fate occurred at Brioni, where creative director Justin O’Shea was fired just six months into his tenure in 2016. Pivoting the maison’s design (including logo revamp) to make it more cool was seen by many as not being aligned with the brand. Like Brioni, Berluti is a centenary brand with a rich heritage and history. Marketing it as youthful, cool and directional may have lost more customers than gained new ones.

A creative successor is yet to be announced.