Inside the Pitti Uomo, edgy new ideas sat cheek-to-cheek with more traditional tailoring, but here, even the traditional is looked at with fresh eyes
The key looks and trends in menswear from Pitti Uomo
It is difficult to overestimate the sheer swag of Pitti Uomo 94, which unfolded in Florence last week.
Situated in the grounds of the splendid 16th-century Fortezza Da Basso, Pitti Uomo, which started life as a trade show, has now expanded into one of the leading events on the menswear calendar, drawing many of the world’s best-dressed men to dandy their way around the city.
So where to start describing this four-day event? Is it with the Christian Dior shop opening on Via de’ Tornabuoni, which sprawled out on to the street, the DJ sending music bouncing off surrounding buildings? Or perhaps with the launch of two new rooms at Gucci Garden, to celebrate collaborations with Icelandic singer Bjork and artist Isabella Cotier. Visitors made their way from room to room, via staircases that had phrases such as “I want to go back to believing in stories” or “If you’ve seen it all before, close your eyes” scrawled across the walls.
Elsewhere, Paul Surridge showed his first bona fide menswear collection for Roberto Cavalli. Invited to Pitti Uomo as a special guest (Cavalli was, after all, born in Florence), it seemed only fitting that the house unveil its first full men’s collection in the city. Presented in the extraordinary Galluzzo Charterhouse, a 14th-century monastery up in the hills above Florence (interestingly, this is the only time the monastery has welcomed outsiders, let alone allowed a fashion show to take place on its grounds), the collection was compact yet wearable.
It reworked the Cavalli signature animalier (animal-inspired prints) as grey-on-grey leopard-print coats, reversed zebra-print suits and water snake zip-through shirts, while trousers and outer layers were printed in a deliberately soft-focus animal print. It also featured printed, washed denim and snazzy ankle-boot trainers. When I bumped into influencer Luka Sabbat in Palazzo Vecchio the following day, he was still decked out in head-to-toe custom made Cavalli, monogrammed black jeans and snakeskin boots, under a flame-red trench.
Inside the Pitti Uomo arena itself – think Sole DXB times 500 – there was an intriguing mix of old and new brands. Edgy new ideas sat cheek-to-cheek with more traditional tailoring, but here, even the traditional is looked at with fresh eyes.
Corneliani is a label that definitely veers towards the classic, but its sharp suits and elegant separates still spoke of the swagger that is the very heart of Italian fashion. A single-breasted jacket in slubby pumpkin sat over a textured terracotta polo shirt. Next up was a putty-coloured shirt under a burnt umber double-breasted jacket, layered under a checked knee-length raincoat. Texture versus tone, and colour versus surface – reconsidered for the modern man, with a more relaxed, contemporary feel.
Also embracing a laid-back vibe was Z Zegna, which continued its love affair with all things tennis with a collection of sporty looks featuring blazers paired with side-striped tracksuit bottoms, and endless variations of skilful layering. Proving that the transparency trend that started for spring/summer 2018 is gathering pace, white see-through rain jackets sat over tracksuits, while roomy shorts covered logo-ed leggings.
The marine-inspired North Sails showed off its expanded recycled fabric line, which features a 50 per cent mix of recycled cotton and Pet plastics. The ratio of plastic to cotton is adjusted to create everything from a soft cotton T-shirt to water-resistant shorts. Clever stuff indeed.
In accessories, Clarks focused on its famous desert boot, with its soft suede version now available in an ice-cream palette of creamy pistachios, peachy pinks and a dusty indigo blue.
Diadoro, meanwhile, dusted off its trademark trainers, now subjected to a state-of-the-art technique that ages them in advance of them actually being worn. Ridiculous though this might sound, the result makes each pair of old-school high-tops look much-loved. The brand also offered trainers with what it calls a cross fastening, where the laces run underneath the sole, before coming back up to meet at the heel. Fiendishly complex, yet cool, it made us all want extra-long laces of our own.
Even Burlington was in fine form. Showing its eponymous socks in a city where there is scant demand for them (Italians prefer to show a little ankle between their slightly cropped trousers and suede loafers), the brand was right to instead bundle its socks up and present them as square floor cushions, held together with heavy industrial webbing.
And, in another nod to transparency, just days after Virgil Abloh unveiled his see-through case for Rimowa, luggage label Crash Case had its clear version on show, alongside its better-known dented versions.
One of the most memorable fashion shows was put on by Cos, which picked an open-air courtyard outside the showgrounds for its event. Sending out dancers instead of models, all dressed in the pared-down simplicity that the brand is known for, the new head of Cos, Christophe Copin, boldly ignored the usual runway format, and delivered a beautifully choreographed dance piece instead. Outstanding.
But the highlight of Pitti Uomo actually came courtesy of German leather brand MCM, also showing for the first time in Florence. In a warehouse tucked behind the train station, the show began with two male models motionless in the (almost) dark, standing under artificial rain, and when the music kicked in – the hip-hop classic, Rockit by Herbie Hancock – the pair leapt into an 1980s-era dance battle.
When this gave way to models, they swept down the runway layered in nylon, as if carved from parachutes. Hooded tops stopped just below the armpits, boxing shorts were pulled over leggings, and wildly baggy trousers were peppered with pockets, all packed under billowing trenches. Supremely well put together, this was street style meets sports tech, with extreme layering that somehow never felt heavy.
Luxe elements came through in feather-covered breastplates and crash helmets, while holdalls were worn as backpacks, and backpacks – the company’s signature – were adorned with pockets and patches, almost completely shorn of the dense branding of recent seasons. Most interestingly for a leather house – barely a single piece of it appeared on the runway.
Fun, fresh and invigorating, it was one of the more exciting menswear shows of recent times. As Kim Sung-joo, the founder, chairperson and chief visionary officer of MCM Holding says: “This is what the new generations are looking for – to be hands-free. Our brand DNA is the backpack, which is about a global nomad lifestyle. We are looking to millennials and to gen Z, and what they are looking for is freedom.”