Olga joined her cousin Talbinio in Paris in 1959. Learning the craft of a shoemaker, she was not allowed to draw the pitched thread, which was considered as a man’s job. So she took interest in the other aspects of the craft: the leather, the foot, the customers.
1968 was the year for new ideas. Olga created dream lasts and colours. From 1970 onwards, Olga worked in contact with the greatest designers (Warhol, Truffaut, Yves Saint-Laurent) on the concept that inspired her most: leather as a continuation of the human skin. Customers, whom she loves so much, have always been participating actors in her creations.
Olga first imagined a recipe for patinas with unique transparencies when she discovered the discolouring virtues of the moon.
In 1980 she invented Venezia leather. This natural skin with great suppleness allows to obtain colours with unique depth thanks to a special tanning process.
She then applied a patina to the leather that exalted the colour and made it transparent.
Gorged with essential oils, it is as deep and warm as Japanese lacquer. Through this artisanal work, Berluti continues to cultivate exclusivity, giving each shoe and each bag a unique colour.
Located in the very heart of Paris, in the fashionable district of Le Marais, Olga’s workshop is the place where creation happens. When she is not working, she welcomes improvised dinners and sometimes a client stops by for the night. Her friends and customers took part directly or indirectly to the decoration. Armchairs were created by Carlo Rampazzi, the interior designer of Berluti boutiques, paintings were made by Sunao Tanaka, who also drew the last Berluti campaign. As an homage for her clients she engraved some of their letters on the leather of her trunks.
In the middle of essential oils, kept in L’Heure Bleue de Guerlain perfume bottles (her mother’s perfume), the made to measure workbench occupies the place of honour. On it, the creations become alive.
Just like Olga, the workshop is not only the one of a shoemaker but also of a real artist. Olga, besides being an outstanding female bootmaker, is a renowned costume designer, who was rewarded for several movies.
An invisible thread connects Berluti clients. It comes from their shared passion for the shoe. Together and facing it, they scrutinise, guess, imagine and dream.
Why not prolong the moment? This is why the Club evenings were born. The Club is named Swann after the Proustian hero and all he represents; elegance, romance and distance from the ordinary world. Like him, Berluti clients share a luxury, not that of appearing but that of being. This may be manifested by objects that have accompanied them for many years and that they cherish, bear their imprint and that time has fashioned in their image. Clients in the Swann Club share a style, the art of being.
The first meeting was held at the Hotel Crillon in 1992. First and foremost, they are happy to meet again and dine together. First they discuss the subject, the shoe’s aesthetic, from the standpoint of pure reason. They often have new ideas or discoveries to share with the House of Berluti.
Then the real work begins. The patina session is extremely codified. It is a true ritual, with time honoured gestures; the table cloth is removed, polishes are presented, squares of noble Venetian linen are wrapped around fingers; the men take off their shoes and place them on the table. Together, coached by Olga, they begin to massage the leather. Then they begin to buff. Some, traditional, use water; others, more rarely (but history bears witness thereto) use a dab of champagne.
The main rule is that there are no rules except one; like Proust’s salon no “bores” are allowed.