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Bullish and Busy at Pitti Immagine Uomo

The show has drawn several exciting new brands, especially in growth areas such as contemporary sportswear and footwear.

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FLORENCE — “This is the busiest spring-summer Pitti I’ve been to in a long time.” So said Simon Golby, director of men’s wear at New York-based CD Network, echoing the sentiment of competitors and vendors at a newly energized Pitti Immagine Uomo.

This story first appeared in the June 20, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Opened, as reported, by pro-business Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday with a $2.7 million financial infusion and a call for easier credit access and simplified government bureaucracy, the fair was praised by global attendees for stepping up its game this season.

The show, which ends a four-day run today, is perhaps feeling the competitive heat of the emerging London men’s collections season that immediately preceded it. Whatever the motivation, Pitti has drawn several exciting new brands, especially in growth areas such as contemporary sportswear and footwear.

Key trends that emerged:

• Knit blazers as the top item in tailored clothing.

• Indigo blue in all categories, from linen shirts and dress pants to shoes and accessories.

• Footwear of all sorts, from designer sneakers and espadrilles to dress shoes.

Click Here for Slideshow of the Top Trends at Pitti Immagine Uomo >>

At the same time, the look of the show itself has been revamped to provide a more airy atmosphere and better visibility for the brands — a gesture that has not gone unnoticed among the fair’s visitors.

Hirofumi Kurino, general manager and chief creative director at United Arrows, observed that while last season’s fair was disappointing, this edition was a positive surprise. “I see very good progress. The fair itself has opened up and taken a new visual direction, while the brands presented interesting product.” He was keen to see the new Lardini and Nick Wooster collaboration and singled out Casablanca 1942’s leather and raffia footwear, hand-made in Morocco and showing at Pitti for the first time this season. Signaling indigo and floral prints as key trends, he cautioned the brands not to do “too much of the same” to keep up the freshness of their offering.

“Blue is the new black,” said Magali Ginsburg, head of buying and category management at Thecorner.com. “There is also a holiday surfer L.A. feeling to it,” said Magali, who also pointed to a good offering of unconstructed jackets, flowing silhouettes and understated subtle looks in powdery colors, fuchsia and purple. She singled out denim, nylon, linen and cotton as this season’s key fabrics.

Retailers specifically pointed to the fair’s increasing importance in spotting trends.

“Pitti for us is an integral part of the fashion season. Because of its earliness, it’s like a sneak-peek of what the season will look like, especially in the contemporary market,” observed Eric Jennings, vice president and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue.

He noted that the show itself “has almost become bigger than the brands. What is happening outside the booths is at least as important as what is going on inside,” he explained, pointing to the increased importance of digital media. “Bloggers and street photographers, omnipresent at Pitti, have energized men’s wear in ways never seen before.”

Tapping into the most dominant men’s trend, Jennings said he would stock up on shoes. “Men’s footwear used to be a fraction of the business, now it has become a worthy rival of tailored clothing,” he said. “It was not just the sneaker. Men are spending more than ever on shoes and apparel.”

Golby of CD Network said he was pleased to see that “brands are doing what is necessary to cater to the customer. Men are interested in newness. They are ready to break away from the standard look and seek out less conservative styles.” Golby pointed to trousers as an example. “They used to be a service item, now customers look to variety in patterns and silhouettes,” he noted, dubbing the trouser “the new jacket.”

RELATED STORY: Pitti Uomo: Brands to Watch >>

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