Last week, nestled snugly between London and Milan menswear fashion weeks, the Pitti Uomo trade show outdid itself once again. It’s a funny beast, being an integral stop on the men’s fashion week circuit without actually being a “fashion week,” as such. There are huge men’s trade shows in America, and other parts of the world, but none are an essential stop for the fashion editors of major magazines and websites, or even for influencers.
Pitti Uomo is. Unlike any other trade show, Pitti has a pervasive appeal throughout the menswear industry, and its oft-times seemingly exhaustive array of initiatives never ceases to breathe new and exciting life into an event that has, at its heart, that wholly unsexy but oh-so-essential agenda, “trade.”
But Pitti is sexy.
First off, it’s Italian; a dizzying multitude of the best-dressed Italian men descend on an ancient Florentine fort, advancing on the once-defensive structure in battle-ready waves as the traffic lights at “zebra crossing” change. Secondly, it’s in Florence, a strong contender for title of “Most Romantic City in the World.” It isn’t a big city, so it’s intimate. The architecture is breathtaking, the gelato delicious; Aperol Spritzes flow like water from faucets; the Arno river winds its lazy way under historic bridges and on toward the verdant Tuscan hills that surround it. Like I said: sexy.
But it isn’t just the ‘IT’ factor. Pitti Immagine president Rafaello Napoleone and his team have done a world-class job positioning the fair as essential through various initiatives, which, this season, included a presentation by Guest Nation Georgia, who have established a successful fashion week in part thanks to Balenciaga and Vetements Man of the Hour Demna Gvasalia who was born a few hundred kilometres from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. There was a Band of Outsiders presentation, complete with yellow school bus and models alighting from within it to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”
MCM presented its first fully-fledged ready-to-wear collection that was such a pleasant surprise; people were all but picking their jaws up off the floor. Two dancers popped and locked their way around the show space as water rained down from the ceiling, before a collection so au courant as to astonish, walked complete with one model who zip-lined onto the runway with a parachute-inspired outfit. The collection was all about adventure, which makes sense — it’s a travel brand — but there were heavy streetwear influences, too, in appropriate appreciation of the Supreme-donning Insta kids who covet the brand.
All that is to say: MCM kind of stole the show. But the real stars of Pitti Uomo are always the Guest Designer and Special Guest. While the monikers are a little ambiguous in their interchangeability, they are always perfectly on-point from a buzz perspective. In recent seasons, the fair has played host to Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, Gosha Rubchinskiy, J.W. Anderson, Raf Simons and Undercover, among many others. “The huge amount of attention from the best international press confirm Pitti Immagine Uomo’s role as a global reference point for lifestyle, quality scouting and for the worldwide launch of new trends and fashion projects,” explains Napoleone. “This is demonstrated particularly in the special events and for the atmosphere of creativity that invaded Florence over the past few days.”
This season didn’t disappoint. The first guest was Paul Surridge, creative director for Roberto Cavalli, who presented the Florentine brand’s first menswear collection. Invitees were ferried there from the Birkenstock presentation, staged at a palazzo, with clothes designed by Rihanna’s stylist Mel Ottenberg. As well-cocktailed guests left, they were handed raffia bags with neatly packed nibbles: a prosciutto sandwich and a jar of pappa al pomodoro.
Four coaches and 20 minutes later, Pitti people swarmed yet another, even grander palazzo (actually, it was a monastery, but who’s counting?), this time on the outskirts of the city. Surridge’s menswear collection for Cavalli was restrained in its adherence to the ostentatious codes of the house, like animal print and shiny things, but there with a strong sense of European ’90s club-kids that worked well.
“For the brand, it’s a homecoming,” said Surridge. “The collection looks to the brand’s past, and I’m a ’90s kid, so I’ve always had this affinity with the brand. But this was about a reload, a reboot, a new glamour in a contemporary key. It’s about an attitude — rich, powerful and also the kid who’s throwing the party.” The party afterward was apropos, then, and it was followed by the lavish seasonal dinner thrown by Brunello Cucinelli at (you guessed it) another palazzo. Everyone rolled home with bellies full of hearty Italian food — and wine. In Florence, there is never a shortage of wine.
The following day, more events, fashion shows, lunches, dinners, parties — it’s a hard life. Herno presented a retrospective installation at the Stazione Leopolda, Gucci gathered the fashion cognoscenti at their museum for cocktails, ASOS had a rooftop shindig (more cocktails) and then the fair’s second guest took the proverbial stage: Craig Green, darling of menswear fans everywhere, who sent a collection down the runway that was equal to anything he’s ever done.
There is a dark gothic undercurrent to his aesthetic, with his billowing robes and the sacramental-esque vessels carried by his models; a spectacular collection with his signature robes adorned this time with heralding angels. Jesus didn’t weep, but some of the designer’s well-won fans in the audience may well have. It was wonderful — and if you are lucky enough to attend the next fair in January, you can bet your bottom dollar you will see many a menswear scenester wearing the collection.
Do try to make it. It’s essential.
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