After meeting with 100 Hands, Fok and I made our way back to the Maker Space. By then the show was over and Aperitivo Hour was in full effect. After catching up with my good friend and tailor Salvo, I met the other artisans that shared SytleForum’s exhibition. Red and white wine, olives, prosciutto, and mozzarella were being passed around while conversations of the day’s effects were being discussed, and I could finally relax after my 30 hour travel ordeal. Enjoyable as it was, though, I couldn’t wait to sleep in a proper bed.
“Wait till you see your apartment,” teased Arianna. “You have the best view of Florence.”
She wasn’t exaggerating. The apartment that Salvo and I shared a panorama of the Arno and Ponte Vecchio, one of the most charming hallmarks of the city. I could have soaked in the view for hours, but it was already past midnight, and exhaustion got the better of me. I crashed on the bed in my clothes and fell asleep.
The next day, well…let’s not dwell on the fact that I left my phone in the cab on the way to Pitti and forgot to finalize my press pass for the show…yeah, that’s a bit embarrassing. Let’s skip to the show. I was told the show is big, but when people say Pitti is “big”, they’re downplaying it. It’s huge. The show lasts four days because there’s so much to see – 60,000 square meters and 1230 exhibitors. Here are some highlights:
Not classic menswear, but casual clothes for CM guys that are looking for something interesting and unique. Runs the gamut from trousers acceptable for date night to furry leopard print boots. Yup.
If you like sweaters, you’ll fall in love with this brand. Based out of Spain, this company produces handmade sweaters with tons of visual interest and texture. One of the cardigans on display used yarns thicker than a pencil. Most are made with baby alpaca, so while not cheap, it’s the kind of cozy softness you can wear all day long, if your partner’s not borrowing it. Check out their video here.
Apparently Tebas, the father of the company, won’t stop making new lasts in his workshop. The latest, named after him, is a wider-than-Forest casual last that can be dressed up but is best represented on a chunky brogue boot. Other new lasts include the dressier Queen’s and Broadway.
When I vacationed in Sicily earlier this year, I scoured the internet for a good pair of espadrilles. Most are flimsy things that only last as long as your vacation does before they fall apart. If only I had known of La Portegna. Although they do make other types of shoes, their espadrilles are the only ones I know of that have a leather sole, so you can keep wearing them long after you get back from your holiday.
Like fellow British coatmakers Mackintosh, the popularity of Intervère began to wane in the late 20th century, but owner Graham Shaw was proudly showing the current line of coats at Pitti, and I’m glad. The company began over 100 years ago as the originators of the reversible gabardine/tweed coat. Mr. Shaw explains this was the reason for the name “Invertere” – a Latin word that can mean “inside out”. The practical coats are as attractive now as they ever have been, and if I could chose another travel coat, it’s going to be an Intervère. No US stockists exist now, but hopefully that will change.
After hours of circling the grounds, ogling the products, and snapping pictures, we headed back across Ponte Vecchio to the StyleForum Maker Space, where Salvo had two jackets and one suit ready for the my fitting. Soon afterward, the guys from Nine Lives Brand (amazing yak jackets) Red Rabbit Trading Co (handmade pre-1920’s southwestern silver jewelry) and Jailbird Leather (belts made by salaried inmates) stopped by to hang and get fitted by Salvo. Because suits and streetwear can be friends. All three companies had a booth at Pitti, and make goods that be dressed both up and down.
Friday came all too quickly. I didn’t see all of the exhibitors, I didn’t see all my friends, I arrived late and was leaving early. Suffice it to say, I didn’t really plan this well. After packing my bags and my camera (thanks Leica) I wistfully said goodbye to our underutilized apartment on the Arno.
But that wasn’t the end of Pitti for me. On my way to the train station I bumped into StyleForum user Steffen Ingwersen AKA @vecchioanseatico, whom I’ve met before, and his friend Mikolaj. After standing on the street chatting for a while, we decided to have lunch before leaving Florence. I got a chance to see some unique accessories Steffen is working on: a striped wool tie made of Fox flannel and pocket squares with prints of his own design. But what struck me most were the yellow carpincho gloves. Unlined and butter soft, I couldn’t resist, and bought a pair as a physical memento of my time at Pitti 93.
It’s always fun meeting StyleForum users, especially by accident; you never know what to expect from their online persona. Usually, though, they end up being regular guys who happen to be into clothes. This happened later on at the train station, when I thought I recognized another StyleForum user. When I asked, he flashed a sly grin and replied, “I’m the notorious Alan Bee.”
Turns out Okey Onyehbule AKA @Alan Bee is a quite an amicable gent. As a guy with the Herculean build of a Mack Truck, he’s always had difficulty finding suits that fit him off-the-rack. Now that he has been having success going to Naples for bespoke, he is keen to share his results so that those with similar fit issues can see how to dress.
“I don’t pretend to know everything,” he laughs, “but I do like to share what I’ve learned, which is why I’ve posted some videos. When other users give me feedback, I take it in stride and try to learn from it. I’m passionate about it, but I don’t take myself too seriously. Bespoke is really just an indulgent hobby.”
It’s now my last day in Italy. In a few hours I’ll be picking up my commissions from Salvo, hopping on a plane, and going back to work in construction. I’ve heard Pitti described as a kind of menswear Mecca for fame seekers or a necessary evil for those in the industry, and while there may be truth in both of those viewpoints, I think there might be another sentiment, one neither romantic nor cynical.
To be sure, those whose livelihood requires Pitti cannot but recognize its importance for business: product is bought, connections are made, bonds are forged, the machine is oiled, and business is set for another six months. For those of us not in the industry, it’s a different story. We’re basically menswear fans, and Pitti is the draft. Everyone dresses up, shoppers look for products and products look for buyers. It’s exciting, sure; we might have fairly strong opinions about a particular player (cough, Kapernick). After the draft, the season begins and we watch the players perform on the field.
At the end of the day, though, it’s only a game. Taking a pastime to its logical end doesn’t mean devoting one’s life to it, but the change from fan to fanatic happens pretty often. The common rationale is that if one enjoys something, more of that something translates into more happiness. Kids do this all the time; ask a child what he wants to eat and he’ll choose pizza and ice cream.
I’ll admit, Pitti is a blast, and I’m excited to watch the rest of the season to see how the clothes play out in real life. But the end of the day, though, it’s only clothes. I’m actually looking forward to just being home.