Peter’s Adventures in Pittiland – Part II

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.

pitti uomo 93 brands trends streetstyle

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:

Monitaly

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.

Knit Brary

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.

Carmina

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.

La Portegna

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.

Invertere

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.

pitti uomo 93 brands trends streetstyle

A Perspective on the Styleforum Maker Space

Since the middle of December, I’ve been in Italy visiting the in-laws. We made a few little trips here and there for purposes of tourism, did a short tour of Emilia Romagna, enjoyed many delicious meals, and–of course–did some shopping during the Italian seasonal sales period. Additionally, we visited Florence as well, partly because it is a city filled with art, but also because my wife was working there during Pitti Uomo. During Pitti, I managed to make it into the Fortezza briefly, but I spent most of my time helping out with the Styleforum Maker Space. And I have to say it was a blast to hang out with so many charming people-while having bountiful aperitivi with decent wine, tasty mozzarella di bufala from Caserta, and salumi from the Tuscan countryside. The conversations ranged from materials and construction methods, to typical wines and dishes, to customer service and business practices.

Unfortunately Winson shoes couldn’t attend because of visa issues, but the other artisans more than made the experience great. At the Styleforum Maker Space there were Salvatore from I Sarti Italiani, Marco from Belisario Camicie, Alya from a.b.k. leather goods, and Frank and Jen from GIIN. Everyone was quite friendly, knowledgeable about their respective crafts, and their products were all impressive. If you had visited, you would have found yourself talking to individuals who genuinely find joy in their professions and care deeply about their crafts. From each one, you would have learned little secrets, such as the differences between types of mother of pearl buttons and shells, or which sections of a shirt or jacket require hand stitching and which can be machine stitched.

Over three days, talking with Frank and Jen from GIIN provided me with inspiration their passion and enthusiasm for their product, brand and work is enthralling. Frank is turning under garments on their head, making bonded products with a mix of long fiber cotton and polyester, blending the two together to create a fabric that exhibits the best of both worlds. He provided me with some to try, and I have to say that I am convinced (look forward to a review in the near future). On the other hand, the boutonnieres, the mainstay of their exhibition, were exquisite as always. Their display showed the materials at different steps, and they spoke with great respect about the Japanese artisan who created the process. These flowers were a hit with the Italians, who were shocked to see delicate flowers that were outside of the normal flow of time.

The leather goods from a.b.k. were impressive, especially for those who have a more street wear or rustic aesthetic. I talked with Alya about saddle stitching and vegetable tanned leathers as she sat in the corner hand stitching a pair of shoes that were being custom made for a foreign client. Her leather goods exuded a sort of aesthetic that embodied her personality itself, a reserved but passionate spirit that cares about the quality of the goods and the materials. She told me a wonderful story about the leathers that she works with, most of which come from a small tannery in the south of France that is run by two elderly gentlemen, who have been processing hides for many years in natural and historical methods. Her work combines this historical artisanship for materials with handcrafted methods to craft pieces that would last for a long time, growing more beautiful as they develop patinas through use.

I had used Belisario Camicie in the past to order online some shirts, and they came out well, so I decided to talk with Marco Belisario about modifying my shirts to the exact way that I wanted them. I ended up ordering a shirt with all my vezzi preferiti, including manica mappina and hand sewn buttons a giglio. I was amused that I had recently seen a friend of mine order a su misura shirt from another well-established shirt maker in Italy, only to have a fraction of the options and measurements taken in contrast to Belisario. Marco took a large number of measurements and some photos to create a paper pattern to compensate for my uneven shoulders and sleeve lengths, as well as for my watch on my wrist. He even consulted with the tailor from I Sarti Italiani to best determine how to address my bodies particularities. We discussed the size of armholes, and settled on a slimmer, high armhole as per my preferences. In addition, Marco allows you to choose which handsewn properties you want on the shirt, so I settled for what I most wanted aesthetically. They have a wide selection of different choices for collars (including one of the best one piece, open collars I’ve ever seen–they call it Ischia), buttons, and offer both fused and unfused cuffs and collars.

Last-but not least-was Salvatore Ioco, a 29 year old tailor who has been a tailor for 15 years of his life, learning the tradition from his grandparents. Salvo, the representative of I Sarti Italiani, is incredibly friendly and jovial guy. Based in Palermo, the smaller company is a consortium of 12 tailors and 3 cutters, all of whom work together to realize the garments in the style that the client desires. They produce mostly canvassed garments, but will do minimal canvassing (no fusing) if you desire in order to get an even lighter, more relaxed and casual garment. Salvo brought a wide range of fabrics in his books, showing off both more luxurious fabrics as well as base ones, and we talked about my preferences. I will have him make me a garment, but I’ve yet to decide on a fabric; in the end he took my measurements, talked about my physical abnormalities and my stylistic preferences. I’ll figure out whether I want to do something from him that is Cut-Make-Trim, or rather a suit manufactured in house with him and the other tailors using fabrics to which they have access. Of course, I’ll have to return to Italy for a few basted fittings, once we figure out what direction I want to go.

In the course of the three days, the various artisans had conversations among themselves, creating new dialogues; it comes as no surprise then that all the artisans shared a sort of mentality concerned with making durable goods. Even though reasons for making quality goods might have diverged slightly, they all overlapped in their pursuit of quality. GIIN seeks to preserve our resources by discouraging waste or using natural processes. Alya and a.b.k. is focused with maintaining a low environmental impact through sourcing environmental sound leathers (vegetable tanned), while also creating products that were useful. Belisario and I Sarti Italiani handcraft their clothing with rigor, in hopes of creating pieces that remain in your wardrobe for an extended time. This thoughtful mentality reminds us why craftsmanship and passion is still important today in a world overwhelmed with wasteful consumption.

Here you can see some pictures of the Styleforum Maker Space:

Peter’s adventures in Pittiland – Part I

Day Two, because my trip didn’t start out that well.

Of course I expected that everything would proceed swimmingly. I arrived at SFO well ahead of time, check-in was a breeze, and boarding went without a hitch. But then we waited. And waited…and after waiting on the runway in the plane for an hour, I asked the flight attendant what my options would be if I missed my connecting flight in Heathrow.

Now I’d like you to imagine a condescending, over-her-prime, bad highlights and fake-smiling smarmy woman hiss back to you:

“Well if we leave now, you won’t miss your flight, will you?” Her inane question was meant to end the conversation, and her Mary Poppins tone was meant to put me back in my seat rather than assuage my concerns. And yet I countered.

“Are you saying we will leave now?”

“Well let’s just wait and see what the Captain says, OK?” It was clear she was both unable to and disinterested in helping me, and so with no alternative open, I returned to my seat and obediently waited.  The captain announced the luggage placement left the plane imbalanced, so they would shuffle it around, redistribute the fuel, and we’d be off in no time….

Finally, three hours after the scheduled departure, our plane left San Francisco. When Mary Poppins made eye contact with me, she blurted, “Yeah, you’re going to miss your flight, but they’ll sort it all out for you when you get there. Right, would you like some orange juice?”

14 Hours later we landed. Then waited an hour in a queue to get set up in a hotel, another hour in a queue for passport check, and another hour to get shuttled to said hotel, where we were graciously comped dinner in the hotel’s buffet that offered gooey fish pie and wilted salad. Four hours later, I woke up to catch the shuttle to our rerouted flight, but not before grabbing the comped breakfast, which included a cardboard granola bar and cheese puffs. A day and a half late, I arrived in Milan.

As an aside: if you’ve never been to Milan Central train station, you’re in for a treat.  Not the busiest in terms of numbers, but arguably the most majestic. When arriving and disembarking, you can’t help but notice the steel and glass canopy as you turn around – the largest of its kind in Italy, enough for 18 tracks, and hundreds of feet long. Wander around, and you’ll find yourself awestruck at the massively high ceilings, capacious galleries, overbearing statues, and Nouveau-Roman architecture. Impressive, to say the least. So I had to take a picture. Guess who photobombed?

Patrik started lurking in forum in the early 2000s after searching online for – you guessed it – shoes. Nowadays @Leaves is a forum regular, putting together MTO’s from international shoe makers and answering obscure questions from like-minded enthusiasts on the thread for his shop, Skoaktiebolaget. Don’t ask how to pronounce it.

Finally I arrive at the StyleForum Maker Space at 3:30pm on day 2. Even before I enter the door, Fok grabs me. I protest that I have to pee.

“We gotta get to our 100 Hands appointment. Pee, then meet me outside.”

The appointment was supposed to last an hour, but one hour turned to two, then three, before making our way back to the Maker’s Space where Arianna was holding the fort.

Click here to read Part II.

Styleforum Maker Space – a.b.k. Leather Products

This January, at Pitti Uomo 93 in Florence, Italy, Styleforum will be hosting its inaugural Maker Space. The Styleforum Maker Space is an open space designed to exhibit the work of small brands and artisans interested in showing to both wholesale buyers and retail consumers. Click on the banner to visit the official page of the event and RSVP as a visitor.


Alya began her career by taking classes in shoemaking, eventually finding a mentor in iconic sandal designer, Barbara Shaum.

Inspired by her experience, Alya began making shoes on her own, recruiting occasional help from her sister Katya and teaching her the craft along the way. Word began to spread, orders for shoes began to increase, and the business was born.

Their work has become known for impeccable craftsmanship, ex­panding well beyond shoes to leather items of all kinds, from the functional to the purely beautiful. Each piece starts with leather that is domestically sourced and tanned without chemicals.

Katya and Alya hand-dye their own leather to achieve the exact color palette desired, then use alcohol water to saturate and stretch it before hand-stitching or stapling the pieces into place to dry.

At the Styleforum Maker Space, you’ll be able to chat with Alya and see her at work. Click here to RSVP, and visit the Styleforum Maker Space Official Thread on the forum.

Styleforum Maker Space – Belisario Camicie

This January, at Pitti Uomo 93 in Florence, Italy, Styleforum will be hosting its inaugural Maker Space. The Styleforum Maker Space is an open space designed to exhibit the work of small brands and artisans interested in showing to both wholesale buyers and retail consumers. Click on the banner to visit the official page of the event and RSVP as a visitor.

belisario camicie su misura styleforum maker space

We are proud to introduce one of the makers that will attend the Maker Space: Belisario Camicie, a shirtmaker from Abruzzo, has been operating for over a century, specializing in handmade shirts. The concept of “su misura” is still the core value of the brand, which prides itself in working exclusively with the best Italian fabrics, many of which from the Albini group. Belisario can also service foreign customers through an online ordering system.

The options to personalize a shirt are almost endless: their online customization interface takes the customer through several steps, providing different options regarding darts, pleats, patterns, cuffs, collars, fusing, and ultimately, buttons. Additionally, Belisario has a patented horizontal buttonhole, located right below the infamous crotch button; this detail helps with the shirt staying tucked.

Each shirt is carefully made by hand, made to each customer’s measurements or to predefined patterns (if you are an easy fit). Your measurements can be uploaded using the interface on the website for a smooth and personalized shopping experience.

Belisario shirts are created by the expert hands of 22 experienced seamstresses of the Abruzzo area – which means you are getting a product 100% made in Italy, and supporting a family operated company that’s been around for three generations.

belisario camicie made to measure made in italy maker space styleforum

At the Maker Space, you’ll have the chance to touch and feel the fabrics for yourself, and get measured by Marco’s expert hands. Click here to visit Belisario’s website.


Visit the Styleforum Maker Space official thread on the forum.