I watched my Berluti shoes being re-patinated last week. This is a service the company offers to anyone – they recommend that you take the shoes away, wear them half a dozen times (without polishing them) and bring them back in. It enables the staff to check how the shoes are wearing – and so whether they need softening or other remedial measures – and to alter the colour if desired.

I’ve had this pair of Fil d’Ariane Evadé oxfords for around six months now, and probably worn them closer to a dozen times – as you can probably see from the ‘before shot’ above. But at least I’ve finally remembered to bring them in.

The fit is fine, so no adjustments needed there. It is the only last in the Berluti range that I find is wide enough in the joints for my foot – though fortunately the same last is also used to create the Kimono shoes and Galet boots.

As to colour, I was broadly happy with the original, classic colour of the Evadé, but I felt it could do with a little more contrast. These are not subtle shoes, after all, and bit more of the patina Berluti is famous for would be nice. So in consultation with UK manager Lorenza, we agreed to darken the toe and lower part of the shoe all round (as well as around the knots themselves) and leave the facings a little lighter.


Here you can see some of this job in action. The polish is first stripped back to the rawest state possible at this stage (third shot from the top) and then both dyes and polishes are used to achieve the variegated, transparent effect. Dyes are added first, with anything from rags to cotton buds, and polishes used as a finishing touch. With dyes it is possible to make your shoe lighter, once it has been stripped back, though only so far.

The difference between dye and polish was compared to dying your hair and using ‘blonde’ shampoo. The latter might enhance the effect, but it’s certainly not going to make you blonde.

Although staff in the West End shop describe the patina with much more prosaic language than Olga herself, there is doubtless more art than science to this process. With dyes you are actually painting a shoe, after all. Though like a watercolour, the effects are added in layers and the biggest skill is knowing which parts to leave untouched.

Shots of the finished shoes next week.