Rise of the street
Men’s fashion took a tremendous turn over the past few years. In the same way has Pitti Uomo. The Pitti Uomo is the largest men’s fashion fair, which takes place twice a year in Florence. In addition it has developed to way more than a trade fair, a symbol of fashion.
“I visited Pitti for the first time around 2009 or 2010,” recalls Anson Chen, Fashion Director at GQ. “Back then, conditions were much simpler than they are today. You could see everything in peace, the Pitti was a very pleasant fashion fair.” But as time went by, the idyllic image of this event, which always has a fixed date in the fashion calendar in January and June, also passed.
With the increasing relevance of street styles, the Pitti Uomo became more and more dominated by the so-called “Peacocks of Pitti”, the “vain peacocks” – men in striking three-piece suits rocking the streets of Florence. “Many men, for whom the fair is hardly relevant, suddenly came to be photographed – which in turn did not leave a good impression on buyers and the media,” Chen explains.
Back to the roots
But somehow the fair is finding its way back to its roots, the vain peacocks have left some feathers. Even if the “Peacocks of the Pitti”, which once defined the fair in our imagination, are not completely extinct, today they make up only a rudimentary part of the city during the fashion event.
As a result, the biggest names in international men’s fashion (Virgil Abloh and Jonathan Anderson) who shared the spotlight last June as guest designers – are once again the real attractions of the fair. Even though Pitti Uomo was created in 1972 to present Italian tailoring to the international market, where designers such as Giorgio Armani and Ermengildo Zegna presented their collections to buyers from all over the world, the scope of the fair is much wider today.
Fair or Fashion Week?
“The Pitti has asked itself the question about its origin, only to register that trade shows aren’t very interesting in themselves,” says Lawrence Schlossman, director of Grailed and creator behind the influential, ironic Twitter Account Four Pins. “This is where business decisions are made. But now that the Internet is also being flooded by male fashion enthusiasts, it’s all the more important to think one step further,” he adds. In relation to Pitti’s competitors, “worldwide fashion fairs do not have the progressive aspect that Pitti has. A designer who shows at Pitti is directly given an approving stamp. The Pitti was clever to position itself between a fashion week and a traditional fashion fair,” Schlossman concluded.
The core of fashion
Makers of the Pitti insist that the commitment to show fresh talent has always been a big part of the Pitti Uomo. Although in the meantime overshadowed by glowing handkerchiefs and street style. “You might think it’s new. But the idea for a guest program is already 25 years old,” says Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti Immagine SRL, at lunch with Vogue in London’s Mayfair Chess Club.
“Looking back, of course we had Gianni Versace showing her collection. But then we also started to present new and promising designers.” Hussein Chalayan showed his first men’s collection at the beginning of his career in 2003. Similarly, Haider Ackermann’s men’s fashion debuted at Pitti in 2010. Additionally Takahashi, who is making his big appearance this season, also presented his men’s fashion collection only once before – in 2009, also at Pitti Uomo.
Quality over quantity
Since 2017, the selection of who receives an invitation is becoming more and more selective. Finely calculated according to designer, style and time – so that men’s fashion and its presentation can surprise the public again and again. From streetwear to Japanese Americanism – “Japanese Americana” – everything happens with a randomly exciting timing. J.W. Anderson’s show during the last Pitti, for example, was perhaps the designer’s last own men’s show after Anderson announced that he would show his men’s designs together with the women’s collections in the future.
An international talent show
Unlike the Men’s Fashion Weeks, which are often limited by their region, Pitti seems cosmopolitan and international. During each edition of the Florentine Fair, the Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery selects a specific country to showcase its emerging creative talents – always under the auspices of a national organisation.
This week, for example, eight Finnish labels and designers will be exhibiting in Florence with the support of the Finnish fashion brand Marimekko and other non-profit organisations. Last June, when Australia was chosen as the host nation by the Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery, the Woolmark Company was the official partner of the programme. “Pitti Uomo is now a reference for the entire men’s apparel industry,” Napoleone continues.
The differences between the Men’s Fashion Weeks and the Pitti Uomo
It’s clear to the Pitti creators that great designers are always considered to be the guarantors of headlines, but they still don’t make the trade fair so attractive. Today, in spite of the runway shows staged for social media, which also take place in Florence, Napoleone remains firmly convinced that his event is not like a fashion week. Even if the word “fair” admittedly doesn’t sound like glamour, this format has its advantages over the Men’s Fashion Weeks.
Unique selling point
For example, Pitti as a trade fair event has a unique selling point in the fashion world, detached from the end customer. “Our very specific goal is to stay in the B2B business in order to avoid points of contact with customers,” says Napoleone, further warning that the “see-now-buy-now mentality” means a loss of control of one’s own supply chain over the unstable customer.
In its current form, Pitti also includes a handful of scheduled events from fashion shows and presentations. Instead, the overwhelming majority consists of brands that display their clothes in a variety of places with different focuses, while meetings with buyers and editors are adapted to their own pace. On the Pitti, you avoid having to follow a poorly timed schedule, which often means the mutual death sentence at traditional fashion weeks when buyers and editors can’t make it to the shows.
No strict calendar
At the Fashion Weeks “there is a strict calendar, you have to fight for the best timings and you only have one hour available, after that it’s all over. But in our case it’s a four-day appointment,” Napoleone explains. “Today, men’s fashion weeks are under constant scrutiny: if someone no longer wants to design menswear, he decides not to show,” he continues. In fact, Gucci, Burberry and just recently Balenciaga are now showing their men’s collections mixed on the regular womenswear weeks. “The concept of the mixed show has inevitably affected the Men’s Fashion Week plan,” continues Anson Chen of GQ.
So where will the Pitti be soon? “Compared to the dense programmes in London, Milan and Paris, the Pitti still offers more variety,” Chen continues. “Even though not only internationally renowned names are exhibiting, some labels are still very distinctive: perhaps they attach importance to a certain haptic, for example, and are distinguished by special fabrics. While at the same time other young brands are only looking for feedback in order to gain experience.”
As a member of the media or as a buyer: “At Pitti you can appreciate the exchange that takes place differently than at a normal Fashion Week – which I personally find much more interesting.”
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