Passion

Perfect Pairing

Perfect Pairing

A capsule collection of shoes realized by Berluti for the Ferrari driver who likes to step out stylishly
Words

Kevin M. Buckley

When Ferrari and Berluti came togheter to produce an exclusive new footwear collection they relied upon shared values such as heritage and thechnology, hallmarks of their globally recognized staus as luxury brands. The Ferrari Limited Edition capsule collection offers three models: the Slip-on, the Chelsea Boot, and the hidden-laces Oxford.

The destiny of the project was set at the turn of this century when a lanky young Italian student and a handsome Frenchman of around the same age got to know each other when they lived in the same Parisian apartment building.

The two twentysomethings would excitedly bump into neighbours such as the French World Cup footballer Michel Platini in the elevator. Little could John Elkann and Antoine Arnault have known that some two decades later they would, as Ferrari Chairman and Berluti CEO respectively, personify collaboration between two of the world’s leading luxury brands.

A guided tour of the ‘Manifattura Berluti’  premises near Ferrara in northern Italy follows the main production stages: selezione (selection), taglio (cut), preparazione (preparation), orlatura (hemming), montaggio (mounting), and finissaggio (finishing). Only the finest Venezia leather, resistant yet malleable, is chosen in a rigorous selection procedure.

Delicate machines allow smoothing and pressing the leather to astonishingly precise widths. “This is a world of millimetres” where the spaccapelle machine can reduce thicknesses down to half of one millimetre. The similarities with that other world of precision – Maranello – are unstated. Yet obvious. After the orlatura stage, a light skeleton structure is inserted.

Left: fitting the upper to the shoe last. Right: adding the border hemming<em> Photo: Alberto Bernasconi</em>
Left: fitting the upper to the shoe last. Right: adding the border hemming Photo: Alberto Bernasconi

The leather shape is then smoothed onto the wooden shoe last, with holding nails carefully tapped into place. The entire form is later pressed and stretched simultaneously by a dozen metal arms, with precise machine settings being selected by the specialist eye of the next artisan.

The same Berluti savoir faire – know-how – chooses the duration and temperature of “the little oven” into which each shoe undergoes a hot “steam shower” to finalise the snugness of the fitting around the last. Artisans recognise which type of sewing needle, from the dozens available, is best suited for each leather. Even the tension of the thread is calculated. All such minute details are stored in an individual “master file” for each shoe, the Cordwainer equivalent of Maranello’s Classiche Department archives, permitting exact reproduction upon client request.

The final stage highlights one of the distinctive characteristics of Berluti: patination, its secretive process of variegated and graded colouring where individual artisans quietly take around ninety minutes to hand-apply the colouring to each shoe.

Shelves of itemised shoe lasts on storage shelves <em>Photo: Alberto Bernasconi</em>
Shelves of itemised shoe lasts on storage shelves Photo: Alberto Bernasconi

With around one hundred shades of colour available, each stored in little glass bottles, the artisan has a myriad  choice when creating each unique colouring. Each shoe carries thin red piping around the rear part of the base; a Prancing Horse rears up on the achilles; ‘spoilers’ of carbon fibre adorn the insteps; stitching patterns replicate Ferrari seat stitching.

Underneath, a transparent alcove feature penetrates the heel, cleverly inspired by the rear screen of a Ferrari F40 and the engine lid on the new F8 Tributo. A high-tech covering boasts the same carbon fibre – Twill 2 x 2 – to be found in Ferrari cars,  guaranteeing re-inforced pedal grip. Toward the toe other carbon surface-texturing provides flexibility with strength.

Up close, the Italian sunshine doesn’t so much reflect off the finished patina, as positively dance across it. The fact that Manifattura Berluti lies just 60 miles from Maranello adds to the emotion of the production process. “When you look at it”, one of the experienced artisans sighs, “you can feel it’s ... it’s Ferrari.”

Ferrari