Raffaello Napoleone

Pitti Uomo exhibitors are banking on the “wow factor. I like it, I want it.”

This story first appeared in the June 13, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

This is what it takes to nudge a customer into a purchase, said Andrea Lardini, president of the high-end, family-owned Lardini company. “Otherwise, who needs another brown loafer?”

This need to surprise, service and impress mirrors the efforts made by organizers of the international men’s wear trade show in Florence. It’s a golden moment for Pitti Uomo, with a calendar chock-full of shows and presentations, from J.W. Anderson and Off-White events to guests such as Hugo Boss, Christian Louboutin, Federico Curradi and Alanui. This happens just as Milan Men’s Fashion Week is going through a phase of structural change with several brands opting for coed shows to be held in September, such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Missoni and Etro.

Brunello Cucinelli believes that Florence and Milan have “two different identities, and together they make up the most important men’s wear week. These are two different ways to live fashion.” With a presence in both cities, Cucinelli compared Pitti Uomo to an “open air show,” and that, combined with Milan Fashion Week, the mood is akin to that of Milan’s international furniture and design trade show Salone del Mobile — also comprised of several special events.

Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive officer of organizing body Pitti Immagine, also underscored the different role of Pitti Uomo. “In truth, there is no contact between what is happening to the fashion weeks in New York, London and Milan, and Pitti Uomo — they are two very different kinds of stages,” Napoleone observed. “Pitti Uomo is not a trade show but a lifestyle appointment, with unique events that cannot be repeated outside Florence, it’s a patrimony of the city. We’ve held exhibitions, events tied to Pitti Discovery, for example,” which reflects on the relation between fashion and the arts, architecture and communication. He said the format was conceived “many years ago with Marco Rivetti [the late former chairman of now-defunct GFT SpA] and responds to the needs of the market.” It involves scouting, research and constant innovation.

Napoleone said he expected around 1,220 exhibitors, which included 220 new or returning names and 540 international brands. The international element is key and “one of the main reasons for Pitti’s success.” He ticked off visitors and exhibitors from countries as diverse as Finland and Angola, from Lebanon to Australia, Hong Kong and Denmark. There is a return of the Russians, in addition to the core visitors from Germany, Japan, Spain, the U.K., the Netherlands, France and the U.S. The executive also underscored the “big effort” of moving the location of 250 exhibitors to strengthen a number of sections, such as the artisans in the “New Makers” area, which doubled its space for “a rediscovery of craftsmanship, especially now that there is a new generation” of artisans emerging.”

The “Unconventional” area has also doubled, he said, listing other sections, from “Underground Luxury” to “Futuro Maschile [Male Future],” and a collaboration with eyewear trade show Mido.

To wit, Giovanni Mannucci, ceo of Pal Zileri, said the company is showing the LAB collection at Pitti because this is the right setting for the “less formal, versatile, urban and younger line,” targeting 25- to 45-year-olds, compared with the signature brand. “Pitti’s format is interesting to buyers and it works,” said Mannucci, who noted a transformation of the show over the past two years, with additional niche and new brands, as well as a focus on craftsmanship.

The Pal Zileri brand will be presented on June 18 in Milan at the Rotonda della Besana. As reported, parent company Forall SpA and creative director Mauro Ravizza Krieger have agreed to part ways. The designer joined Pal Zileri in July 2014 and his last collection for the company is for spring 2018. Last year, Mayhoola Group took full control of Pal Zileri through the acquisition of 100 percent of Forall. Mannucci said he is focused on a new strategy that will be presented in January and declined to provide details about a possible successor at press time.

“Pitti is a must, one of the few remaining venues that allow [companies] to express the industry’s strength and creativity in men’s wear on an international scale,” Lardini said. The executive was upbeat about the upcoming edition and about business in general. “Italy is growing and so is Europe.”

The company will be opening three stores in El Corte Inglés in Spain this year, and Lardini was very pleased with the performance of the boutique opened in Tokyo in April. Recalling the unveiling, Lardini said lines formed to enter “and everyone wanted a photo with us because they identify the brand with the family. There must be a real story behind a label.”

Based in Filottrano, near Ancona in central Italy, the company grew out of a workshop created by siblings Andrea, Luigi and Lorena in 1978, with the first Lardini men’s wear collection bowing in 1993. The next step is a store in New York in 2018, the entrepreneur said. “We can’t focus on one market, there are geopolitical and religious issues, but we continue investing in innovation, research and service.”

Cucinelli was also positive about the outlook, on the back of a 10.1 percent increase in revenues to 134.1 million euros, or $142.2 million at average exchange rates, in the first quarter of the year, as reported, lifted by all markets and all sales channels. Cucinelli believes the company, which was publicly listed five years ago, could close the year with double-digit growth in terms of revenues and profitability. In March, Cucinelli forecast full-year 2017 revenues would reach around 500 million euros, or $545 million.

“I’m very happy with the performance in the year so far. The [Internet] network creates massification and customers are looking for exclusive products. There is a decline in consumerism, I think, and an increasing desire to use and enjoy things. The culture of impatience is against stream. Men keep pieces they like and revisit them, combining them with new and special items. A blue blazer can change if you pair it with pants with a new fit or a new pocket square,” Cucinelli mused. “There is so much posting [on social media] that entails more attention to looking special and well-groomed.”

While holding an event at the Four Seasons Hotel on June 14 to present its spring collection, Peuterey Group president Francesca Lusini underscored the company’s strong ties with Pitti Uomo, where the company shows its Geospirit brand. Peuterey is based near Lucca, a one-hour drive from Florence. “We are not at Pitti Uomo with Peuterey because we believe we have to follow another path, but our link to the territory and to Pitti is solid, so we celebrate the city with collateral events,” Lusini said. “Customers and buyers are looking for different activities and capsules,” she contended.

As it did for fall, Peuterey will once again tie with Florence-based boutique LuisaViaRoma to present its Icon jackets. Peuterey’s creative director is Pitti Uomo guest Federico Curradi. “Pitti has been revitalized, with more visitors coming from outside Italy,” remarked Lusini, who was pleased with local orders as well as exports. “We never compromised on pricing and this is paying off,” she said.

Storied Italian belt and accessories firm Orciani is relaunching the brand with the spring 2018 collection, also by adding new pieces including outerwear and jackets. “We are entirely renewing the collection and eyeing additional international expansion,” said president Claudia Orciani. “There is room for our brand to target the new, changing consumer.”

Orciani’s sister Federica is the brand’s creative director for both the men’s and women’s divisions, picking up the baton from her father and mother, respectively. Based in Fano, in central Italy, Orciani opened a boutique on Milan’s Via della Spiga in February and already counts units in Shanghai and Chengdu, China. The brand is also available in Europe, Asia and the U.S.

To further fine-tune its strategy, Orciani has been working with former Saks Fifth Avenue president and industry consultant Marigay McKee. The company is growing, expecting a 20 percent growth in 2017 from 10 million euros, or $11 million, last year. At Pitti, the company will introduce a new line of men’s shoppers, backpacks and small leather goods in sleek styles, but embellished with stylized fauna illustrations of gorillas, lions, tigers and elephants, for example, targeting a younger customer.

Serapian, another storied Italian handbags company, is shifting gears this year. For fall, Serapian launched a new model called “1972,” the year that marks the passing of the baton from  founder Stepan Serapian to his son Ardavast.

“There is a lot of excitement and energy at Pitti Uomo, and it’s a must to be there to add new contacts,” said Ardavast Serapian, adding that customers are looking for less formal designs. “It used to be inconceivable for a lawyer to carry a messenger bag or a shopping tote, but these are now accepted and the norm.”

That said, Serapian prides itself on its luxury details, such as a special waxed edging, that “sometimes are overlooked by those that don’t have a trained eye.”

In addition to soft hides, the company has introduced items in a new nylon material and denim. In addition to its own stores in cities such as Milan, Venice, Rome or Los Angeles, among others, the label is available around 200 multibrand stores globally of which 60 are in Italy. During Pitti Uomo, Serapian will show its accessories also at LuisaViaRoma, followed by Antonia in Milan.

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