There are two types of footwear whose brand names become nouns. There are those that are name-checked in rap lyrics (see "My Adidas") and those whose craftsmanship is nonpareil (see My Berluti). Berluti's workmanship is painstaking, but it is the patina of the leathers that have made the brand into something of a cult.
Long before the brand was purchased in 1993 by LVMH and entrusted to its current artistic director Mr Alessandro Sartori, there was the Swann Club - an occasional dinner for the Parisian shoemaker's best customers. At these get-togethers, devotees would polish their footwear with Venetian linen dipped in Dom Pérignon champagne under the light of a quarter moon.
Sadly the Swann Club - an invitation-only affair named after the gadabout protagonist of Mr Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past - is no more. But at Berluti, the strict traditions remain, at the behest of the maison's grande dame Ms Olga Berluti.
"The alcohol makes [leather] shine, but it must be chilled; it must be a very dry, a grand champagne," Ms Berluti has said. Alcohol removes excess wax; the dryness is crucial because "sugar will make shoes dirty" and "the low temperature fixes the wax on your shoes". It is only with Venetian linen that "absolute purity of the cloth can be guaranteed". As for the moonshine? "The moon gives transparency to leather. The sun burns; the moon burnishes." Well it's a good story at least - and one we suspect that is told with a digestif of flim-flam.
Hyperbole aside, Berluti's clientele over the years have included President John F Kennedy as well as Messrs Andy Warhol, Frank Sinatra and Robert De Niro.
Now, for the first time, MR PORTER is able to offer Berluti's ready-to-wear shoes. To mark Berluti's debut, we asked Mr Alessandro Sartori, the man entrusted with bringing the brand into the future while remaining true to its past, to talk us through what makes a pair of Berluti shoes special. But before you watch the film, it is only right that we ask you to pour yourself a glass of Dom Pérignon and clutch your shoe rag of fine Venetian linen...
Film by Mr Aaron Christian, Video Style Editor, MR PORTER
Words by Mr Dan Rookwood, US Editor, MR PORTER