Styleforum’s Pitti Uomo 91 Streetstyle, Day 2.5

We’re back with more Pitti Uomo 91 Streetstyle. Check out the slideshow below to see some of the world’s best-dressed men – including a few familiar faces!

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All photos Andreas Klow. Follow Andreas on Instagram at @flannels_and_tweed.


The Pittilogues: Pitti Uomo 91, Day 3

The Pitti crowd is different from the Paris crowd. A little less self conscious. Willing to try harder. Not so focused on appearing as though they don’t care. Italian style, despite what online haters may scream at you, is neither uniform nor uniformly ornate. I’ve said it in the past, but it bears repeating: the people in wild suits and fur capes don’t demonstrate Italian style, they demonstrate Pitti style.

I still find them rather sad. There is a sense of desperation about the way they move. Arianna tells me that when she passes through a crowd with her camera, twenty heads shift, trying to see if they’re being photographed without looking as though they care. I understand that some of them are here to promote something other than themselves, and that beneath the plumage they are people, but I can’t help but dislike the act.

On the other hand, I can say that I firmly believe that Italian men aged 42 – 60 (approximately) may be the best-dressed men in the world – in a Western sense, of course. They are truly effortless, though – the elderly gentlemen I have seen bicycling their groceries through the streets this week give our most-loved forum members a run for their money. Effortless doesn’t begin to cover it.

The fair is busier today, but it still doesn’t feel as packed as I remember. I’ve heard third-hand whispers that I can’t corroborate that some of larger makers are leaving Pitti, because it doesn’t bring sales the way it once did. People still come to buy, of course – it’s a trade show, after all – but more than ever, it’s an opportunity for exposure. A chance to shake hands. Remember names. However, booth prices remain high, and travel prices are not getting cheaper. Some buyers are choosing to come to the Italian brands and showrooms once the fair is over, to avoid the crush as well as the travel fares. Pitti has always been early, early, early in the season, and I wonder if it’s sustainable.

From my end, the fashion fatigue is palpable. Part of me wonders if the idea of trend-chasing is itself a trend, just as everything is a trend. And in part, that fatigue is what retailers such as those who were present at this week’s symposium are fighting against – how to avoid overwhelming their clients with the constant pressure to buy, and how to stay afloat when they’re telling clients to “keep.” It’s a tough line to walk, and it’s interesting to hear the varied opinions on what will come next. No one that I have spoken to expects the “menswear bubble” to last, but part of the reason Italy has remained a stalwart of both design and manufacturing is that it is slow to change. Perhaps Pitti will shrink in the years to come, but tailoring will certainly live on.

Of course, this fair is not a great demonstration of that feeling – there are still plenty of people doggedly following every trend – colored fur, cropped fringe jeans and mules on the women, still too-short too-tight suits on the men. Still plenty of household brands with giant pavilions full of garbage. And, as usual, the “Urban Panorama” sections are full of crap. Golden goose knockoffs, Yeezy-season knockoffs, and sparkly down coats. One company sells jeans with handcuffs through the belt loops. Maybe handcuffs are the next big trend. Yesterday, at Stefano Ricci, I met a man who told me that his guilty pleasure was kitschy Versace clothing, and that he was was once stopped at security for bringing through a Versace blazer that had razor blades sewed along the lapel.  

Everything inside the “unconventional” pavilion feels so tired. Do you remember “street goth?” That’s what this pavilion is devoted to, and even after a year and a half it seems dead. Hell, it seemed dead after six months. But they must have buyers, must have a devoted legion of micro-trend followers, because here they are at Pitti. I don’t find it unconventional at all, but Arianna disagrees. I suppose that’s the beauty of fashion in the age of the internet – we can, without a doubt, coexist with any number of counterparts.

Have I mentioned that there’s a FILA booth? We have no plans to enter it, sadly. Yesterday, some guy was rapping from inside, with an audience that seemed more focused on getting their free drinks and leaving than with seeing whatever’s inside. Today, some people are dancing to a “Gettin’ jiggy with it” remix of some sort.They’re trying so hard to recapture their former 90s glory that it’s not surprising that most people are walking past making bemused faces at the logo-bedecked dancers. I’ve mentioned the resurgence of the logo a few times, but I wonder if it, too, has bloomed and died in the span of twelve months.

There are still plenty of people standing in the plaza hoping to get pictures taken of themselves, blogging madly and hoping to be blogged.I think I’m the most bloggable I’ve ever been today, wearing the cloak of birds that my mother made me. I claim immunity from the scene, so I wonder if I really count as one of them – even if an older Italian man made some kind of bird- or dog-clicking sounds at me as I walked to the Fortezza this morning.

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The rest of the day is a staid affair – we look at brands, we talk to people, we take pictures. Arianna makes fun of how long I spend talking to the people at Snow Peak, but I can’t help myself because it’s awesome. Later, in the central pavilion, I see a kind of nerdy looking white guy wearing head-to-toe Kanye West clothing and he looks….kind of depressed. Like he’s wearing thousands of dollars worth of clothing and doesn’t know why he’s bothering if no one is going to congratulate him for it.

There are high points, of course:

  • Merola is showing gloves with a tie silk lining, as well as a touchscreen-friendly range, both of which are quite nice.

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    Merola gloves – perfect for cold-weather Pitti photography.

  • Fioroni cashmere is showing a new line of cashmere dyed solely with natural dyes – such as olive and madder.
  • 1st pat-rn will appeal to all fans of Engineerd Garments and the modern workwear movement.
  • There really are a lot of well-dressed men here. Every time I point one out, Arianna dismissively says “oh, they just look Italian. Everyone dresses like that here.” She’s from Italy, so I guess I can’t argue – but I’m still impressed.

I have to say that the positives far outweigh the negatives at this show. We’ve spoken to so many people who are passionate about what they do, whether or not you enjoy the results. In a way it doesn’t matter, because as much as we’re in the market for clothes, we’re in the market for stories – without which, as Arianna sagely tells me, clothes are just objects.

We eat a simple dinner and turn in early, despite the face the waiter makes when we tell him we’re only having one course. My past – pici with a mildly spicy tomato sauce – is delicious. I had forgotten how much I love the pasta here.

Thankfully, I have two days to eat more.

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The Pittilogues: Pitti Uomo 91, Day 2

I wore a suit to Pitti today. Never again. I just can’t do it; can’t look as effortlessly elegant as these people. And by people, I primarily mean people like Erik and his posse of giant vikings, all of whom are a) hilarious and b) really well-dressed. Anyway, I wore a suit, but it has no turn-ups. David once told me that all Italian suits have turn-ups because it is more “sartoriale, and I felt weirdly conscious of my ankles as I made my way to the Fortezza. I’ve never felt conscious of my ankles before, but last night I kept staring at how delicately Simon Crompton’s cuffs kissed the tops of his shoes, and I was moved. As a concession to both my streetwear roots and the freezing wind, I also wore a Stephan Schneider coat. Fight me if you must.

Arianna and I spent the morning touring the main pavilion, and talking to some brands we hadn’t seen yet. Arianna liked a footwear brand called Oldrana, which makes very bright hand-painted and patina’d shoes, courtesy of a former theater set designer. Kind of rad.

We also talked to Peter Nappi, which was a pleasure. Phillip Nappi, the brand’s founder, was manning the booth, and we got to hear his story. Here’s my recap: the shoes are really nice. I’ve been following the brand for a few years, entirely online, so it was a pleasure to see them in person. I suspect a pair of boots will make their way to my feet at some point in the future. If you like the Italian workboot style (think Carpe Diem, Jun Hashimoto, etc.), they’re worth checking out. There’s a special hand-welted Goodyear line too, if you’re after top quality.

Oh, and during this period I witnessed perhaps the most Italian interaction I’ve ever seen in my life, in which Arianna and the guys from The Bespoke Dudes launched into a three-hour long (okay, ten minute long) discussion that mostly involved gesticulating wildly, laughing very loudly, and making silly faces. I tried on a pair of cool sunglasses, but as I told them, I have a big head (“Noooo!” they argued, but I know the truth) and Arianna looked much better in everything.

After that, we walked upstairs to the main square, where T-Michael from Norwegian Rain showed off a new collaboration with Y & Sons, in the form of a technical kimono. I think it’s a measure of how used to this place I’ve gotten over the years that a “technical kimono” is a product demonstration that I actively sought out. It was demonstrated by a man who played a saxophone while putting on the kimono in sections, so he kept picking up the sax, sax-ing, then putting the sax back down and putting on the next piece of the kimono, all the while looking vaguely disappointed with his saxophoning. Then T-Michael came on the stage and put on the whole kimono at once, put his hands up in the air, and everyone clapped. Yeah, totally normal, everyday stuff.

Anyway, then it was time for me to go to the Stefano Ricci show. Stefano Ricci, if you’re not aware, makes very expensive tailored clothing, as well as things like $5,000 crocodile leather-trimmed cashmere sweatpants, and $3,000 snow pants for your next vacation in the Alps. Beyond that, my only exposure to the brand is the most recent ad campaign, which features men in suits carrying eagles, which in itself is goddam hilarious and also epic. Plus, I had an invitation to the show, which was in the Palazzo Pitti, so of course I went.

I wander out of the Fortezza, staring at my phone as though I know where I’m supposed to be going. There are black vans waiting to take us to Stefano Ricci, which makes it feel quite official. Men wearing ear buds are waiting to drive us away, after saying “Stefano Ricci?” with an audible question mark, which makes it feel even more official. We sit in silence in the full van, all of us strangers, all of us staring at our phones. I recite Frank Herbert’s litany against fear.

The Riccis are a Florentine family, and this is the 45th anniversary of the brand. The show takes place inside the Sala Bianca. which is on the other side of the river. So away we go! We arrive with some fanfare, receive our invitations, and admire the men dressed in Florentine armor. Then we are ushered upstairs, to wait outside the Sala Bianca, surrounded by more soldiers festooned in the livery of Florence. “Festoon” is a pretty good word for what’s going on around me; so would “bespangle.” There is a lot of plastic surgery in here, is what I mean.

But the salon is – well, it’s beautiful. White carpet surrounds a white runway, and chandeliers hang over the catwalk. Projected lights twirl on the ceiling, and piano music plays in the background. The name Stefano Ricci has been placed atop a wall of pressed white roses, 11,000 in all. The space and the decorations are romantic, beautiful, evocative of the dreaminess of a fairy tale ball. 

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11,000 white roses were used to create the backdrop for the Stefano Ricci show

I am unimportant, so I am in the back, but just being in the space is lovely. If nothing else, these people know how to put on a show. And then, at last, the music starts. It is Good Music; rousing classical compositions that wouldn’t be out of place in every live-action remake of every Disney fairytale from now until the end of time. The kind of shit I absolutely live for. The first model is an 8 year old boy in a jacket and trousers, who gets an enthusiastic round of applause for his cherubic smile. It’s just – I mean, come on. It’s cheating. 

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The opening model at Stefano Ricci

It’s also kind of the high point of the show. Each “course” – the show is presented like a menu – includes one Cherubic Boy and a collection of tall men, most with facial hair and at least a touch of grey about them. Having never seen the clothing in person, it’s hard to know what’s going on up close, which kind of matters in a suit. Roman-inspired, and featuring a lot of shiny fabric. Some of the tailoring looks quite nice, and both @Dirnelli and the Parisian Gentleman crew have had good things to say about the make, but there are some things I can’t get past. Namely, the tailored sweatsuits with embroidered branding on the back pocket and croc-trimmed pockets. I question the crocodile jackets. I question the black leather jacket with a giant black eagle on the back. I question a lot of things, really, but the music is so fantastic and the space so pretty that they could have sent anything down the runway and I’d have been happy.

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The finale.

The music swells, the suits come down the runway one last time, and that’s it. Show over. We walk into the salon next door for a quick bite and a glass of sparkling wine, and then it’s back in the van, away from the fairy tale, and a return to the much less impressive Fortezza da Basso, where I shake a couple hands and then walk back to my hotel.

Now, this is something that I think is very important: fashion design – good fashion design – tells a story. That’s something I think that even I have gotten away from in the last couple of years: the sense that you’re living a story as the main character. And say what you will about some of Stefano Ricci’s less tasteful items on display, but that’s what they do – and they do it successfully. Many designers have, over the last several years, called for a return to the mysticism of fashion. For a return to the romance – of sitting in a beautiful, ornate palace perhaps, watching a fairy tale unfold.

That’s missing inside the Fortezza. And I don’t mean the well-dressed folks, because as I’ve said there are a large number of well-dressed folks. I mean the cynics I mentioned in this post, the ones looking for the obscene visual cues that will set them apart to other people, rather than themselves – pink-dyed fur coats or culottes with combat boots or what have you. We all dress for an audience, but I think that the magic of fashion is that we’re readers of our own story – we’re part of the audience, so even if we’re dressing for the fantasy in our head we’re dressing for ourselves and not just the outside readers. Or at least, that’s how I think it ought to be.

The first time I came to Pitti, I wrote that we should all just wear what we love. I feel as though I’ve come full circle, although I would beg you to ask yourself why you love what you love. Take a look at your wardrobe, and really ask yourself why you wear what it is you wear. What’s compelling your buying? Your styling? I’d be interested to know.

Anyway, it’s midnight and I’ve finished my negroni. See you tomorrow, Styleforum.

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4 Important Takeaways from the Independent Retailers Symposium

On Tuesday evening, Arianna and I attended the Permanent Style x Plaza Uomo x Stendström’s (whew) event, part of which was the independent retailers symposium led by Simon Crompton of Permanent Style. On the panel were Mark Cho (The Armoury), Mats Klingberg (Trunk Clothiers), Anda Rowland (Anderson & Sheppard), Ethan Newton (Bryceland’s), Patrick Lof, aka @Leaves (Skoaktiebolaget), and George Wang (Brio). Despite the fact that most people in the room couldn’t tell what was going on thanks to the party that was going on behind us (there were drinks, after all), I stood close enough to the front that I could hear fairly well.

You’ll note that, in addition to being some well-known names, all of these are brick and mortar stores. Their goods and online presences vary, but they are similar in that they all have a strong viewpoint and a devoted following.

  1. Brick and mortar is an advantage, rather than an outdated idea.
    1. Anda told us that a store can only be as valuable as its salespeople feel, and that the relationship between consumer and salesperson, and the knowledge a salesperson has of the product, is where things go very right or very wrong.
    2. Mark Cho compared what independent menswear retailers do to what boutique hotels do. He said that, really, they both operate within the hospitality industry.
    3. Ethan Newton told us that his store is an extension of himself, and an extension of the people that work within it.
  2. The internet works in tandem brick and mortar
    1. The refrain, repeated across almost all the retailers present, was that an internet store was good for in-person business, and that in-person visits were good for internet visits. Many shared stories of customers walking into the store to browse the merchandise, and completing the purchase online, or vice-versa. Mark Cho called this omni-channel approach to retail a positive thing, and the question is not whether it should exist, but how to best leverage it.
    2. Anda, at Anderson & Sheppard, said that they’ve seen particular utility in e-commerce as a way for established customers to buy multiples of an item they own and like – many men still want 5 of the same thing, perhaps in different colors.
  3. There is a give and take between store and client
    1. Stores are generally unsuccessful if they attempt to hard to push a vision that a client isn’t responding to (i.e. buying).
    2. Stores can easily lose their way if they respond only to what clients know they want to buy. There needs to be vision at the head of the retailer.
  4. Stores are brands unto themselves
    1. A good store, like a good brand, has personality – caring staff, knowledge of their product, and a story to tell. This is how retailers develop long-term, loyal clientele.

All in all, it was an interesting talk, albeit brief. It’s a pity it was so loud in the venue, as I would have liked the chance to ask a few more questions. What was most obvious about the group gathered was the passion devoted to both menswear and to retail, which made it seem equally obvious that the best prediction for the future of independent retailers is: “bright.”

The Pittilogues: Pitti Uomo 91, Day 1

Since I flew to Florence from Denver, there was of course a Weed Bro on the plane who had Everything Figured Out. I was banished to the window seat (Lufthansa having somehow ruined my seating reservations), and therefore couldn’t escape from the lecture he gave the young german man sitting in the aisle. Car people just don’t know business, he’s told us, which is why he’s managed to disrupt the entire hail damage repair industry. He wanted to know what everyone did for work, and I was tempted to tell him that I was an ostrich wrangler.

Somehow it seemed like a fittingly absurd conversation to overhear on my way to Pitti 91, where there is an equal amount of absolute certainty about the rules of the fashion system with no demonstration that any of it is even real. My arrival in Italy was punctuated by a 10 hour layover in Frankfurt, which I spent wandering the Innenstadt and people-watching. I watched, for example, a couple flirting at the bar where I ate a truly humongous schnitzel. The boy was wearing cowboy boots with jeans tucked in. The girl was very, very drunk.

Listening to them flirt was fascinating. I took my time over a beer, wondering why we, as a people, seem to only be fascinated by the process of falling in love, and not what comes after. I’m thinking of this in part because of the incredibly trashy YA fantasy romance novels I spend every plane ride reading, but why do we lose interest once the “ILU’s” are traded? Why do we skip from puppy love to heartwarming wrinkled people, with no appreciation in between?

It’s maybe not the greatest metaphor, but I’m going to extend it to fashion anyway. We’re obsessed with the anticipation of what’s next, with the climactic experience of the purchase, and then – well, how many of us have lusted after a piece of clothing only for it to fade to obscurity once it’s in our wardrobe? Arianna, who is at Pitti with me, tells me that something about living in the US just makes her want to buy, buy, buy. And Pitti is very calculated to make you want to buy buy buy, as well – because I can walk into the Monitaly booth and say “I want to wear this head to toe,” then walk next door to De Bonne Facture and say the exact same thing.

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Some quick snaps of De Bonne Facture at Pitti Uomo 91

This was a train of thought that continued to chug along through the haze of jet lag when I arrived at the airport for my flight to Florence – because I had forgotten how easy it is to spot the Pitti-goers, double-breasted and bearded just as they were the last time I made this trek; playing the game even at ten thirty PM in an airport.

It’s a bit awkward to realize that you recognize most of what everyone is wearing. There’s a Gray knit blazer. There’s an LBM casentino overcoat. An East Harbor Surplus down vest. Stone Island. Adidas.  I wonder what the tarmac workers think of us as we climb the ladders to the aircraft, our strange parade of coats-draped over-trousers and bellicose lapels cutting a fine figure through the Frankfurt fog. And once arrived, we descend en masse in equal majesty; a riot of sparkly skull rings and undercuts and white sneakers and hoodies worn under overcoats. I wonder at the cumulative worth of the wardrobes contained within the luggage at the baggage carousel. It takes away the fun of things when it feels as though none of us have any imagination whatsoever. 

Pitti, however, hides some gems. We’ll report back, but I do have some pressing thoughts:

  1. First of all, I can’t help but wonder how long it will take for the see now, buy now mindset to take over Pitti. Choya, a Japanese shirt maker, is taking MTM shirt measurements at their stand, and I can’t imagine they’re alone – or that other brands are far behind.
  2. It felt empty today, on the guest front. I’d be interested to see what the official numbers are.
  3. Hype rules all. Arianna and I went to the presentation of the new collaboration Liverano & Liverano x Roy Rogers denim, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t almost want a pair by the end. And I wondered, per bullet point 1, how many people would have thrown money at the stand hand they been allowed to take the jeans home.
  4. There are a lot of well-dressed people, proportional to the number that look, frankly, ridiculous.
  5. There are a lot of neat brands, too – perhaps it’s Arianna’s idealism that’s rubbing off on me, or perhaps I’ve somehow never noticed in the past, but some of the brands here are, well – they’re cool.
  6. Yasuto Kamoshita remains maybe the best-dressed man on the planet. Wish I’d taken a picture.
  7. The Italian way of eating lunch, in which you drink wine, eat tasty charcuterie, and talk for two hours, is much better than wolfing down whatever hellish fast food you can find while continuing to work, like we do in the states.
  8. Since I know some of you out there are just waiting for me to talk about how miserable I am – yeah, my feet are a little sore.

After all of that, we attended the Permanent Style x Plaza Uomo symposium event, where we saw some old friends. And tomorrow we’ll get into the full swing of things, with a day of fashion shows, parties, and lots of photos from the Fortezza. You’re following us on Instagram, right?

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