Trade Shows
Pitti Uomo sets sail amidst uncertain times
We report from the biggest and most influential men’s fashion trade show which gathered nearly 800 brands — including the invited designers, Paul Smith, Marine Serre, and Pierre Louis Mascia — in Florence.
19 Jun 2024

In the last few years, the fashion and clothing industry has met many difficulties. First came COVID, followed by a changing geopolitical situation, that has led to a pressing economy globally. In the last years a slew of retailers — department stores, etailers, mono-brand- and multibrand stores — have been shutting down their businesses. Only in Italy, a third of the independent fashion stores have been closing in the last year. 

Raffaello Napoleone is the CEO of Pitti Immagine which organises Pitti Uomo and its other fairs and exhibitions in Florence. As the organisation relies heavily on both how brands are performing, but also the retailers themselves, Napoleone follows the trajectory of the industry closely.

— I like to use sailing as a metaphor. When you sail, the wind changes, but you have to reach the harbour or the boy. So you have to decide which is the best choice to find better wind, sometimes you choose the right one, sometimes you make a mistake and the wind changes. Fashion now is like the typical wind and sea situation; we don’t have a flat sea, but we don’t see as big waves as during COVID, Napoleone, whose first job was as a sailor, explains. 

”We’re the mirror of the market”

Gloomy skies ahead or not, there is a changing mindset within the industry and among the end customers, which, according to Napoleone, has to be taken into consideration. 

— We have to look at what’s happening, as we’re the mirror of the market. We have to interpret what’s going on and offer the best scenario to react and find solutions. People now have much higher costs to operate. In Italy, you have energy prices that are growing, the interest rates are much higher. You have the geopolitical situation that doesn’t push people to buy clothes — they are travelling, eating, trying to enjoy their life — and we see a push towards the second-hand market.

At Pitti Uomo, seeds of the changing behaviours were seen. One part of the fair was solely dedicated to vintage stores, brands were working with upcycling to a larger extent, and sections on leisure wear and outdoor were growing. 

But on the horizon, there are grey skies which won’t go away any time soon. As the sustainability question will become even greater in the coming years, brands will have to take urgent action to combat the issue. During Pitti Uomo, the special section S|Style — curated by Giorgia Cantarini, a fashion journalist focused on sustainability — showcased a selection of brands from all over the world that are operating in sustainability in new ways. For the second consecutive season, S|Style partnered with Kering and their Material Innovation Lab in which the participating brands could work with the resources from the group in developing a new style.

— The brands are networking with shops and meeting press. For them, I think it’s all about building up the brand, getting their names out there and having a valuable context than it is in their hands, Cantarini explained.

Together with Kering, the brands worked with their in-house resources, to develop a new look made out of recycled materials.

— Before coming to the fair, the brands had a workshop with Kering. They came to Milan, and they were taught about sustainability, how they should work with sustainable materials, and how to find companies that actually provide these garments and these textiles. So, a complete experience. I don’t think there’s any other project like this that gives you knowledge, exposure, marketing, and value at the same time.

Last week also saw another edition of the section solely dedicated to Scandinavian menswear at Pitti Uomo. Named Scandinavian Manifesto, the pavilion was curated by Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF), which after Pitti Uomo also staged a showroom in Milan. Under the direction of Sofie Dolva, CIFF is trying to establish an international presence and knowledge exchange from international and Scandinavian brands. 

— We have tried to look at CIFF more as a community-based platform that can operate all year round instead of just twice a year, she said. We see the need from the brands to help them more with the notching of buyers — or if they are entering new countries, it takes some time and it’s not enough to just send lookbooks. We’ve done several tests and, especially for the important fashion cities, we try to have a presence during the fashion weeks.

Besides Scandinavian Manifesto, brands and designers from the Nordics were scattered all over the Fortezza. Here are five Scandibrands to keep your eyes peeled for:


Founded earlier this year with the belief that there is one product category in fashion that is often overseen — belts — Molebo was one of the Scandinavian brands that gained the most attention during the fair. The brand is founded by Anders Levorsen, the third generation of belt makers, and Alexander Gram, with a localised production by Bosswik Belt Factory based in Tommerup, Denmark. Molebo collaborates with some of the most qualitative tanneries in Europe and with Western references, animal prints, and contrasting stitching, there’s something for everyone to adorn waistlines alike. 


Caoimhe Dowling

The mentioned S|Style is one of the most intriguing and cutting-edge parts of the fair. One of the designers showing was the Irish native Dowling, who, after graduating from The Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen, has settled down in the Danish capital. Dowling merges her Irish heritage, with Danish design flair; Donegal fabrics are mixed with upcycled workwear. She finds her inspiration from a deep-rooted connection to nature, with the ethos of ”look to the past in order to move forward.” 

Caoimhe Dowling.

Les Deux

While putting up their usual basketball court at the trade show, the brand’s Copenhagen HQ presented its annual report for 2023. It showed a growing revenue of 14,2% from the previous year and the sixth consecutive year of growth. For 2024, the plans are to keep growing with a percentage to previous years and in Florence, the brand showcased what will take them there. Their upcoming collection is an ode to the Mediterranean lifestyle, combined with the love for sports. Basket tank tops and football tees are combined with more sartorial whiffs such as slouchy tailoring and plain shirting options.

Les Deux.


The Swedish brand returned to the medieval fortress that is the trade show venue, is Eton. Before its departure in 2019, Eton established itself as one of the leading brands at the fair (one reason being their usual cocktail party, which rejoiced tired trade show attendees). This time, they were back with a prime location in the middle of the fair. For SS25, sharp, formal shirting is combined with more casual pieces, in softer earth-toned hues. 


Robert Talbott

The brand was founded in 1950 by the couple Audrey and Robert Talbott. Audrey spent her leisure time hand-sewing ties to her husband and friends. As the brand gained recognition, the couple set up their business in Monterey, California. With quality always in focus, the brand gained wide recognition all across America and Audrey ran the business until her death in 2004. After that the brand went through a series of different owners, and it fell into oblivion. In 2021, it was bought by Newtimes Group, on a mission to revive the brand.

But why is an American brand mentioned on a list of Scandinavian counterparts? Earlier this spring, Sebastian Dollinger, who possesses 15 years as creative director at Eton, was appointed to lead the creative direction and revive the brand. Together with Nick Picchione, formerly of Ralph Lauren Purple Label, he has put together a curated selection of shirts and neckwear, that equally honours the legacy of Robert Talbott, and puts a modern breath of air into the brand.

Robert Talbott.