By  on December 3, 2008

MILAN — Could Pitti Immagine Uomo be losing some of its luster?

After 13 years as a mainstay, Canali is leaving the Florence-based trade show, joining a list of marquee brands — such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Brioni and Hugo Boss — that have exited in recent years.

Canali, an Italian luxury men’s wear brand that’s turning 75 next year, said Tuesday it would present its fall/winter 2009-2010 collection at Milan’s Triennale Museum of Contemporary Art on Jan. 18 instead.

“We believe that coming back to Milan, where the company was founded and where our headquarters is based, is a strategic solution and a sign of change,” global communications director and family member Elisabetta Canali told WWD.

“Milan is known worldwide as the fashion capital. We are a luxury fashion brand, and we want to let our different targets know that our company has a new appeal. This presentation will allow us to show the emotional part of our products not only through the products themselves, but also through images, sounds and performances,” she added.

A Pitti spokesman said: “We have an excellent relationship with the Canali family and are very much at ease with the decision.

“They have to diversify their strategy,” he added. “Such brands can still participate in trade fairs, but it doesn’t have to be in a continuous manner….Pitti is still an excellent harbor for most companies.”

Ermenegildo Zegna and Hugo Boss exited the fair in the last two years, while Brioni pulled out in the late Nineties. All three were major losses for Europe’s foremost men’s wear trade show.

Industry sources said Pitti was an added cost for luxury labels, which already have their own distribution networks, and that their collections would benefit more from the visibility of their own showrooms in Milan.

However, Brioni co-chief executive officer Andrea Perrone said the expo was still “a great opportunity” for other brands.

“It is still the leading fair where men’s wear brands across the globe congregate to share ideas and talk about the industry,” Perrone said, adding that for family run brands, which can’t afford to have commercial offices in key locations such as the United States and Asia, Pitti was “a key location.”

Retailers agreed.

“[Pitti Uomo kicks off] the men’s season, and we continue to see new and upcoming brands. I’m so happy Pitti is bringing these new smaller brands from around the world for us to discover,” Bergdorf Goodman men’s fashion director Tommy Fazio said.

“The general feeling for the show seems to be positive, with the addition of Thom Browne showing for the first time in Europe, which is such exciting news,” Fazio said.

Browne is one of the leading designers to have been tapped by Pitti to increase the show’s appeal. Comme des Garçons will debut its Homme Deux collection for the first time outside of Japan, while Giambattista Valli will give a runway presentation of his women’s fall pre-collection in Florence on Jan. 15. Last season Diane von Furstenberg launched her resort line at Pitti W — Pitti Uomo’s sister fair, which runs concurrently — giving a major boost to footfall.

Barneys New York’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s Tom Kalenderian said Pitti was an important hub for artisan goods. “[Pitti] not only serves as a point of discovery but also saves time normally spent visiting other factories directly across Europe,” Kalenderian said.

He added that most of Barneys’ procurement of collections from large fashion brands was done in New York, “leaving the majority of our work at Pitti to be focused on the smaller niche brands.”

“It is my hope that this forced evolution of Pitti will return its focus on discovering new and exciting artisan brands, which is what brought us to Pitti decades ago,” he said.

In 2007 Canali’s group sales reached $260 million, with 35 percent coming from the U.S. Last May the label opened its first Manhattan unit at 25 Broad Street, just steps from the New York Stock Exchange, followed by a Las Vegas store, bringing the Canali U.S. store count to five.

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