FLORENCE, Italy — The sun-soaked yet chilly winter days here provided an extra boost of joy for attendees at Pitti Uomo, long deemed as a key research space for trends and impeccable tailoring, which didn’t disappoint with its 101st edition.
Despite the Omicron variant spreading rapidly globally, there was fairly brisk activity at the men’s wear fair and an upbeat mood among exhibitors, many of whom expected little attendance. Shielded behind their N95 face masks, companies’ representatives all agreed that their presence at the Fortezza da Basso this season was testament to the unity and strength of the Pitti squad and the men’s market.
According to a recent forecast from Confindustria Moda, the Italian men’s sector is poised to reach sales of 9.1 billion euros in 2021, up 11.9 percent compared to 2020, lifted by increased exports and domestic expenditure. This compares with PwC estimates that the entire Italian fashion sector will exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with sales of 81.3 billion euros.
“It’s been a quieter affair compared to pre-pandemic levels, but definitely more lively than last July,” said Federica Montelli, head of fashion at Rinascente. “It telegraphed the moment of rebirth [despite COVID-19], brands are eager to be here and be seen.”
Riccardo Tortato, head of buying departments and men’s fashion director at Tsum, observed a positive overall mood. Referring to colleagues who skipped the show, he said that “it’s our duty to support all the Italian brands working hard to offer their best [collections].”
Fashion-wise, Montelli urged brands to dare more, feeling there’s room for experimentation. “There is still a strong sustainable component percolating across brands and categories combined with the valuation of craftsmanship, which compared to the past is more subtly telegraphed,” she said.
While formalwear is picking up and elegance is back on track, as Tortato put it, silhouettes and proportions were revisited, conjuring ease and comfort for “smart casual” attire, in Montelli’s words. The executive cited new brands including Naviglio Milano, Holden, Waste Yarn Project and Junk Eyewear as among the up-and-coming names to watch, the latter two having already installed a pop-up at Rinascente.
According to Justin Berkowitz, Bloomingdale’s men’s fashion director, “A return to dress-up and tailored clothing styles with polished sophistication was a defining trend. Even though many have put big life moments on hold, they will be dressing sharply once they get together again and leaning into sophisticated colors, earth tones, and novel formalwear.”
The Bloomingdale’s executive was among the international buyers who decided not to attend the trade show in person this season for health concerns, but still browsed it remotely via the Pitti Connect digital platform.
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, said, “There is no perfect substitute to attending market and Pitti Uomo in person, talking with vendors, designers and colleagues and seeing product up close, [but] Pitti Connect provides a virtual approximation of the physical fair as closely as possible.”
The usual brand mix of established and up-and-coming names was convincing, he said, with eco-conscious young brands like N Palmer and Philip Huang, as well as luxurious outerwear offered by KNT and Mandelli, among the standouts.
Here are some of the top brands from the show:
Designers: Mariano and Walter De Matteis
Inspiration: Kiton’s brother label continued to blur the lines between quintessentially Neapolitan tailoring and the easiness of today’s men’s wardrobes with pieces that can easily transition from office to spare time activities. According to Mariano De Matteis, the key lever is the continued research and development of fabrics, aimed at providing younger clientele with 24/7 options. “We envision tailoring under a contemporary lens,” he said. “Suits embed sportswear inflections, which feel more in tune with the times.” With the introduction of new materials and by mounting an eco-friendly booth at the fair with panels coming from repurposed end-of-life wind turbines, the brothers managed to ramp up KNT’s sustainable credentials, too, adhering to the principles of modern activist consumers.
Key styles: The hotbed of Kiton’s research into innovative textiles, KNT introduced a range of puffer jackets crafted from “sottovetro,” a performance-driven yet lightweight fabric with an edgy shimmering effect — a ubiquitous trend at Pitti Uomo — to be layered over drawstring pantsuits made of super soft wools, easily mistaken for jersey. Not even overcoats, cut in straight and easygoing silhouettes, were offered in a traditional way, as the brand employed cashmere fleece, which telegraphed a nonchalant approach to dressing up.
Price Range: N/A
Designer: Alessandro Pungetti
Inspiration: Building on its momentum, Enzo Fusco, owner of the premium outerwear brand that is part of the FGF Industry, is betting on the luxury sportswear segment, all the while exploiting the business and style potential of the total look by adding workwear-inspired trousers and sweats to the offering. Raising the bar when it comes to innovative materials is core to Ten C, known for its Original Japanese Jersey, or OJJ, an exclusive fabric that provides a protective yet worn-in feel. Devoting its fall collection to hybrids, the lineup was rich in patchworks, including garment-dyed nylon Tencel and shearling overcoats. Working a palette of earthy tones, with accents of zingy orange and Klein blue, the collection rejigged hero styles always bearing a protective undercurrent.
Key styles: The brand’s outerwear stood out with a range of puffer jackets crafted from garment-dyed Nylon Tactel and enriched with OJJ fastenings and panels featuring shimmering and moiré effects. The season’s signature patchwork technique was applied to hooded shearling jackets featuring embellishments in coated nylon, as well as to anoraks and matching knee-pocketed trousers with an urban and youthful feel.
Price Range: Retail prices range from 300 euros to 1,500 euros.
Paul & Shark
Designer: In-house design team
Inspiration: After years of blockbuster collaborations — with men’s wear veteran Nick Wooster and Japanese hip label White Mountaineering, among others — Paul & Shark’s fall display was intended as a reboot, highlighting the brand’s key codes. The signature marina and yachting-inspired aesthetic reverberated through the fitted cashmere peacoats and cable knit jumpers. The company traded its signature blue and red color combination for a zingy orange shade that was aimed at conveying joy and optimism. Dubbed “Wear the Ocean,” the lineup referenced the brand’s sustainable commitment, which has now come full circle via the patented waterless color dyeing system, which saves up to 85 percent of water and 90 percent of chemicals.
Key styles: Impeccably cut peacoats in vibrant orange hues were among the collection’s standout pieces, along with a range of knitwear building on the company’s heritage in the category. Fishermen crew and turtlenecks had a tactile and cozy feel enhanced by cable knit and argyle patterns, with a range of blue and white jacquard versions drawn from ‘70s archival designs. They were crafted from Re-wool and Re-cashmere recycled yarns, while hybrid sweats-slash-jackets combined knits with the Typhoon Save the Sea nylon derived from upcycled PET bottles for edgy activewear options.
Price range: Retail prices span from 250 euros for technical pants to 1,100 euros for Re-cashmere peacoats.
Designer: Aldo Maria Camillo
Inspiration: Caruso’s constant quest for refined and understated elegance, or playful elegance, as in the brand’s motto, defined the fall offering, which was inspired by jazz icon Miles Davis. The trumpet player’s unconventionality – both in music and style – informed the playful and charming twists of the lineup, filled with luxurious details and intended to subtly redefine men’s wear tropes for customers who aim to “veer toward the dressier side as a stylistic statement, not to please their boss or the establishment,” as Marco Angeloni, the company’s chief executive officer, put it.
Key styles: Subverting the rules of traditional tailoring, Camillo managed to strike a balance between traditional formalwear and modern customers’ craving for personal and less obvious style choices. “It’s more about the attitude than the clothing,” said Angeloni. Formal suits in subtle checkered patterns came with pleated loose pants, while deconstructed, everyday blazers featured nylon linings keeping the garments fresh and comfortable. A new cool version of the suit came with a field jacket in lieu of the traditional double-breasted blazer, which made one dream of moving to the countryside and eschewing business attire codes. On the dressier side, Caruso offered chic shawl collared suits crafted from ruby red and sage green velvets, as well as an extravagant tuxedo bearing jacquard patterns of unicorns and greenery.
Price range: Jackets retail between 800 and 1,400 euros while suits are priced between 1,000 and 2,200 euros.
Designer: In-house design team
Inspiration: Herno’s outerwear keeps evolving to satisfy diversified needs. As men’s wardrobes transform — and more rapidly than women’s — president and CEO Claudio Marenzi sees great potential in the “middle ground area of refined informal outerwear,” a category, he contended, “which best interprets the ongoing casualization trend.” The fall lineup reflected Marenzi’s desire to dodge the streetwear trend with its balance between performance wear and urban options that keep referencing the brand’s heritage.
Key styles: Fall’s Monogram collection included a range of puffers, trench coats and raincoats bearing an allover monogram print, drawn from archival ‘60s pieces. As seen elsewhere, moiré effects gave a twist to Herno’s signature down jackets, while a new nylon-based fabric, called Reflect and the result of the brand’s ongoing R&D efforts, shimmered and changed its nuance under different lighting conditions. Furthering its sustainable commitment, and winking at slogan-bearing merch, Herno introduced sweats and T-shirts that displayed green messages, while upping the ante on next-gen materials such as mélange Gore-Tex and nylon made of repurposed waste.
Price range: Retail prices span from $600 to $2,000.
Designer: Luigi Lardini
Inspiration: At Pitti Uomo, sartorial specialists seemed to embrace a winning approach in portraying characters and conveying an attitude, in the name of updating their expertise and craftsmanship. At Lardini the revisited formalwear offering was imbued with charming warm tones and a plethora of patterns for a play on contrasts and layering that looked polished but young and modern. Taking over the light-filled greenhouse Giardino del Glicine venue at the Fortezza da Basso, the brand re-created a cabinet of curiosities filled with antiquities, an aptly picked set for the collection video centered on a young Florentine boy named Duccio inviting his multicultural squad to join him at the family house.
Key styles: Storytelling aside, the collection evoked a certain ‘70s flair, with wide-lapeled velvet suits cut in generous proportions and accessorized with silk scarves replacing ties. The brand employed rich earth-toned Prince of Wales, tartan and houndstooth fabrics for suiting and micro geometric patterns to pepper fluid shirts. The autumnal palette was enhanced by the off-kilter color combinations, as an in a mustard yellow turtleneck layered under a rusty orange blazer. Chevron-patterned knitwear was crafted from alpaca wool knitted according to the Raschel technique.
Price range: Retail prices span from 195 euros to a little over 2,000 euros.
Save The Duck
Designer: In-house design team
Inspiration: Save The Duck, the first Italian apparel company to receive B Corp status in 2016, came to Pitti Uomo to mark its 10th anniversary and retrace the milestones achieved so far, while looking ahead to future projects. One of the first champions in Italy of the sustainability cause, the animal-free outerwear specialist presented a fall collection that built on its ongoing partnerships and collaborations with Edward Crutchley, Mackintosh and the nonprofit organization Wildaid, among others, all the while referencing environmental activists and Gen-Zers.
Key styles: The brand reissued some on its hero puffer jackets, filled not with feathers but rather with the patented Plumtech padding, in the signature orange tone and included new styles such as a cool cape and floor-length designs. Expanding its portfolio of recycled materials, it debuted Grin, a sophisticated repurposed nylon decorated with checkered and tartan patterns and PET-derived nylon combined with fleece. The Arctic high-performance range was also rebooted in a 100 percent recycled nylon.
Price range: Retail prices span from 169 euros for the Icons collection to 719 euros for the Protech, high-performance line.