Once again the gates to Fortezza da Basso in Florence and the most important trade show within menswear, Pitti Uomo, opened up last week. But it was not without any concerns. The weeks before were characterized by the surge of Covid-19 cases in Europe and the latest Omicron variant.
By OLIVER DAHLE
January 17, 2022
The Omicron issue wasn’t solely a problem for Pitti Uomo, all coming international menswear fashion weeks will have to take it into consideration too. Over the last weeks, doubts began to spread if Pitti Uomo would be possible to carry through as planned. The first indication that things were not going as expected was when Giorgio Armani cancelled both his upcoming menswear show in Milan and the haute couture show taking place in Paris later in January. Pitti Uomo’s special guest designer Ann Demeulemeester followed and cancelled the planned show in Florence, which now is being postponed until June. Brunello Cucinelli, one of the major exhibitors at Pitti Uomo, cancelled its physical presence and instead opted for the digital platform Pitti Connect. Caruso, who had planned for a spectacular launch event of its new collection, had to reassess and went for a physical presence at the fair, but on a smaller scale.
Even though the cancellations came in one by one, the organization behind Pitti Uomo were determined to follow through with the fair. And with a rigorous safety protocol — allegedly stricter than national restrictions — the fair was on. But questions remained; who will be there? Which events will be held? What face mask should I use, and where? What will be presented? And, at the time of publishing, it is still unknown if Omicron is transmittable among peacocks.
The run-up to Pitti Uomo 101 may not have been a smooth ride, but eventually, the medieval fortress that is Fortezza da Basso could open up to three sunny days filled with menswear. In the end, the fair presented 548 upcoming collections to approximately 8,000 visitors. Here is what went down.
The t-junction of tailoring
It is well known that Italy in general and Pitti Uomo, in particular, are strong advocates of tailoring and more sartorial fashion. A reputation that is built upon tradition and the fact that many of the companies are family-run businesses where know-how is inherited through generations (a fact that the brands are eager to stress and point out, which generation of the family that now are running the company). Though, what seems to be a t-junction among the tailoring companies are in what direction tailoring is heading. On one side are those that believe formal tailoring will have its comeback, while on the other we have brands that are trying to reinvent or adapt to a more loose and informal way of dressing up.
One of the advocates of more formal and classical tailoring is Caruso. The brand presented its upcoming collection which is inspired by Jazz in general and Miles Davis in particular. The collection went in a sober tonality, with statement pieces such as a dinner jacket in a more expressive jacquard. The direction of a more formal tailoring offering was explained by Marco Angeloni, CEO of Caruso, who said ”our customers are coming back with a rush and they have a strong appetite for blazers and suits”. He also stressed the fact that the pandemic has made people tired of dressing down and that the ”sofa style” isn’t what people want anymore. The same prospect could be found at the Neapolitan brand, Orazio Luciano. Pino Luciano, founder and CEO, explained that the brand had seen a decline in sales of trousers during the pandemic, but blazers still were popular, much as a result of the WFH (working from home) phenomenon. He also rests assured that the suit will make its comeback in the coming year.
One of these is Stile Latino — a Neapolitan brand that is founded by Vincenzo Attolini, one of the most famous names within the Italian tailoring tradition. What Stile Latino is proposing is a more contemporary interpretation of tailoring, which meets the standards of the modern man. With more functional features, such as drawstrings and being extremely soft, the brand wants to give men freedom and comfort.
Another brand that is redefining what tailoring could be is the Indian brand Itoh. The brand is founded by Amit Babbar, and is building upon the craftsmanship and heritage of Indian textiles, but with a modern and sleek interpretation.
KNT, an acronym for Kiton New Textures and an offspring to Kiton, presented its collection that has a tailoring mindset, but with technical materials and a modern aesthetic. On the same road, we also find Tombolini. The brand has been working in the field for over 50 years and are now trying to innovate the sartorial landscape. With its Zero Gravity-suit, ”the lightest suit in the world”, and the TMB Running collection, a sartorial running collection that works both in the office, as well as the running track.
Outerwear, Outerwear, Outerwear
Since Pitti Uomo 101 were presenting the upcoming autumn and winter season, there was a strong focus on jackets, coats and outerwear. A category where brands especially focused on performance, sustainability and technicality. One of these was AlphaTauri, a RedBull brand that even has its eponymous Formula1 racing team. The brand, which is operating with innovation at its core, presented its latest heatable capsule collection. A collection that consists of jackets that you could heat up on preferred areas through an app.
Ecoalf — a Spanish outerwear brand that has environmental sustainability close to its heart and became the second clothing brand to achieve B Corp-certification — presented its latest line, Ecoalf 1.0. A sleek, minimal line, that does not compromise on the technical abilities of the garments, while having minimal impact on the planet.
Sustainability was the main topic at Italian outerwear specialists Herno as well. When entering the brands enormous pavilion, guests were welcomed to first see the brand’s Herno Globe collection. A line focused on sustainability and research on sustainable materials, such as recycling and responsible farming.
What seems to be an upcoming trend within outerwear is military influences. It was found at Ten C — an Italian brand, that fetches its inspiration from Japanese craftsmanship and textiles. The brand is especially famous for its OJJ-fabric, Original Japanese Jersey, which over time moulds to the wearer’s body. Military inspiration could also be found at British Ræburn. The brand, that have been pioneers within sustainable fashion, presented its upcoming AW22 collection entitled Co-Vert. A military influenced collection, where some pieces are up-cycled garments from the British Armed Forces.
Footwear with a purpose
A big trend for next winter is footwear that may have an underlying purpose rather than just look good or be fashionable. One of these brands — that during the fair could be seen on many street style photographers and brand representatives — is Hoka. The French running shoe producer has, with its inflated platform soles, gained almost a cult following among the fashion crowd. A trend that Hoka have embraced. At Pitti, the brand presented its upcoming models which can be divided into two. Its classical running offering, with bold maximalist colour combinations and a more fashion-oriented offering, with the same models, but in more sober and monochrome colours.
The trend of running shoes becoming fashionable sneakers could be seen as well at the Italian shoe manufacturer Fessura. The brand, which is rooted in producing sleek sneakers meant for the street, was presenting its new model that is inspired by a running shoe and its abilities. The same goes for the Los Angeles-based brand Brandblack. The brand was presenting an array of models that, according to brand representatives, each have their purpose. There were shoes for running, trekking, basketball, in technical materials such as Gore-tex and Vibram soles and so on — but, first and foremost, the shoes are meant to be stylish.
Besides the running shoe becoming a sneaker, hiking boots with a retro-feel will be having a moment next winter. The trend of a more utilitarian boot could be seen among many shoe manufacturers, such as Buttero and the newly re-launched brand Zermatt. A brand that has the alpine shoe at its very core is the French brand Paraboot. According to Pierre Colin, Marketing Director of Paraboot, they have seen a rising interest in the brand and its classical models. Something he took with ease as he responded ”the fashion comes to us” when being asked about the trend.
The interpretations of the Nordics.
The Finnish fashion scene was presented both by Rolf Ekroth and Latimmier, with the latter premiering at Pitti Uomo. Rolf Ekroth presented his upcoming collection, entitled ”Zipper Blues”. The name derives from a line in the Smashing Pumpkins song ”1979”, but also the act of zipping your jacket up and down, always ready to leave, never quite at home anywhere. The collection is inspired by the 90’s melancholic nostalgia Ekroth has of growing up as a teenager in Finland — a sense of what was and what could have been. The collection draws from the emotional and aesthetical landscape of Finland during the mid-90s.
— It was not always wonderful growing up in Finland during the ’90s. Being sort of a smaller brother to Sweden in the west and having the imminent presence of Russia in the east, placed Finland in a sort of strange position. I think this collection is a part of that — a longing for something different, explained Ekroth.
Translated into clothes that mean biker-inspired trousers, bomber jackets and oversized jackets in sustainable dyes. What is most noteworthy in the collection is the amount of craftsmanship that goes into the collection — for example, the bags which are made up of macrame knots or the pink sweater, made out of hand-frayed ropes, which creates an almost fur-like texture.
During Pitti Uomo, we also saw the launch of Latimmier. The brand, which is founded by Aalto University alumni Ervin Latimer, aims to redefine the approach to masculinity within fashion and clothing. To celebrate the launch Latimmier hosted a ball in the grandiose Palazzo Pucci in central Florence, together with models that all came from the Finnish or Italian ballroom scene.
The designer, who has a background within the ballroom scene, narrated the models when they walked the catwalk dressed as their drag alter ego, Anna Konda. The brand has a focus on deconstructed tailoring, which is made with sustainable materials and mindset.
— Fashion should liberate us, not limit us. We challenge both who can perform masculinity and what kind of clothing can be used to do that. Furthermore, we also expand what Nordic fashion looks like. Our collection features suits and shirts, but also dresses and skirts. Our design language draws from the history of masculine clothing with a contemporary approach and thought-through, high-quality details, explained Latimer.
S|Style sustainable style
One of the most interesting sections at Pitti Uomo is called S|Style sustainable style. The section is dedicated to young, up and coming designers and brands that all have sustainability as a focus. But, when speaking to the brands and designers it is clear that sustainability is not something that is chosen or marketed, it is in the DNA of the brands. One brand that took part in the section was N Palmer. The brand was founded by the Central Saint Martins alumni Nicholas Palmer, during the lockdown in London. The brand is focused on up-cycling garments, to exude positive and beautiful responses to the problems of materialism.
Palmer, source his materials from vintage wholesalers in bulk to create his demi-couture pieces. ”When seeing all the garments that would end up on landfill you are faced with the consumption problem and that is a process which could be overwhelming”, he explained the sourcing process. Another brand working, in the same way, is Kseniaschnaider, which is run by the family duo Ksenia Schneider and Anton Schneider. The Ukrainian brand is working with knitwear, sportswear and denim and is re-purposing garments to create modern, street style ensembles.
Another way of finding good use of materials and finding new ways of tackling the sustainability issue was found at Waste Yarn Project. The brand was founded by Siri Johansen — originally from Norway, Siri worked for major fashion houses for 15 years, before starting Waste Yarn Project. From her experience within the fashion business, she saw how much yarn went unused and saw the possibilities of all the material that would go to waste. By an unusual process of a lottery wheel, the yarns and colour combinations are chosen by random — making each piece from Waste Yarn Project unique. ”For me as a designer I would never choose some of the combinations, but it actually really works”, Johansen explained the process.