This season, Pitti Uomo celebrates its 90th edition, but it’s showing no signs of age. On the contrary, the Florence-based trade show continues to build momentum and is set to unveil special projects from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy. Here, Raffaello Napoleone discusses what makes Pitti Uomo such a hot ticket.
How do you stay relevant at a time when many trade shows are struggling?
To be relevant, you need to be constant and consistent. You need to have content and do real research, produce new projects. You must help buyers, help exhibitors, help the press. Every time there is something new to see, it adds value. You need to make sure that visitors return home richer in information, business opportunities, relations, contacts, emotions. It is a must to entertain. You are in the grand prix of men’s wear, and you have to take part in it.
In addition to Pitti’s historical talent search, you have significantly developed the show’s digital activities. Do you think this is an additional asset that exhibitors and visitors require?
Yes. We started five years ago with e-pitti, a unique digital fair, but we also just presented a ready-to-order service, because 60 percent of exhibitors have a business of less than five million euros [$5.5 million] in sales, and they still book orders by hand. To help them, we have developed a customized digital service specific to this end. We tested it in January, and it worked very well. The cost is one euro [$1.10] per day. Why do we do it? Because, again, these are programs and projects that we do to support the companies, the same way we have done with young creative talents, including Umit Benan, Gareth Pugh and John Varvatos, who started from here.
Is the men’s business suffering at the moment?
There are many companies that are suffering. Men’s wear is part of that general scenario of international markets. Today, because of what is happening in Japan, which has been a great market, and what is happening in Russia, which is picking up through the oil business, there is a new wave of optimism independent of the sanctions. America is flat now, so these things have an immediate effect. Those who strike with the perfect product manage to pass through this turmoil, those who don’t must find solutions and ways to change to fit market expectations.
What do you think about the see-now, buy-now trend?
I think we must look at it very carefully, but I am increasingly convinced that fashion must maintain an aspirational aspect of an emotional desire. It’s like with a Ferrari — I order it, and I get it 12 or 24 months later, because it is unique and special. Today, we are moving toward a non-homogenization of products, a personalization, so I see it as a marketing operation. I may be wrong, but I don’t think it will shift the balance from where it is today.