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The spirit of the times: newcomers, returnees and German design at Pitti Uomo

By Jule Scott


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Pitti Immagine Uomo 105 Credits: AKAstudio-collective

While the relevance of fashion fairs is being debated, the 105th Pitti Uomo sent a strong signal in favour of the industry coming together. Instead of lamenting the current complicated economic situation, visitors and exhibitors in Florence took the time to let themselves be inspired by each other and reflect on the positive aspects of the industry.

‘'Taking Time' was taken literally at Pitti Uomo, as the men's fashion fair was entirely dedicated to "Pitti Times". While two giant clocks at the entrance to the Fortezza da Basso visually set the mood for visitors before they even entered the exhibition grounds, this was not the only time that time – or the passing of it – was illustrated in Florence. Despite a healthy dose of Italian tranquillity, the current challenges in the sector were not completely disregarded, as the words of Sergio Tamborini, Chairman of Sistema Moda Italia (SMI), underlined at the opening ceremony of the trade fair. According to Tamborini, the market in 2024 will be even more complex than in previous seasons. However, very few people were put off by this, especially not Antonio De Matteis, Chairman of trade fair organiser Pitti Immagine. He was brimming with enthusiasm right at the start and predicted an "outstanding" trade fair.

Credits: AKAstudio-collective

Taking a look at the visitor numbers, De Matteis was proven to be correct, as the number of foreign buyers increased by around four percent to around 4,700 compared to January 2023. The total number of buyers present was around 13,000, despite fewer Italians on site, while 20,000 onlookers visited the Fortezza da Basso. Only the Italians were able to compete with the German visitors, as they topped the list of both visitors and exhibitors.

Pitti Uomo as a stepping stone and fresh start for German brands

The fact that German-based fashion brands were the most strongly represented in Florence with 67 brands was not least due to the 'Neudeutsch' area curated by trend expert Julian Daynov. In a design oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the trade fair, 20 German brands redefined fashion and design "Made in Germany", as well as the boundaries of the men's fashion fair with partly gender fluid approaches. This not only generated a lot of curiosity, but also international interest, both in the brands of the young designers and in the concept itself. Other trade fair organisers and department stores that were at Pitti Uomo had already shown interest in the format and asked whether the 'Neudeutsch' format and its collective of designers could also go on tour. "I am very happy about the interest and all the possibilities, but my primary concern is that designers are given the platform to show their work. And that the platform remains true to itself," said Daynov, leaving the future of the project open for the time being.

Neudeutsch at Pitti Uomo Credit: AKAstudio-collective

wever, the trade fair not only proved to be a potential stepping stone for a 'New German Wave', but also for established brands such as Dressler, now without the name 'Eduard', who took advantage of Pitti Uomo to present themselves again in Florence after a ten-year absence from the trade fair. "It's incredibly important for any brand that's positioned like Dressler to be at Pitti," said Head of Design Christian Fenske, who not only presented the latest, somewhat more fashion-focused collection with a penchant for double-breasted suits, but also Dressler's updated brand identity. "Over the last two or three years, we have deliberately moved away from the very classic and more and more towards something contemporary, towards modern-classic – so we absolutely belong here now." The new look, including a shorter name and reduced lettering, is also intended, like the presentation at Pitti, to accompany and drive forward the internationalisation of the brand. "We are well represented in Germany, but we simply need more countries," says the Head of Design.

Windsor returned to Pitti last winter season after an eight-year absence in order to target new markets. The return seems to have paid off, as the premium brand, which is part of the Holy Fashion Group, is back again this year. Windsor and Managing Director Jan Mangold had both the men's collection and a small amount of womenswear in their portfolio, not least because, according to Mangold, there is no Pitti counterpart in the world of womenswear. A fact that the Pitti organisers seem to be aware of and are taking advantage of. "For Windsor, Berlin was no longer an attractive location even before the end of Premium, the environment there was no longer suitable, including in terms of price points," says the head of brand. "That's why I think it's good that the women's collections are being shown here alongside menswear. After all, it's an inspiration fair and a place to find ideas, so three mannequins and a rack of women's clothes are enough for interested parties to know whether they want to take a closer look or not. Even for men, that would probably be enough to make a decision."

However, the lack of trade fair alternatives was not only mentioned by German visitors and exhibitors. "Ultimately, it is the only trade fair that is still worthwhile for menswear today," explained Daniele Fiesoli, founder and CEO of the knitwear brand of the same name, confirming Mangold's opinion. Fiesoli is in some ways a rarity at Pitti, as he is one of the few exhibitors who also use the fair to write orders. This year, he also presented his new premium line Selezione for the first time, which focuses on the purity of the fibres – cashmere, camel, yak and alpaca. The line is intended for the "classic" man who blinks his eyes into the world of luxury, even if this is a big word.

Daniele Fiesoli at Pitti Uomo 105 Credits: Daniele Fiesoli

"We don't aspire to compete with luxury brands, but we know that there are retailers who are looking for luxury products alongside the big luxury brands," says the CEO. Despite a packed and busy trade fair stand, it is easy to start thinking and question the purpose of the trade fair presence, he admits. In the end, however, it is still worth it: "It's worth it, because when you're here, people might take you for granted, but when you're not there, everyone wonders why you're no longer there – and then people speculate."

Presence, positioning and positivity

In many conversations, it becomes clear that establishing new brand identities, a lack of equivalents or the search for inspiration are by no means the only reasons why the industry is drawn to Florence season after season. In many respects, the bottom line is threefold: showing presence, spreading positivity and testing new positionings.

Chris Wang, CEO of Tuscan outerwear brand Duno, sees positivity as the only way forward for the industry. Even if the current situation - especially the warm weather and climate change – is not easy, you have to "face everything, be prepared for everything and think positively". Otherwise, according to the CEO, you would just stumble and stay in your comfort zone. "I hope that the ongoing negativity in the industry can be turned into a positive feeling, because even if times are difficult, if we constantly dwell on it, we are bound to get depressed." As entrepreneurs, it is the job of brand managers to find solutions and offer customers something that inspires them. In Duno's case at Pitti, this not only involves jackets in lighter qualities that are also suitable for "warm" winters, but also the "Attic" capsule. With the three-piece mini collection of cashmere jackets with a wind and waterproof surface treatment, which retail for over 1000 euros, the brand is aiming to position itself in the premium segment, similar to what Fiesoli has already achieved.

A similar move away from heavy puffers and thick winter goods towards lighter, technical materials could be seen at many different stands. Moose Knuckles, the Canadian label for outerwear and sportswear, is focusing on "comforter" qualities, thin, lightly quilted puffers and vests, while Italian outdoor clothing brand Paul & Shark is experimenting with the leftovers from the production of silk yarn to pad jackets that promise to be thermal. Outdoor outfitter Woolrich also showed a conspicuous lack of otherwise characteristic parkas, which gave way to layering pieces made from technical materials. The undisputed biggest and most drastic change at Woolrich, however, was the arrival of black label designer Todd Snyder. As a guest designer at Pitti, he not only presented his first catwalk collection under his own name in two years, but also gave a preview of Woolrich's Black Label line.

Pitti Immagine Uomo 105 Credits: AKAstudio-collective

Though the collection was only shown on the catwalk and not at the stand equipped with a DJ booth and coffee bar, there was no denying the designer's influence, even with regard to the brand's mainline. "Compared to the past, the collection leans a little more towards traditional styles, but reinterpreted in a contemporary way and is inspired by what Synder designed for the Black Label," said a representative of the label. The Black Label also draws on the brand's historical styles – such as the red and black check pattern – but in a simpler and more functional way. "The simplicity, the straightforwardness, that's the Todd Schneider touch."

Todd Synder and Woolrich Black Label Fall/Winter 2024 Credits: Vanni Bassetti

Showtime in Florence: returns and new beginnings

For Todd Snyder, it was a return to the catwalk, while for Luca Magliano, the only Italian designer among this year's guest creatives, it was a return to his roots. Pitti Uomo was the place where it all began for the designer from Bologna in 2018. This year, he returned with hat maker Borsalino and Italian ready-to-wear maker Kiton as collaborators, a manifesto against fascism and an ode to his homeland. "For me, beauty is anti-fascism," said the young designer before the presentation of his HW24 collection, which will be remembered not least for this strongly political statement.

Magliano Fall/Winter 2024 Credits: Gerardo Gazia

British designer S.S.Daley presented a much softer but by no means less poetic show. His collection may have been overshadowed by the announcement of singer Harry Styles as a new investor shortly after his show at the historic Palazzo Vecchio, but the Liverpool-born designer took the opportunity to transport his guests to British boarding schools and their "institutionalized formality" with fashionable and literary references./p>

S.S.Daley Fall/Winter 2024 Credits: Giovanni Giannoni
Achilles Ion Gabriel Debut Credits: Giovanni Giannoni

The fourth designer in the line-up, Finnish designer Achilles Ion Gabriel, previously best known as a shoe designer and creative director for Mallorca-based label Camper Lab, used the platform of Pitti Uomo to launch a fully-fledged, gender-neutral and season-independent fashion brand bearing his name. The designs, including tailoring, leather ensembles, denim, knitwear and playful dresses, were purposefully crumpled, the prints exuberant and the messages, such as "move, darling" and "go fuck yourself", extremely bold, deviating somewhat from the otherwise subtle allusions of the fashion in Florence.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.DE.

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