Big Luxury gets everywhere.
The other day I was looking for an Old Master to fill an empty spot on the walls of the old ancestral terraced hovel that would suit something in the manner of the Master of the Legend of St Ursula, who was active in Bruges in the second half of the 15th century. Accordingly, I clicked on the Sotheby’s website.
But before I could even get to the Old Masters department, my eye was not so much drawn to as kidnapped by what was headlined as “An Auction of Rare Collector Items Personalised by Berluti”. This sale of 14 lots (including a set of dumbbells and a Triumph motorcycle with boots) is led by a 1973 Porsche 911 Targa 2.4L. “This Porsche Targa 911 is steeped in Berluti savoir-faire, with the Maison expertise expressed in an extensive customisation that still respects the original design,” explained the catalogue notes grandiloquently.
As I am not entirely fluent in auctionese, it took me a minute or two to work out that France’s leading bottier de luxe had, to use a technical term, “pimped” one of the most desirable open-topped sportscars of my favourite decade.
Rather like Mr Toad who, when his Romany caravan is driven off the road by a motorcar, becomes obsessed with getting behind the wheel himself, all thoughts of acquiring a Flemish altarpiece or indeed any other knick-knack from the Northern Renaissance flew from my mind, leaving me with the sole (geddit) ambition to go rocketing along the country roads of France, the wind ruffling what remains of my hair, my hands gripping a Berluti Venezia leather-clad steering wheel, my body cosseted by the Berluti Venezia leather-clad seats.
Anything that could be swathed in the gorgeous tobacco-coloured patinated hide has been – even the interior of the luggage compartment – and to ensure that the driver is in contact with only Berluti leather, the gearshift knob is leather clad, as is the “Venezia patinated leather driver heel pad”. The driver’s heels themselves will be clad in the Berluti driving moccasins with which this car is supplied (they even chucked in a weekend bag too).
After my excitement had subsided, reality set in. I am not exactly at my best in control of high-speed machinery. I have crashed one snowmobile, one quad bike, one motorcycle and several cars (most memorably losing control of a Bentley Turbo R in the wet on the Heathrow slip road and putting all four corners of it into the side of a bus). So, in the spirit of prudence, I got on the phone to Antoine Arnault and asked if he could get Berluti to trim the Mini Moke that is my summer runabout. With plenty of wind-in-the-hair, open-topped action but a mighty 998cc engine, there is little chance of getting into too much trouble.
To my surprise, he said that of course he would be happy to arrange it. However, given that the Berluti Porsche is estimated at between €175,000 and €225,000, I suspect that my Mini Moke customisation might be a little less ambitious. I am thinking of starting with a Berluti key fob.