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.
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.
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.
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.