Pitti, the acclaimed menswear exhibition in Florence is a key date on the global fashion calendar, happening every January and June. This special trade fair serves buyers and press the opportunity to scope out the next season, visit the most prestigious menswear brands on the planet, and get up close and personal with the collections. The place epitomises the Italian menswear industry, the best textiles and the oldest family houses, all proudly turn out to show you the craftsmanship they have to offer. Florence is the home of the first-ever men’s fashion show. In 1952, Brioni hosted the inaugural catwalk at Palazzo Pitti’s Sala Bianca, changing the industry forever.
Now, season after season, exhibitors come in their hundreds alongside a headlining guest designer for a runway show. Previous tenures were granted to Grace Wales Bonner and Martine Rose, and this season ERL brought his fantastical Americana to Florence. Guests saw a hyper-futuristic taste of what Florence may be, with surfers heading into the city to catch some waves and bringing their Hollywood glitz, glam, and even Coca-Cola with them. Following on from Eli’s Dior cameo with Kim Jones, he brought his slick tailoring skills, almost poetically-timed, and in honour of the masters now surrounding him for the brand’s first runway show. The theme, of course, has an underlying tone of climate-change threats and global warming messaging now that, in the year 2176, Florence is underwater. Between this and the 70’s silhouettes, top hats and wetsuits, it was a progressive look to the future with a very real “right-now” kind of feeling.
This wasn’t the only star of the show at Pitti this season, though. Florentine retailer Luisa Via Roma and British Vogue presented a blockbuster show for over 1500 guests, including the A-list of A-listers. The show featured a performance catalogue from Andrea Bocelli and somewhat of a game show of who-in-what as supermodels, drag queens and catwalk legends took to the runway in pieces from over 50 designers past, present and future, from Alexander McQueen to Nensi Dojaka.
And yet, a third treat of the season for the city came as Fendi invited guests out to the Toscana countryside to showcase its menswear collection in its new €50m factory. The fashion Volturi were immersed in the making of the luxury bags, while playing peekaboo at the 57 looks on offer inside the almost lab-like setting, each accompanied by a leather bag made in that factory. The show itself was a utilitarian dream with pockets galore, zips, hooks, vests and belts that could carry anything from a puppy to three cappuccinos (not after 12 though).
A notable highlight of Pitti Uomo for me was Polimoda, the fashion school which compares to the Central Saint Martins of Florence. The ANTHOS graduate collection debuted, where 25 designers displayed the last 12 months of hard work in front of esteemed guests such as Kris Van Assche, Bruce Pask, Suzy Menkes, head of fashion design at Polimoda An Vandevorst, and crucially, Ed Westwick. The students really impressed and speaking to them alongside Caroline Issa, a key mentor to the students, they have the creative freedom to tell personal stories and visions via their work. Through the school’s connections, students have access to deadstock fabrics and donations from the Italian textile mills and fashion houses, providing them with both access to high-quality materials as well as the challenge of restriction, a place where creativity often thrives.
Finally, the S-Style project–now in its seventh season, this is a platform for sustainably-driven menswear. With the leadership of Giorgia Cantarini, this season’s 10 designers are creating responsible and progressive collections to shape the future. “It’s really hard to be an emerging brand and be 100% sustainable, but we have to start somewhere,” says Giorgia. This edition of S-Style is in collaboration with fashion behemoth Kering’s “Material Innovation Lab”, a research centre within the group committed to implementing innovative solutions with a reduced environmental impact. The S-Style designers received mentoring as part of the programme and were challenged to create a look under stringent criteria from Kering. Dhruv Kapoor, one of the ten, shows its new collection on schedule in Milan on the 19th, showing promise in this bunch of emerging, responsible designers. Permucreated an eccentric twist on tailoring rules and silhouettes, while Young N Sang –who can be found on SSENSE and boast 2 two CFDA awards – displayed perhaps the prettiest knits seen this week, all handwoven.
Brett is a sustainable fashion campaigner, model and content creator.
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