Despite being ubiquitous, belts are oftentimes overlooked as an accessory. Like many others on the forum, I personally wear a lot of trousers with fitted waistbands or side adjusters, so I oftentimes go out without wearing a belt for the simple fact it isn’t necessary. However, a good belt can make an outfit more polished or–to the masses–a bit more complete. I’ve been asked more than once if I left it behind at airport security. On the other hand, I oftentimes receive compliments when I wear a nicer belt, and I have never received as many comments on a belt (especially within such a short time frame) as the ones I’ve gotten for these belts from Atelier Bertrand.
The mastermind behind the eponymous, Parisian Atelier Bertrand, is Jerome Bertrand. The brand is a reflection of his idea that high quality, luxury leather goods can be available at a reasonable cost. Jerome has been an extreme pleasure to speak with; he is enthusiastic about his brand and is knowledgeable about every aspect of the product, the different leathers, tanneries, artisans, et cetera. I’ve rarely experienced this level of knowledge and passion from someone in the industry.
I received an offer from Jerome to write a review of one of his reversible leather belts. After thinking through my collection and wardrobe, I decided I ought to get something that was unlike the other belts I owned, so I opted for his taupe and navy blue. It was a hard choice because many of his belts have interesting color pathways (e.g. the cigar and red), but the taupe boxcalf won my heart with a sort of particular elegance. Jerome was generous enough to send me another belt in the black and Prussian blue pathway since I had remarked to him about how lovely that color was as well. Because of this, for complete disclosure, in addition to reviewing the belts, I decided to help Jerome with the English copy on his website in order to show some extra appreciation and help him out as a young brand.
Upon receipt of the belts, I was impressed by the leather quality, especially on the box calf side. The tumbled/grain leather is also lovely, partly on account of the particular shades of blue, but unlike most belts in a grain leather, the boxcalf reinforces and lends structure to the end product. In my extensive email dialogue with Jerome, I learned that he selects leathers from quality tanneries like Haas or Deggerman for a variety of his products. For his belts, he uses lesser known and smaller producers that maintain the same level of quality. Because his products and brand is based in France, he has access to a large network of tanneries, many of which employ still historical, artisan methods in their work. The box calf on the taupe belt is some of the best I’ve felt (and would be lovely as the secondary color on a pair of spectators). For both belts, for each side, there are no noticeable muscular/fat striations or blemishes, and the full grain calfskin holds its own as a truly luxury leather in both appearance and feel.
GIVE REVERSIBLE BELTS A CHANCE
I had never owned a reversible belt before, so I didn’t know what to expect going into this review, and it took me a bit of time to understand that the tongue of the belt is actually supposed to go under the belt and buckle, making it appear very streamlined. Jerome commented that the reversible belt is ideal with a suit because it provides a clean look (and I couldn’t agree more). After using it a couple times, it became quite logical and easy to put on and take off the belt.
Please note that when you purchase a belt, I recommend going for a belt that is a size up from what you would normally wear. Jerome sells his belts in European sizes, and after a long discussion, he convinced me upon his recommendation I get the size greater than what I thought was a direct conversion for what I normally wear. In the secondary belt Jerome sent me, he gave me the size I originally asked for, which, though it fits, was more difficult to tighten because of how you push the belt buckle through the hole directly, rather than slide it on with a more traditional belt buckle. I measured the length of the holes to the buckle, and even though the length was the same, I had a harder time fitting into the smaller belt (this could also be from the Fall Winter gut I’ve been accumulating from all my culinary indulgences). However, as with most clothing fits, your mileage may vary.
In terms of construction, the finishing on the belt is top notch. The stitching is done as a mix of both machine and hand, with the hand stitching reinforcing the machine stitching so that the belt lasts longer. The thread matches the colors of the leather, and there is no contrast on either side of the belt. The holes were punched cleanly – and you can spot that immediately given the sleek and minimalistic look of the belt. The edge is extremely consistent and even, and it also matches the darker color of each belt’s pathway. The solid brass (nickel free) buckles are made in Italy and are only available in a silver tone. This quality finishing is a reflection of the type of manufacturers that Jerome uses: Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant.
For those of you unfamiliar with French manufacturing, companies can be classified as living heritage companies, or Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant, EPV for short. These companies are essentially the pride of French manufacturing and tradition and make goods in traditional methods. Jerome chooses to work with EPV companies as much as possible, simply because he ends up getting better quality goods. The leathers he uses are from EPV tanneries, and likewise, his EPV manufacturer is in Limoges and produces goods for luxury brands renowned for quality.
While talking with Jerome, I asked if he was using the EPV companies in part as a marketing tool, since in Europe, especially in Italy and France, there is a strong appreciation of culture and heritage; for the French, it is an appreciation for “cultural capital.” However, for Jerome, it is less about the marketing of methods that are part of historical French culture; he employs EPV makers because the heart and soul that goes into the objects made by these heritage brands oftentimes result in a better product. Although this is a qualitative measurement–the ethos of an object cannot directly translate into a sort of material value–I would agree with his assessment.
The appreciation of such products, however, comes with an awareness of the nature of a product: for example, people who know about shoes tend to love Edward Green not merely because it is a status symbol, but because it has a cultural heritage that imbues the objects with value; you know what type of care went into making it. The same can be said for hand-sewn shirts and suiting. Likewise, Atelier Bertrand provides excellent quality goods which are worth the price to informed consumers because they recognize and understand what is quality in such goods.
Jerome is looking to provide reasonably priced leather goods by offering pre-orders each month, offering products made from high-quality tanneries like Haas. He can thereby reduce their cost because he already has sold some of the product, ensuring demand and not ending up with a lot of dead stock. With leather goods this excellent, Atelier Bertrand should have no problem selling its wares, and I can highly recommend them if you are going for a streamlined European look with belts such as these; their wares are on par with and are a more affordable luxury than Hermès (who he is clearly taking aim at with these belts), and you can experience higher quality when compared to many traditional brands while not devastating your wallet.
Atelier Bertrand Official Website
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e. v. Empey
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