Earlier last month it was rumored that the burgeoning luxury Italian cobbler Berluti was considering a higher profile place on Madison Avenue, and it seems to have taken over the former Anne Fontaine store between 61st and 62nd Streets. The two level space will eventually replace the much more modest Berluti shop at 76th Street. If you think that this move is because the artisanal men's shoe brand has been so incredibly successful that it needs to increase its space tenfold, then you may want to think again. Berluti's sudden high profile is more a result of corporate parent LVMH's decision to push the exclusive label into luxury menswear megabrand terrirory to compete with the Ermenegildo Zegnas, Brionis and Kitons of the world. The new Berluti, created over the past couple of years, is really a combination of the venerable Italian shoe and leathergoods label and the rarefied but much admired French bespoke tailor Arnys, whose operations have been folded into the Berluti brand. Add former ZZegna designer Alessandro Sartori as artistic director and you have a new luxury menswear house. Berluti flagships are concurrently rising in international capitals London and Paris, where the Arnys store is being converted. In addition, a lavish shop-in-shop will also be opening in Bergdorf Goodman's Men's Store featuring the complete collection that one expects will be much like the one that opened last Fall at Harrod's in London..
It's a lot of fast growth for the brand which wouldn't have been remotely possible without LVMH's strategic thinking and deep pockets. The question is whether it is better to grow a luxury brand through years of organic development and customer building or giving it a super steroid boost and presenting it to potential customers? Does it matter? Berluti has a long tradition of beautiful, if a bit conspicuously handmade goods, and Alessandro Sartori proved his taste and skill with Zegna's younger, more directional brand. There's no reason to think that they won't come together to make a great collection of products, and it looks like we will see later this year if LVMH's rapid-growth strategy will pay off.