The shoe polishing events that Berluti holds for its loyal customers are legendary. Started by Olga Berluti and nicknamed the Swann Club, it involves gentlemen taking over their beloved shoes, sitting at a dinner table in their cotton socks and polishing the shoes with the greatest of attention. According to previous attendees, these events have something of the schoolyard atmosphere about them – all of a sudden the men become little boys, eager, earnest and more than a little competitive.
The events are also well known for the champagne that is used in the last stage of polishing. It is the acidity in the champagne that is key, removing the last vestiges of oil from the surface of the shoe to give it that extra shine. This, the firm admits, could be achieved with any wine. But champagne does add a certain romance to the whole enterprise.
These events are something that the new UK retail manager at Berluti in London, Lorenza Cavalli, is keen to build on. They foster loyalty to the brand and help Berluti keep in touch with its clientele. Indeed yesterday and today (September 25 and 26), Berluti is inviting its customers to drop by the shop for a drink (it is open until 7:30), let the staff take a look over their Berlutis to provide advice, and get a new pair of shoelaces for them.
It is amazing how many men are happy with old, frayed laces – even those that spend an inordinate amount of time polishing the shoes.
Berluti is also planning more polishing evenings at the London store, so look out for these in the coming months. Indeed, Permanent Style has already been invited to the first such evening – so watch this space for tales of debauchery, patina and polish.
Cavalli is new to menswear, her previous job being in the bespoke department at stationer Smythson and other jobs including watchmakers Ebel. But she still says she feels right at home with men’s shoes – something about the fascination that men who truly love their clothes bring to luxury houses like Berluti. “The customers are so interested in the products, in the technical side of them, in the history and the ethos of the company. It is a lot less flighty and trendy that womenswear,” she says.
In other Berluti news, the firm has just launched its new luggage. This is in the Venezia line, the same as the famous Un Jour bag (both pictured here). The design is similar in that it is a simple leather without much ornamentation, just a characteristic patina. The wheels, modelled after those of racing cars, also make it very manoeuvrable, while the thin leather makes it extremely light – lighter than a lot of other non-leather luggage.