The fashion world isn’t that great at keeping secrets. Hedi Slimane’s departure from Saint Laurent was an open secret for months, and speculation that Anthony Vaccarello would succeed him began immediately. Raf Simons taking the reigns at Calvin Klein seemed like a foregone conclusion almost the second he left Dior.
This morning’s news that Haider Ackermann will take over menswear line Berluti, however, seemed to catch everyone a bit off guard. It was a sweet surprise that took some time to process to feel correct.
Haider Ackermann, who only fully committed to designing his own menswear line in 2014, is best known for his ethereal and avant-garde women’s fashion that is favored by the likes of Tilda Swinton (most of her most memorable red carpet looks are by the designer). Berluti, a company founded in 1895, is known for its bespoke menswear and takes pride in the fact that its shoes were among the favorite of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
It is not the type of designer-brand marriage that seemed destined, at least on its face.
Berluti, however, has been in the market for a new designer since Alessandro Sartori decamped for Zegna in February. The brand had been in the midst of a rehaul. LVMH bought the house, best known for its leather goods, in 1993, and then merged it with Parians tailor Arny’s in 2012 to create a full-fledged men’s line. Under Sartori, the brand kept it’s bespoke image, but had found commercial success with high-end sneakers. “Offbeat classicism and technical virtuosity are keynotes of the House,” boosts the brand’s website.
Ackermann meanwhile had been buzzed about as a possible successor at several fashion houses, including Dior. Karl Lagerfeld once quipped that he would like to see the Colombian-born and African-raised designer one day take over Chanel.
He presented a single menswear line as a guest at Pitti Uomo in 2010, but only fully committed his brand to the gender in 2014. It retained the dreamy and casual aesthetic of his work for women. Kanye West, whose reputation as a menswear tastemaker might rival that of Martin and Sinatra’s in their day, has become a fan, often spotted in Ackermann coats and sweaters. So perhaps it’s not much of a surprise.
The arrangement also allows Ackermann to remain devoted to his own line. Berluti only produces two collections a year, rather than the six or more presented by major women’s wear brands. The designer tells the New York Times he’ll remain committed to his brand, and hopes to develop a separate and appropriate aesthetic for his work with Berluti.
The arrangement also allows LVMH to cement a relationship with the buzzy designer, though the luxury conglomerate is not investing in Ackermann’s namesake line.
Watch Tilda Swinton discuss who suspects might be God: