FLORENCE — The energy at the Pitti Uomo show was electric as the industry continued to bask in a solid end to 2017 and was eagerly anticipating further gains this year.
But at the same time, some familiar faces were either late in arriving at the show or dressed in some new duds, since many attendees who started their international journey at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport arrived in Florence without their luggage. The so-called “bombogenesis” snowstorm on Jan. 4 resulted in thousands of canceled flights and even more lost bags, many of which were still sitting on a runway at the airport this week.
But while they may have had to snip the price tags off their spanking new outfits, Pitti attendees made the best of the situation — and helped the local retail economy at the same time before turning to the business at hand, which was to peruse the typical wide variety of fall merchandise ranging from accessories and footwear to luxury sportswear.
Roopal Patel, senior vice president of fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue, said she was “very energized” by her first visit to Pitti Uomo. “I feel like this is the nucleus of men’s wear on a global level.”
She was most struck by the “return to elegance and tailoring” that she saw at the fair, which represented a bit of a “backlash” to the whole streetwear movement. In terms of brands, she singled out Brunello Cucinelli’s collection, as well as the denim, military cargos and tuxedo-striped pants she found at the show. Additionally, the “whole collegiate varsity influence,” such as argyle knitwear, and the “rich color palette” of eggplant, mustard and okra will also offer the customer more options.
“We’re very optimistic at what we’re seeing with all the new categories and diversity,” she said.
Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s for Barneys New York, was similarly impressed with what he found at the show this season. “It’s back to what it was in the Eighties,” he said, “a real place of discovery. Pitti seems to be functioning more like a retailer: analyzing their space for productivity and bringing in more new ideas, which is back to what it was in the beginning.”
He and his buying team were especially impressed with the “artisan” accessories they found. In particular, he pointed to Drake’s, which “brought back haberdashery items” in tempting foulard prints, paisleys and other “men’s wear patterns” that are “bigger and bolder” and expected to appeal to younger men.
He also singled out Carmina’s bench-made shoes as another brand that will attract young guys. “We put it in this year and it had the highest sell-throughs in its classification,” he revealed.
“Young men are the future of our business,” Kalenderian continued, “but I believe we’re at a crossroads. Do they wear a hoodie or a beautiful blazer and shoes? It’s up to us to tell them what great style is and give them options.”
Like Patel, he’s also upbeat about 2018. “Although it wasn’t an even keel, men’s had a decent year last year and the sum total was positive.” He cited a distinct shift to more casualwear from Cucinelli and others as men “gravitate to finer items. We’re buying things that are special because people are investing in better goods and looking for something special. And we’re fortunate that we’re finding the items here that will continue that momentum.”
Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, said: “We’re coming off a really strong holiday season and people are excited by merchandise again. There’s a real hopeful, optimistic environment out there.”
He said Pitti is a real “treasure trove for me” and he shops it “exhaustively. There’s not one aisle or booth I miss. I’ve found so many new vendors over the years.” This season, he was especially impressed by Cucinelli’s new corduroys as well as its shearlings.
And at Cucinelli and other brands, he was lured by the more “adventurous” autumnal color palette such as burgundy, rust and more. “We’re also excited about the texture we’re seeing in tailoring,” he added. “And we found some beautiful knitwear and outerwear.”
Durand Guion, group vice president of fashion director for men’s at Macy’s, was also drawn to the new color palette. “Beyond all of the expected craftsmanship, intricate fabrications and details one expects to discover at Pitti Uomo, we loved seeing the multiple layers of brown, from camel to cocoa to rust, across many classifications. Winter white also looked so fresh and commercial.”
In terms of product, he pointed to the “evolution of a fuller pant silhouette, along with an emphasis on details including pleats, cargo pockets, side taping and lighter weights.”
Overall, Guion said he is “optimistic” about the performance of men’s wear in 2018 as long as retailers do their job correctly. “We know he is responding best to newness that is accessible and relatable and is especially motivated by any information detailing how to wear it,” he said. “As our tailored clothing business continues to thrive, there is more opportunity for other classifications to evolve to support his own rules for getting dressed most days. Pitti Uomo this season offered a great deal of inspiration for this.”
Shoji Uchiyama, chief buyer and men’s fashion director of United Arrows, also believes updated traditional product will be popular this year and singled out Barena as a good example he found at the show. To capitalize on the trend, the company needs to work with its customers to help them find “new ways to wear traditional suits and other classic styles,” he said.
Additionally, he sees potential in casualwear. “Over the past few years, the casual and sporty market has strengthened in the entire Japanese market and those categories are very strong at United Arrows as well,” he said.
Vendors at the show were similarly upbeat.
Gildo Zegna, chief executive officer of Ermenegildo Zegna, said he’s generally positive about the prospects for 2018, especially in Asia, where the brand’s heightened push for innovation is expected to appeal to customers there. In Europe, he said the company “ended the year OK” and is expecting further growth this year.
“America is more of a question mark,” he added, as department stores continue to work through their own struggles with reinvention. But with both specialty and department stores in the U.S, and around the world, Zegna said the key is to “find new ways to partner with retailers” while at the same time delivering a consistent message across all channels: wholesale, own retail and digitally.
“Overall, we’re fairly positive,” he said, “but we’re being prudent.” He said artistic director Alessandro Sartori’s first season at retail for fall 2017 was well received, especially the more casual part of the line. “Our challenge is to change the brand perception in the customers’ minds that Zegna is a lifestyle brand.”
Here, the top 10 highlights from Pitti Uomo for fall 2018:
1) Brand: Z Zegna
Designer: Alessandro Sartori
Inspiration: Inspired by the vast “Oasi Zegna” mountain territory in the Alps around Biella where the Ermenegildo Zegna company is based, Sartori offered up a mountaineering theme for fall. “I think that the challenge now is to find a balance between craftsmanship and organic fabrics on one side, and technology and performance on the other side,” said the designer, highlighting the lineup’s integration between more sartorially rooted elements and sporty details.
Key Styles: Playing with what he called “relaxed yet sharp silhouettes,” Sartori paired tailored pants — mostly embellished with zippers and straps to fasten around the ankle — with colorful hooded puffers layered under more sporty Techmerino parkas and field jackets or more classic coats, bombers and peacoats worked in traditional sartorial patterns. Hoodies, crewneck sweatshirts and tracksuits came embellished with the GSZ logo, which pays homage to the Gruppo Sportivo Zegna sport program established by the company’s founder Ermenegildo Zegna in the Thirties. On the formal end, Sartori developed a range of deconstructed, machine-washable travel suits, crafted from the brand’s proprietary Techmerino wool, which was also used for sock sneakers and trekking boots.
Retail Prices: Suits retail from 900 euros to 1,300 euros; outerwear goes from 500 euros to 2,400 euros, and Techmerino shoes start at 395 euros.
2) Brand: Brunello Cucinelli
Designer: Brunello Cucinelli
Inspiration: An unconventional combination of seemingly clashing elements defined the look of the brand’s fall collection. The signature Brunello Cucinelli relaxed approach to luxury was defined by lightweight constructions and soft, high-end fabrics.
Key Styles: Corduroy with wide wales stole the spotlight in the collection. The fabric was unexpectedly used for impeccable formal suits, as well as more sporty relaxed pants and slightly padded bombers featuring cashmere embellishments. Reflecting the versatile spirit of the lineup, several outerwear pieces, including bombers, peacoats and shearling coats, featured detachable hoods and collars. Charming color effects were used on garment-dyed jackets, which were finished with upscale details, and, in a nod to the film awards season, elegant tuxedos, including velvet options, were also unveiled.
Retail Prices: Prices were not yet available.
3) Brand: Vyner Articles
Designer: Heikki Salonen
Inspiration: A graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, the Finnish designer cut his teeth at Erdem before winning the Diesel Award at the seventh edition of talent contest ITS in 2008, which enabled him to join the Italian fashion company. In 2015, he was tapped by MM6 Maison Margiela, where he still works on the design team, but chose Pitti to unveil his new Vyner Articles men’s wear brand. According to Salonen, the brand — which takes its name from London’s Vyner Street where the label is headquartered — seeks to deliver “clothes my friends would wear.”
Key Styles: Based on urban men’s wear staples, the lineup is infused with a contemporary, metropolitan attitude. A range of denim pieces, including pants, shirts and jackets, are crafted from organic cotton and garment dyed in Italy to obtain interesting pastel hues, including peach and lilac. Short-sleeved silk shirts are rendered in sketched, poetic patterns, sweatshirts are distressed to obtain a lived-in effect and outwear includes maxi parkas and high-end oversize shearling jackets. For a more formal attitude, suits are worked in traditional sartorial patterns yet cut in slim silhouettes. “I imagined a suit for Jean-Michel Basquiat,” said Salonen, adding that the lineup is inspired by the creative environment around Vyner Street.
Retail Prices: Denim jackets retail from 380 euros to 490 euros; shearling coats are sold at 1,800 euros, while suits are 1,000 euros.
4) Brand: Bonsai
Designer: Sergio Graziosi
Inspiration: The Italian-born designer and entrepreneur was frustrated with the offerings he found in the streetwear market so he launched the Bonsai brand to fill the void. Currently available only in Italy, he is hoping to expand to other parts of the world in the future. His young men’s-skewed collection, which expanded to women’s wear as well last year, is inspired this season by the Eighties and Nineties as evidenced by the MTV-style logos and graphic elements used on his tops.
Key Styles: Graziosi uses high-quality fabrics in streetwear silhouettes in key pieces such as a teddy bear knit overcoat, heavy fleece sweatpants, chenille sweatsuits and oversize sweaters. The hero pieces include a blue-and-white down puffer as well as traditional overcoats with stripe details or knitted sleeves and hoods.
Retail Prices: Fleece tops or pants are 150 euros; sweaters are 200 euros while puffer jackets are 600 euros.
5) Brand: Woolrich
Designer: Andrea Cane, global creative director for Woolrich, and Jeff Griffin for Griffin x Woolrich at Loveland Farm
Inspiration: The U.K.-based Griffin has been using Woolrich fabrics for his signature outerwear range for a while now, according to Cane, but this season marks the first time the two brands have officially collaborated on a collection. The limited-edition outerwear capsule bridges the gap between technology and style by reinventing two classic silhouettes: the Atlantic Parka, an updated version of the original Arctic Parka, and the Smock Anorak.
Key Styles: The Atlantic Parka style is completely reversible and is offered in either navy and orange or a photographic camouflage pattern. The waterproof coats sport an oversize silhouette and use Woolrich’s signature buffalo plaid in various spots on the garments including the lower panels, hoods and pockets. In addition to the collaboration product, Woolrich’s core fall collection includes lightweight parkas in Gore-Tex fabrics with detachable fur hoods, as well as several that employ Loro Piana’s Storm System. These include a short sheepskin jacket, as well as the high-end Pecora Nera wool coat made from black sheep that is offered in Prince of Wales or check patterns. The season’s footwear offering includes derby shoes and Chelsea boots with Vibram soles and a proprietary Arctic Grip tread for traction on icy surfaces.
Retail Prices: The outerwear ranges from 700 euros to 1,400 euros, topping out with the Loro Piana black wool pieces. The bulk of the collection will sell for 750 to 950 euros.
6) Brand: Paul & Shark
Designer: Design team
Inspiration: The brand, which this season tapped men’s fashion icon Nick Wooster as a creative consultant, made a comeback at Pitti Uomo after a two-year hiatus. To mark its return, Paul & Shark, instead of setting up a traditional booth showcasing the whole collection, created a special installation putting the accent on signature pieces.
Key Styles: The focus was on the brand’s classic navy peacoat, which was re-proportioned to obtain a more contemporary silhouette. Matched with slim white cargo pants, this was layered with a striped turtleneck and a lightweight bright orange quilted down jacket, which was treated with resins to make it wind-resistant and waterproof. The brand also unveiled the Sharkhub “Reflex” style, a windproof and waterproof silver parka coated with glass microspheres to obtain a reflective surface, as well as the revamped “Always Paul & Shark” zippered sweater crafted from knitted cotton embroidered with the brand’s logo.
Retail Prices: Prices were not yet available.
7) Brand: Kappa
Designer: Emanuele Ostini
Inspiration: One of the world’s largest sport brands that traces its history to 1916 in Turin, Italy, Kappa has expanded beyond its roots to become a staple in the streetwear arena as well. Its sweatsuits with the Banda 222 panel on the side — its signature illustration of a naked man and woman seated back to back — has become increasingly popular in recent years and is now being used in a number of variations as the company moves out of strictly the sports arena into a full lifestyle brand targeted to the young consumer. For fall, the brand continues its partnerships with Marcelo Burlon and Faith Connexion for special collaboration products.
Key Styles: The original Banda 222 logo, which dates to 1951, is still being used on Kappa’s signature sweatsuits, which are offered in the original full zip top with ribbed bottom pants. But the logo has been widened in the Banda 10 iteration and is now being used not only the sweatsuits, but also sweatshirts, hoodies, cotton pants and other more-lifestyle silhouettes. Variations of the logo are also found on kimono coats, denim and even puffer jackets.
Retail Prices: The collection starts at around 59 euros for a single piece and is 100 euros for the class sweatsuit while the kimono coat tops out at 400 euros.
8) Brand: Pepe Jeans
Designer: Trevor Harrison, design director for denim
Inspiration: The London-based denim brand is on a quest to offer a fully sustainable indigo collection within five years. According to Harrison, the company teamed with Wiser Wash, a Los Angeles-based laundry that has developed a process that eliminates the use of the pumice stones and toxic chemicals used in traditional washes. “It’s the cleanest washed jean in the market,” Harrison said of the process that will be proprietary to Pepe for 2018. “It uses less than a cup of water and 95 percent less energy.” The first collection was introduced this summer and Pepe will be delivering 150,000 pairs at retail this month. “We want the world to wake up,” he said.
Key Styles: The Pepe Jeans x Wiser Wash collection now accounts for 25 percent of Pepe’s total denim offering, Harrison said. The fall collection consists of 30 different styles for each gender including all 10 of the brand’s signature silhouettes including the Hatch, Nickel, Spike and Malton for men and Pixie, Vera, Joey, Regent and Jolie for women. The most-popular styles include the distressed and destroyed jeans and jackets, or what Harrison described as the “show pieces.”
Retail Prices: The collection starts at around 90 euros and goes up to 130 euros, or around 10 percent higher priced than Pepe’s core collection.
9) Brand: Howlin’
Designers: Jan and Patrick Olyslager
Inspiration: Raised in a family that has been involved in knitwear production since the Eighties, brothers Jan and Patrick Olyslager launched their own label in 2009. Called Howlin’, which is Scottish slang for “smelly,” the brand offers a contemporary, lively take on classic knitwear, which is entirely manufactured by artisans in Scotland and Ireland. “In our collections, there is always a mix of playfulness and high-end quality,” said Jan Olyslager of the label, which is distributed in about 160 stores worldwide.
Key Styles: Crafting mainly Shetland wool, cashmere merino and Donegal wool, the brothers developed a range of crewneck sweaters, knit vests and cardigans. Shaggy textures and graphic patterns created a cozy, artisanal feel in the lineup, which was mainly focused on two different color palettes — a more delicate one with soft sorbet tones of pink, light blue and lilac, and a warm, quintessentially wintry one, which was big on wood tones of green, brown and mustard yellow.
Retail prices: The collection retails from $200 to $280.
10) Brand: Bielo
Designer: Josep Ronev
Inspiration: The Barcelona-based manufacturer has been producing knitwear for other brands including Marni, Balenciaga and Carven for some 30 years. Two years ago, Ronev, the son of the company’s founders, branched out on its own with the Bielo collection. He eschews fast fashion, opting instead for working with high-quality materials such as cashmere and silk in silhouettes that strive to reinvent the classics.
Key Styles: Bielo’s fall collection offers mainly earth tones in a variety of tops and bottoms including a super-chunky oversize mohair cardigan, 3-D jacquard bombers, a wool viscose sweatshirt with graphic details, a navy cashmere bomber and silk/cashmere cardigans. Bottoms include wool track pants with a side stripe, lightweight joggers and silk/cashmere trousers in a Glen Plaid pattern.
Retail Prices: The collection ranges in price from 290 euros for a mohair sweater to more than 1,000 euros for the cashmere bomber. Trousers average 565 euros.