FLORENCE — “Just when you feel the show cannot get any busier, that’s exactly what it does,” noted Eric Jennings, vice president and men’s fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue, about the 90th edition of Pitti Uomo.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

If there were any doubts about Jennings’ statement, all one had to do was look at the designers known by their single names who turned up for shows and events around Pitti: Karl, Raf and Gosha. Karl Lagerfeld jetted in for an exhibition of his photography, while both Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy showed their spring 2017 collections there, as did Visvim.

The bellwether men’s wear fair, which ends its four-day run here Friday, clearly has come a long way since it launched in February 1972 at the Hotel Villa Medici, with 43 brands in its stable and a total of 526 buyers, 98 of which came from abroad.

Today, Pitti exhibits more than 1,200 collections and attracts 20,000-plus buyers from all over the world. “Basically, if you are not at Pitti, you are not in men’s wear,” said Patrik Sonesson, distribution manager at Swedish rainwear label Stutterheim, which has been coming to the fair for 10 years and just opened its first New York store on Mulberry Street.

“It’s also the first in a string of shows, kicking off the men’s season, which draws a large number of buyers, some of which we haven’t even thought of. We picked up 20 percent last year, mostly from specialty stores,” said Jonathan Meizler of artisan jewelry brand Title of Work. He added: “In terms of orders, we now split 50-50 between Pitti and Paris.”

Jennings lauded the fair for its international factor and stellar lineup of designers. “I feel like it’s the little United Nations of Fashion here. I think this is the only show that I come to from the opening to the closing of the gates. There is great excitement and newness every time.”

Although some pointed out that Italy’s big sartorial players such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Canali, Isaia and Corneliani have pulled out of the show, Jennings believes this “opened the path to newness, discovery and emerging talent. I think everybody is really energized by the changes.”

This season, the Saks team came reinforced with a full-fledged accessories buyer to stock up on a category that is a strong performer at the New York department store, but also to broker deals with new partners for its private label that is made in Italy and is being upgraded.

“I’ve always come to Pitti twice in each year since I’ve been a merchant,” said Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Barneys New York. “Pitti always was and remains the heart of the men’s fashion industry. It continues to inspire new and young designers to show their ideas to the international buyers. My experiences at Pitti for discovering new talent are better today than ever. The major brands are well represented in their showrooms headquartered in the world’s capitals; Pitti is important for discovering new and artisanal brands that otherwise we may have never known.”

“Pitti is really very good at capturing the zeitgeist,” noted Hirofumi Kurino, cofounder and creative director of United Arrows. “We find a lot of creativity here and young independent labels, which are very interesting to all of our buyers from the different departments. I think this is probably what has changed the most since the first time I came here in 1990. Also, the events and fashion shows here make sense and they make Pitti more powerful. Look who they chose this season: Raf Simons, who is a culture-oriented designer; Visvim, which stands for handcraft, and Gosha Rubchinskiy, who is into street — that’s exactly the three stories that matter in men’s wear today.”

Among the trends, the buyers embraced were unisex silhouettes, brands that mixed casual and formal wear such as soft knitted jackets, and an array of offerings with an artisanal aesthetic. Here are some highlights.

 

MX Maxime Simoens

Designer: Maxime Simoens

Inspiration: Following his break from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and the end of his namesake women’s wear label, Maxime Simoens is back with a sports culture-inspired line for the “2.0 generation,” as he called it. He said he wanted to see his collections in the streets instead of on the red carpet, which also explains the more-moderate price points. The no-nonsense line, produced mostly in Portugal, will be available through the label’s e-shop starting in July. A store will open in the Marais in Paris in January.

Key styles: The street-friendly athletic wear, including sweaters, joggers, bombers and underwear hybrids, comes in custom-developed fabrics, such as waxed denim and clean graphic patterns.

Prices: From $101 for a T-shirt to about $561 for a bomber.

 

Cheaney

Inspiration: The brand, which has been 100 percent made in Britain at the same factory for 130 years, masters a hand-burnishing technique that gives its leather footwear a beautiful, translucent quality, rendering each piece unique. With six of its own stores in London, Cambridge and Leeds, the heritage brand is looking to expand outside of England. Cheaney belonged to Church’s and the Church family bought it back from the Prada Group in 2009. Since then, exports have tripled and sales have jumped from $5.7 million to $14.1 million.

Key styles: The country “Tweed C” boot in grained leather and classic tanned oxfords. For spring, the brand, sensing a return to retro-tinged styles, launched the Aviator 1945 capsule, harkening back to the historic Royal Airforce boots.

Prices: Between $415 and $725.

 

KOI (Kings of Indigo)

Designer: Tony Tonnaer

Inspiration: Founded in 2010 in Amsterdam, the brand specializes in sustainable denim, developing its own fabrics with mills such as Candiani, Collect or Royo, using mostly recycled materials or cotton blends, including wool, hemp, linen and Tencel. Innovative washings come from laser, ozone and ice blast treatments to avoid toxic chemicals wherever possible. “We focus on timeless design that is also nonseasonal. This way you can keep it longer and wear it all year. That’s per se the definition of sustainability,” Tonnaer said.

Key styles: The John, a slim-fit, slightly tapered trouser, preferably worn with a dropped crotch.

Prices: From $99 for a simple or black rinse, which is currently trending, to $449 for a pair with patches.

 

Béton Ciré

Designer: Amélie Le Roux

Inspiration: The designer took cues from her grandfather in Brittany in northern France, who wore the region’s traditional sailor cap but translated the piece into a street-friendly context. Founded in 2013, the brand is distributed in 15 countries, including stores such as Colette in Paris and Dover Street Market in London.

Key styles: The “Miki” beanie, which comes in cotton, denim, mesh, linen and even raffia. For spring, Le Roux introduced fisherman hats with large brims, bell-shaped items and also caps.

Prices: Made by hatmakers in France, the pieces sell between $84 and $152.

 

Òkun

Designer: Bola Marquis

Inspiration: Òkun is a men’s swimwear label that offers shorts, manufactured in Mauritius, in colorful African patterns.

Key Styles: For spring, the brand showcased “Bolgatanga,” a collection that includes items with motifs inspired by the handwoven baskets crafted in northern Ghana. Shorts, available in three lengths and in three different shapes, are sold with a traditional fisherman’s pouch.

Prices: Wholesale prices range from $40 to $120.

 

Brunello Cucinelli

Designer: Brunello Cucinelli

Inspiration: In keeping with the brand’s aesthetic combining luxury fabrics and details with a relaxed mood, the brand has introduced the “Leisure Set” capsule collection.

Key Styles: The new offering includes suits, crafted from linen, as well as a blend of linen, cotton and silk that feature a jacket and two different pair of pants — one in a traditional sartorial style and the other in a drawstring jogger or a cargo version with maxi pockets.

Prices: Still to be defined.

 

Mandarina Duck

Designer: Denis Frison

Inspiration: First introduced in 1977, the brand’s Utility backpack is now revamped and enriched with functional details to meet the needs of contemporary customers.

Key Styles: The new Utility Regeneration Project includes five unisex versions of the Utility backpack in a range of materials, from canvas and a rubberized fabric to leather, as well as several color combinations.

Prices: The collection retails from $218 to $626.

 

Serapian

Inspiration: Milanese luxury leather goods company Serapian enlarged its offering of men’s accessories, with new styles coming in less rigid silhouettes infused with a more contemporary feel.

Key Styles: For spring, the brand launched the “Normcore” capsule, which includes a briefcase, a backpack and a bag featuring a soft construction. The pieces are crafted from calf leather and are available in a color palette of black, cobalt blue, gray and military green.

Prices: The collection retails from $894.

 

Alvaro

Designer: Alvaro Gonzalez

Inspiration: After 20 years spent designing accessories for brands including Valentino, Jimmy Choo, Valextra, Tod’s and Loewe, among others, Gonzalez launched his own label in 2013. Defined by a clean, sophisticated aesthetic, his collection includes sandals, belts and bags crafted from high-end colored calf, alligator and exotic skins manufactured by skilled Florentine artisans.

Key Styles: Essential silhouettes are at the core of the footwear lineup. This includes simple gladiators, elevated flip-flops, as well as slides with a fringed suede upper that comes in a color palette of tobacco, asphalt, peacock and poppy. The lineup also features calf and canvas bags with maxi metallic zippers placed diagonally up the pieces to guarantee full opening.

Prices: The footwear retails from $368 to $1,070, while bags are $245 to $1,895.

 

Philippe Audibert

Designer: Philippe Audibert

Inspiration: Established in Paris 28 years ago, the brand offers men’s jewelry inspired by the American West.

Key Styles: Referencing pieces crafted from Native Americans, the collection includes silver bracelets in soft and rigid styles that are embellished with turquoises cut in graphic designs. Hard cuffs also come in the shape of feathers that wrap around the wrist.

Prices: The collection retails from $50 to $5,000.

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