More often than not, when a fancy European menswear brand offers customers a ridiculously expensive basic, it’s a stunt designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Wheat meaning masters of industry with great taste and lots of money, and chaff meaning, well, the rest of us.) And while Berluti’s $650 plain white t-shirt, which arrived at Mr Porter today, does that pretty effectively, it also uses one of the finest materials in the world to (sort of) justify its cost: mulberry silk.
If you’ve never heard of this stuff before, strap in. Mulberry silk is, arguably, one of the best materials in the world, and the highest-quality silk you can find. It’s lightweight, hypoallergenic and naturally odor-resistant, which makes it the perfect material for bed sheets. And it’s pretty strong, too — its producers claim that one strand of mulberry silk is stronger than a steel fiber of the same diameter. It’s procured from moths that are allowed to eat nothing but leaves from the mulberry tree, a diet that produces consistently fine, long strands of silk. The math from here is pretty simple: quality plus rarity times a marketplace of people willing to spend the money equals pretty high prices — even though only 30 percent of the shirt’s makeup is mulberry silk (the rest is cotton, although lovingly sourced and probably pretty spectacular quality, too).
And Berluti, which until this March was led by designer Haider Ackermann, seems hell-bent on cornering that market. Our friends at GQ Style wrote recently that Ackermann’s work “established a convincing new sartorial identity for the contemporary professional male of limitless financial means.” Limitless is no exaggeration: On the runway, Ackermann paired this t-shirt with a $3,400 jacket and a $7,700 shearling coat, among other expensive things. Whether his successor, former Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche, will continue that mission, remains to be seen. But what we do know for sure is that Berluti’s painstakingly well-made wares won’t come cheap.
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