FLORENCE — Melting temperatures failed to sap the upbeat energy at the Pitti Uomo fair here. Despite ongoing global economic and political instabilities, the four-day men’s wear trade show, which wraps today, was bursting at the seams, with many retailers confessing to feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of brands on display.
“You need to focus on the right brand environment, you need to filter,” said Le Bon Marché’s men’s buyer Jérémy Grodenic, who sensed, “more than ever before,” good vibrations coming from the brands and their collections, with a range of prints inspired by nature and animals.
The event’s pull factor in terms of participating designers also packed a punch. For Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman, the roster of “special fashion guests” — from major shows by J.W. Anderson and Off-White’s Virgil Abloh to Christian Louboutin’s “charming” bike polo matches in Piazza Santa Maria Novella — made for the “most impressive lineup in recent memory.”
Pask also mentioned Italy’s Federico Curradi, who is “making a name for himself with thoughtful, romantic and wearable ready-to-wear with an artful touch,” and Milan-based Alanui, which showcased its “richly colored and graphic belted cashmere statement sweaters” as sculptures in a beautiful old greenhouse in town, among the highlights.
Given the beach-like temperatures, the fair’s Australia section fittingly drew buzz, notably upscale surf-inspired label Ex Infinitas, which had the retailers circling. They included Reece Crisp, men’s wear buying manager at Farfetch.com, who said it was one of the most exciting labels he’s seen in a long time.
Lee Goldup, men’s wear buyer at Brownsfashion.com, which has the U.K. exclusive on the label’s current collection, said: “It’s been great to see Lukas Vincent’s vision continue to evolve season after season. The brand’s surf and subcultural influences are still evident, but the collection feels more luxury now.”
With customers “looking for the hottest new product at a faster rate than ever,” Goldup said the fluidity trend, which has given rise to a “definite shift in the way our customers shop, with women shopping more freely in men’s wear, though not yet reflected in the organization of our shop floor and visual merchandising strategies, is already informing the men’s wear buy and influencing our online styling, with more to come.”
Among key trends retailers cited were plays on proportion, vivid color and pastels, with pink among the key shades, and a focus on light and technical fabrics and finishes, especially on outerwear. Key items included safari jackets, camp shirts, technical anoraks and DIY denim.
Knitwear was another standout category. Key highlights for Sam Kershaw, buying manager at Mr Porter, included Altea’s “beautifully constructed lightweight jackets and bright jersey,” Inis Meáin’s super-melange knitwear in a mix of linen and cotton in the brand’s seashore stitch, and the rich color palette, subtle jacquard fabrics and signature hand-dyed cashmere at Massimo Alba. “Exemplifying casual Italian elegance, as always.”
Kershaw also observed “there was definitely a wider variety of product than is typical for a men’s spring season.”
“Sportswear is still king, with many designers mixing performancewear with fashion,” said Brownsfashion.com’s Goldup, adding that logo-heavy pieces were apparent across apparel and accessories.
“We are seeing the beginnings of the movement toward a newer proportion, hinted at in recent runway collections. Fuller, baggier, even pleated trousers are picking up steam here….a return to a ‘fashion pant.’ Oversized, fuller shirts are great companions to this newer proportion that continues to build steam,” said Bergdorf’s Pask.
Hirofumi Kurino, general manager and chief creative director of United Arrows Ltd., Tokyo, cited colors lifted from nature from brands including Roberto Collina, as well as colonialist influences.
Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Barneys New York, mentioned Herno’s use of “state-of-the-art textiles in streamlined silhouettes” among a range of “strong” collections with a focus on technical qualities that “shine” in this market. On the flip side was the range of great artisanal designs on everything from handmade sweaters from Inis Meáin to leather goods by Il Bisonte, he said. “The show continues to promote the genuine essence of what is special and encourages a sense of discovery.”
Here are a few of the highlights:
Brand: Hilfiger Edition
Designer: Tommy Hilfiger
Inspiration: Following January’s debut, Hilfiger Edition returned to Pitti Uomo this season with a high-tech booth complete with LED displays and digital platforms. “We looked into the archives to get inspired by the Nineties in terms of shapes and styles,” said Hilfiger, who welcomed guests at an outdoor bar created by the company next to the booth. “We incorporated athletic influences, from the rugby and baseball worlds, for example, into a collection expressing the most authentic American spirit of the brand.”
Key Styles: Filled with revisited men’s casualwear staples, the collection included a range of striped pieces such as a multicolor padded vest, a maxi shirt and a lightweight cotton bomber jacket. Rugby polos were matched with short denim pants, while V-neck sweaters offered a retro tennis feel. The young and cool suits included a design in seersucker with a colored band running down the legs.
Retail Prices: Shirts range from $210 to $325, and pants from $210 to $290. Outerwear goes from $280 to $950, while sweaters are sold from $200 to $440.
Brand: Brunello Cucinelli
Designer: Brunello Cucinelli
Inspiration: The luxury brand channeled an African safari mood for spring. This resulted in a color palette of beige, brown and green combined with pops of orange and strawberry pink. The warm tones enhanced the lived-in effect of most of the garments, which were mostly crafted from lightweight fabrics. The brand’s signature juxtaposition of sporty and sartorial elements continued this season with upscale tailoring pieces matched with knits, and tops showing vintage tennis-inspired multicolor striped details.
Key Styles: Brunello Cucinelli’s new city uniforms included double-breasted blazers worn with drop-crotch washed cargo pants, as well as bomber jackets layered on top of utility shirts and cashmere ties. Introducing a playful, young touch, cotton sweatshirts were embroidered with Socrates’ quotes. The accessories range was expanded with a pair of flexible loafers crafted from super-soft leather.
Retail Prices: Not yet available.
Brand: Z Zegna
Designer: Alessandro Sartori
Inspiration: In keeping with Ermenegildo Zegna’s 36-year link to the sailing world, Sartori embraced a vintage regatta inspiration for spring. These translated into pieces crafted from high-tech fabrics and finished with luxurious details. Classic sailing colors such as blue, navy, white, red and yellow, were used on the sharp silhouettes of straight-leg pants, boxy shirts and outerwear.
Key Styles: The versatile lineup offered a range of elegant formal options, including machine-washable suits crafted from a Techmerino wool developed in collaboration with The Woolmark Company. A sporty feel was infused into the cuffed pants worn with intarsia fishermen’s sweaters, as well as in the waterproof anoraks, drawstring jackets and padded vests. In keeping with the collection’s regatta theme, accessories included rubberized leather boots and colorful boat bags.
Retail Prices: The machine-washable suits come in at 1,300 euros, or $1,451 at current exchange, while chinos and knits are 700 euros, or $781, and 350 euros, or $391, respectively.
Brand: PT Pantaloni Torino
Inspiration: The Italian pants specialist has teamed with car designer Fabrizio Giugiaro to develop the K[UL]T capsule collection of high-tech trousers. “Inspired by SUV cars, which are very versatile, Giugiaro designed these pants that can actually be worn in a wide range of occasions, from work to sport,” said PT Pantaloni Torino president Edoardo Fassino. The pants are crafted from a microfiber fabric that has never been used before in the fashion industry. The pants, which can be washed at home and dried in 10 minutes, are designed to be comfortable as well as elegant.
Key Styles: The capsule features three pant styles, including a classic formal design, a front pleated model as well as a more sporty option with elastic cuffs and utility pockets. The color palette spans from navy and burgundy to sage green and chalk gray.
Retail Prices: The capsule ranges from $375 to $395.
Inspiration: While working through a process of financial restructuring, Boglioli made a comeback to Pitto Uomo after a three-year hiatus. “We are really focusing on the brand’s specialties,” said chief executive officer Andrea Perrone, explaining the company’s decision to present two capsule collections at the fair: one dedicated to blazers, the other to denim.
Key Styles: The brand’s jackets were presented in a wide variety of fabrics and colors including blazers crafted from raw Japanese denim. These were showcased with white pants and Mandarin-collar shirts. In addition, Boglioli introduced a new high-performance travel suit.
Retail Prices: Jackets range from $1,000 to $2,000, while suits retail at $1,500.
Brand: Il Bisonte
Inspiration: Founded in Florence in 1970, leather accessories company Il Bisonte is being relaunched thanks to an investment by Palamon Capital Partners, which acquired the brand in 2015. For next spring, the label channeled a Western mood, which added a new spin to classic bags and backpacks. Il Bisonte, which counts Japan as its main market, is opening a store on Milan’s Via Santo Spirito in July.
Key Styles: Vegetable-tanned leather finished with a wax effect in a maxi weekend bag with wood details as well as an elegant backpack are both infused with a retro Western appeal. The same leather was also combined with cotton canvas on a multipocket cross-body style and on a functional backpack that offered a graphic take on the classic camouflage pattern.
Retail Prices: Average prices range between 350 euros and 550 euros, while the most luxurious travel bags are around 1,050 euros.
Brand: P.Le Moult
Designer: Praline Le Moult
Inspiration: The adventurous life of his great-grandfather Eugène Le Moult, a French naturalist and entomologist who specialized in butterflies, inspired Central Saint Martins graduate Praline Le Moult to launch her namesake collection of nightwear. Manufactured in the Jaipur region of India, the brand’s pajama sets and dressing gowns, available for men, women and children, are all crafted from cotton and printed by hand.
Key Styles: Since Eugène Le Moult was a star among Boy Scouts in the Fifties and Sixties, the designer decorated some of the pieces in her summer collection, such as playful pajamas, with sweet, multicolor patches celebrating Scouting’s youth associations. Roomy dressing gowns and pajama sets were also embellished with chic stripes in a color palette of gray, sky blue and red, all mixed with white.
Retail Prices: Pajamas are sold at 200 euros, or $223, while dressing gowns retail at 270 euros, or $301.
Brand: Italia Independent
Designer: Lapo Elkann
Inspiration: Marking its relaunch under a new management team, Italia Independent returned to Pitti Uomo a decade after launching to present two capsule collections of apparel basics and updates on the brand’s signature Velvet Effect shades. “It’s about taking the elements of the past but looking at the future. We are re-hitting the road with the right people, product, energy and organization,” said Lapo Elkann, the brand’s founder and artistic director.
Key Styles: The Italia Renaissance capsule features T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps in a range of shades from pink to gray, sporting a contrasting color slogan: No Future Without a Past. The black-and-white Zen Collection sports Taoist philosophy-inspired slogans and the Yin and Yang symbol.
Retail Prices: Prices range from 67 to 147 euros, or $75 to $164 at current exchange, for the Italia Renaissance line, and 67 to 127 euros, or $75 to $142 for the Zen Collection.
Designer: Bradley Theodore
Inspiration: New York-based street artist Bradley Theodore, who uses Moleskine notebooks for his sketches, was invited to customize the brand’s vegan leather Classic backpack designed by Giulio Iacchetti for a limited-edition capsule. Distribution is yet to be confirmed but the brand is in talks with potential partners such as the MoMA Design Store.
Key Styles: The capsule features three vivid designs spanning abstract florals, hearts and city themes. The brand also held the worldwide preview of its urban Nomad collection, designed by Gabriele Pezzini.
Retail Prices: The brand is still finalizing the prices.
Inspiration: The label was founded five years ago by globetrotting Japanese aromatherapist Yindigo Mochizuki. Her mission: travel-friendly basics that are kind to the skin. The garments are made using natural organic materials, and the designer creates dyes using ingredients found in her aromatherapy line.
Key Styles: The label this season introduced shirts made in collaboration with heritage Japanese shirt brand Choya Shirt. They were inspired by nightshirts, and some of the styles feature removable collars. Other highlights include seersucker jackets, jersey jogging pants and polos in washable silk.
Retail Prices: Prices range from around 90 euros, or $100, for a T-shirt to around 700 euros for cashmere pieces.