I’d like to take this installment of The Pittilogues to tell you about some of the things I’ve learned or re-learned on this trip, and tell you a little bit about the people who taught them to me. I would have written it all out as usual, told you about the brands we saw and all of that, but Day 4 was really all about these individual people who were gracious enough to spend time talking to us, both at the fair and at dinner.
I love knowing nothing, because it means that my life is full of new experiences – I am an expert in very little, though I appreciate people who are actually experts. At Pitti, whether you know it or not, you’re surrounded by people who, in addition to being very well-dressed, are passionate, intelligent, and insightful. I’d like you to meet a few of them:
1. Stay true to your own style – Fabio Attonasio
“Why is this guy carrying around a bottle of vodka?” I ask. We’re sitting outside a terrible nightclub around the corner from Gilli at about 3:30 AM (Gallo, or Gaëllo, or whatever it is – if you’ve been to Pitti you’ve probably walked past it), watching some very energetic young men congratulate each other on being young and energetic as a handful of girls look on. One of men (boys, really) is carrying a bottle of vodka by the neck, waving it around like a scepter.
“Because where he comes from, in his social circle, carrying a bottle of Belvedere is a sign of wealth. He is shouting to his social peers – look at me!”
That’s when I take a slightly closer look at Fabio, the man behind The Bespoke Dudes Eyewear. Despite his massive online presence and being something of a style celebrity on Instagram (a man stops by at one point to tell him that he’s an inspiration), he’s both thoughtful and humble.
“I never thought I would do this. I thought I would be a judge or a lawyer. I really thought that.” For now, though, he’s here with me and Arianna, watching a drunken parade of Pitti-goers pass us by, dressed mostly in ridiculous clothing. And the three of us, being the three of us, can’t resist keeping up a running stream of commentary.
“I hate fake,” says Fabio, though he doesn’t sound angry about it. “If you are consistent, if you love what you do, please go ahead. But if you think you are doing this just for money, I hate you.”
Strong words, perhaps – but despite all of our heated arguments about “authenticity,” and how it means very little in the world of fashion, there’s something soothing about knowing who you are and dressing like that person. Pitti is the land of both the phonies and the true believers, and it’s not always obvious which is which.
“Oh, look,” Fabio says as the bottle of Belvedere flashes and the boy waves it about wildly, “It lights up.”
“Like an anglerfish,” I say.
2. There’s always an audience – Henrik
“The only thing I ask of people is that, if you’re wearing a tie, you don’t loosen it and unbutton your shirt. It defeats the purpose.”
I have to admit that I can’t imagine Henrik ever loosening his tie. Or unbuttoning his shirt collar – I imagine the world might end if he did. He’s an etiquette consultant wearing bespoke Savile Row (and a cape) and is generally pretty damn well put together. We walk together from dinner to an English pub (yes, really), and along the way, in between the jokes that I can’t repeat here, we talk about Young People, clothing, and what it is to be well dressed.
I tell him that when I attended the Ricci show earlier this week, the invitation had requested cocktail attire and that I’d been curious to see what people wore – but that, unfortunately, it had mostly been people dressed just as they were at the English pub.
“I’m always shocked at how well women dress relative to men,” he continues. “It’s as if they don’t care that their friend or partner has gone to great lengths to look nice. Dressing well shows respect to your company, and to yourself.”
3. Remember to enjoy yourself – Erik Mannby
“I think it’s easy for us to get jaded,” Erik tells me over champagne. An hour ago, we were listening to the Independent Retailers Symposium, and now we’ve moved into the adjoining rooms for some food and drink. Champagne, mostly – hors d’oeuvres are secondary.
He’s right, of course. The last time I came to Florence was for Pitti 89, and I was suffering from some pretty intense burnout- hating everything, despising the clothing, the setting, the circus. And now that I’m back, I feel – well, pretty much the opposite. Fresh. Ready to listen. I tell him as much, and he nods knowingly.
“At the same time, for me, it never gets old,” he says. “There are great people here, and I’ve made so many friends over the years. I feel privileged to be here. I really do.”
A part of me feels a bit of lingering shame over this, though I can’t help but agree. I don’t know what it is about this trip, but I’ve had a great time so far – I feel as though I’ve seen more, talked to more people, been more involved than I usually am. Do I love everything? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the chance to see it all.
The fashion world seems, from the outside, like a world for billionaires and jet-setters and people who don’t understand what it means to be human – but that’s not true (well, not entirely). Most of the people at Pitti are here because they love what they do, not because they’re getting rich off of it. But there’s more than one way to be wealthy, and just as Erik said, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate all the wonder that’s around you.
4. Style has very little to do with what you’re wearing – Charley
You may recognize Charley from the forums, and I first met him few years ago at a Tie Your Tie party in Florence to which neither of us had been invited. Greg and David of No Man Walks Alone brought me along with them; Charley showed up at the door in one of his three-piece suits and, I imagine, simply charmed his way in.
Boisterous in both style and personality, Charley wears a three-piece every day – or at least, he’s been wearing one every time I’ve seen him. He’s perhaps one of the most American men I’ve ever met, and I rarely think that’s a good thing. In addition, he has a very well-trimmed beard, and beyond that, he’s open, friendly, interesting, and interested – all admirable qualities. It’s hard not to get caught up in Charley’s enthusiasm for everything about Pitti, whether it’s the clothing, company, or the parties.
“I love it here,” he says. “It’s so pure. When you’re here all of that stuff that exists in the internet – the opinions, the disagreement, the hate – it all disappears. You don’t like what I’m doing? Fine. You go do your own thing, and be happy.”