The bustling streets of the Fortezza di Basso, home to the 16th-century Pitti Uomo in Florence, were a testament to the historic menswear fair’s continued importance as it celebrated its 103rd year in business. Having been somewhat muted in recent seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s edition saw international menswear designers, brands, buyers and press descend on the city for a program that included guest shows from Antwerp-based designer Jan van Esche, and British designer Martin Rose. .
The latter show at PT Umo’s last night marked Rose’s first performance outside of her hometown of London. A strong gift from Rose – known especially for her menswear that draws on the British subcultures of her youth – looked to the shimmering sounds of Italo disco at a show here at Mercato Nuovo in central Florence. Rose asked herself, ‘How can I do what I do in London, in Florence?’ Her answer was to gather locals, from Calcio Fiorentino footballers to Florentines lining up from bars and cafes to walk with their brand friends from London.
Pitti Uomo 103: highlights
Rose said the collection was about ‘multiple masculinities’, drawing from both male and female wardrobes, typically presenting distinct clothing archetypes – Western-style slouches, low-slung denim jeans or broad-shouldered tailoring – ‘Splicing Codes’ and opposing ‘normality’. and pillars of seriousness’. A riot of so-called ‘doll clothes’, with playful and misshapen figures exploding in size – often filled with solid material to hold the shapes – their striking shapes recall the joyous confusion of being in a nightclub (the mirrored collection itself, with its shag-pile carpet, intended to evoke Italian nightspots). ‘I wanted sexiness, cheekiness and fun,’ she said after the show.
‘I really see the beauty in everyday things and everyday people,’ continued Rose, who hopes the show will be a sign of ‘true Italian-London collaboration’. ‘I started working on the set before I was invited, and once I was invited, Florence influenced everything, even without her knowing it.’ Her stunning show at London’s Vauxhall last June (at London Fashion Week S/S 2023) showed that she’s playing with her own no-holds-barred style. She only shows up when she feels ready). It was exciting to see Rose’s work in a new context and for new audiences to experience her work in person.
Van Esche’s ascension took place in the courtyard of Santa Maria Novella Cathedral, a more contemplative affair. The designer’s signature over-the-top silhouettes and rituals were on display in the relaxed set, which first concluded with a dance performance before the doors opened onto the enclosed plaza beyond where a centerpiece performer performed. Based on models inspired by the religious icons of 15th-century cloisters, the milieu of the carriage was a showcase for the fascinating historical sites that the visiting designers had to offer.
Elsewhere, British artist and designer Luke Edward Hall was another guest on the show, at Fortezza da Basso – complete with the famous truffle sandwich from Florence institution Procacci – to celebrate the Chateau Orlando line, which he often offers, including clothes and furniture. Clear hand-drawn motifs are his signature. The fifth collection launched at the fair is titled ‘The Stormy Prince of Old Cornish’ and is inspired by a trip to Lamorna Cove, Cornwall and immerses itself in the legends of the region. These tales became prints that highlighted the hall’s frequent designs, from stags to sea serpents.
Brunello Cucinelli is the wizard of Pitti Uomo, who hosted his men’s A/W 2023 dinner at the Fortezza da Basso, the night before in the grand neoclassical setting of the Palazzo Borghese. As ever, the collection itself offered a complete and wide range of clothes for the Cuccinelli man, whether it was an eye-wateringly luxurious cashmere-vicuna blend camel coat or a more quotidian riff on the trucker jacket, jeans and shirt. Elsewhere, a new capsule collection of skiwear – including a pair of fully hand-knit sweaters and crisp, optic white salopettes-style cargo pants – is set for both the slopes and après-ski.
Also at Fortezza da Basso, Herno revealed the design as a partner for FC Barcelona’s new uniform (the designs will be worn by both men’s and women’s football and basketball teams until the 2024/2025 season). FC Barcelona’s famous central defender and long-serving captain Carles Puyol, who was in the audience, was seen trying to get into the Herno stand as he tried to kick off the set. Different pieces feature dynamic silhouettes in the innovative fabrics that Herno is known for. Among them are a ‘sub-zero down’ scuba parka (complete with an ‘H’ patch), a scuba blazer, a lightweight suit and technical stretch pants. The brand has announced that the collection will be sold to the public.
AlphaTauri is returning to what the RedBull-owned brand calls its ‘core strengths’ this season, shifting its focus to menswear and continuing to inject high-tech innovations into everyday wear – from signature parkas to 3D seamless knits and lightweight trousers. ‘[We want] To develop our core competencies around innovative outerwear and 3D knitwear and continue to grow continuously in our collections,’ said Ahmet Mercan, CEO of Alfatauri. ‘Thanks to our innovative technologies and many practical features, we can respond more perfectly to our customers’ needs.’
Also inventing knitting – although in a different way – is a waste thread project, which creates different pieces from the thread of the factory (most of which simply ends up on the floor of the factory). This season’s colorful pieces draw inspiration from the Hønsestrik technique, which was popular in Scandinavia in the 1970s. Particularly appealing was the mismatched array of polo sweaters in different colors – a display of founder Siri Johansen’s distinct eye for color and form, and the show’s continued support for emerging talent.
Finally, this year’s edition saw the arrival of ‘Pitti Pets’, which is booming in the luxury furniture market. While the offering at this year’s show is small – mainly limited to Italian labels and items with special uses – the sight of many canine companions in the grounds of the Fortezza di Basso suggests that entry is guaranteed, and will no doubt expand in the coming seasons.