Fashion & Beauty / Insiders

Karim Rebahi at Berluti

Insiders meets the man who, with Berluti, is redefining the notion of bespoke menswear tailoring

The Berluti flagship store, Paris
The Berluti flagship store, Paris Photography by Antoine Harinthe

Berluti may have started in 1895 making bespoke shoes for the discerning gentleman but now, three seasons after being bought by LVMH, the newly appointed artistic director Alessandro Sartori has designs on a man’s entire wardrobe. His S/S14 presentation for the line was a spectacular mise-en-scène set in the lavish grounds of the Hôtel de Sully, a 17th century private mansion located in Le Marais, Paris. It also served as the introduction of Grand Mesure, the extraordinary bespoke programme that will offer clients the unprecedented opportunity to have an entirely bespoke wardrobe – everything from overcoats, to field jackets and even chinos and jeans. Against a backdrop of 23 male models recreating Ormond Gigli’s signature photograph Girls In The Windows, Sartori said, “Our aim was to go back to the roots of bespoke in Paris when tailors used to work in the heart of the city in their boutique, very close to their customers. What makes bespoke for shoes or clothing special is the human contact and the dialogue between the client and the tailor or shoemaker. Bespoke brings the best of know-how and quality together. In this service, time is a pledge of quality.”

"The new spirit of Berluti is something French, eclectic, personal, but with an Italian soul”

To experience this apogee of male luxury, one can visit the new Berluti flagship store in Paris’ rue de Sèvres. Formerly the workshop of the fabled Left Bank tailleurs, Arnys, who have been outfitting luminaries such as Yves Saint Laurent, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Le Corbusier (his famous Forestière jacket was created here) since 1933; Arnys was recently purchased by Bernard Arnault and folded into the Berluti brand with its elite team of cutters and tailors taking responsibility for Grand Mesure. And while the original fittings from the historic Arnys store have been preserved for the new Berluti Maison, architect Gwenaël Nicolas revisits the famously burnished patina of Berluti’s handmade shoes for the interiors, bringing traditional French classicism into dialogue with 20th century modernism.

It’s within that we meet Karim Rebahi, the 34-year-old master tailor in the workshop discreetly hidden behind velvet curtains on the top floor of the store. Rebahi chose Arnys “not only for its reputation and savoir faire but because it was a small house with few tailors so it was interesting to learn at close proximity. I saw there was the chance to really transmit the know-how to people.” As ambassador for the bespoke programme, Rebahi’s new job description will see him travelling to the different Berluti Maisons around the world (and with locations in Miami, Ginza, London and Madison Avenue, Rebahi will be busy) providing the first global bespoke service. He says, “'my job is to interpret the designs of the clients, transmit them to paper, bring them back to the atelier and then we will translate their desires.” And while he initially baulked at the idea of making something as utilitarian as jeans, Rebahi and his team of eight have now embraced it. “Alessandro comes with his ideas and we try to realise them. Yes it can be difficult to develop the details but it makes for an interesting challenge.”

It all comes down to what Sartori describes as the new spirit of Berluti: “something French, eclectic, personal but with an Italian soul.” By which he means a refined, couture attitude and a deep respect for tradition, worn with the playful carelessness of youth. The customer as he sees it “could be a man in his thirties wearing a beautiful suit or a seventy year old man wearing sportswear or Grande Mesure formal wear. Whatever his age, he is elegant with a strong fashion education and an artistic soul.” Sartori concludes, “Today a man who buys bespoke shoes or a bespoke suit does not necessarily know where to get a good bespoke casual piece. In that way we are different as we offer a full bespoke wardrobe from head to toe. Luxury is exclusivity.”

Text by Kin Woo