Pitti Uomo went from around 30,000 visitors and 18,500 buyers in June 2019 to 6,000 visitors and 4,000 buyers in June 2021 as the event celebrated its 100th edition with a toned-down event in light of ongoing Covid uncertainty.
“Normally I do not indulge in sentimentality, but if there was a special feature of the days of the fair that are coming to an end today (Friday 2 July), it is the combination of desire, determination and the pleasure of getting back face to face, of measuring oneself and others, clients and colleagues, of exchanging ideas and comments, even sharing the difficulties experienced and that are still being felt, together with the reaffirmation of an intact love for work through the presentation of the new collections,” said Raffaello Napoleone, the CEO of Pitti Uomo organiser Pitti Immagine.
“The data on buyer participation should be read in this context, where quality, motivation and concentration were the elements most stressed by the exhibitors themselves,” Napoleone added. ## Focus on sustainability and young talent For Agostino Poletto, general director of Pitti Immagine, “the atmosphere was a mixture of relief, enthusiasm and a desire to react: exhibitors found customers eager and willing to learn more about the products, buyers had the time and inclination to explore and discover new brands”.
The event, whose physical editions have been cancelled several times in the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, brought together 362 brands in total, of which 101 came from abroad and 47 brands participated in the fair only on the Pitti Connect digital platform.
Commenting on the significance of the event’s 100th edition, Poletto said: “100 is a strong, significant, round and promising number. It is certainly a goal, but if read backwards, 001, it becomes the symbol of a new beginning.”
The route through the collections was divided into three macro-areas - three special routes that tell the different stories of menswear: ‘Fantastic Classic’, which highlights the evolution of classic menswear in its most innovative and contemporary versions; Dynamic Attitude, which focuses on the outdoors and meeting point between sport and streetwear; and Superstyling, an area dedicated to new stylistic canons that anticipate trends.
The atmosphere at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence was upbeat, even if less international than usual. Data released by Pitti Immagine revealed the presence of buyers from Europe (mostly from Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Russia, Poland, Greece and Portugal), the US (driven by large department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus), Canada and Turkey. Additionally, there were over 700 journalists, of which about 300 were from abroad.
Numbers aside, there was a noticeable desire to restart on the part of the brands and also relief on the part of some niche and luxury labels that have grabbed more attention from the press and buyers. “There is less confusion, there are fewer events and I have the time to tell and explain the craftsmanship and creative work behind my brand,” Maurizio Miri, from his eponymous menswear label, told FashionUnited.
Also satisfied with the turnout of Italian buyers was Ronan Collin, the co-founder of the trainer brand N'go, a B Corp certified company that offers a collection of unisex sneakers made in an eco and socio-sustainable way in Vietnam. The company works with 44 Vietnamese artisans on entirely hand-woven ethnic designs and favours the use of local and recycled materials. The brand offers collections of chrome-free leather and canvas shoes, as well as backpacks made from recycled plastic bottles. “We are focusing on the Italian market, we are looking for distributors in the territory and several Italian buyers have come to the stand,” Collin said.
This edition will certainly also be more sober than the “pre-pandemic” era for Nicolas Bargi, the CEO of Save the Duck, the Italian brand specialising in totally animal-free outerwear. “But I am sure that Pitti Uomo will record an exceptional turnout in January 2021,” he said. For that date, the brand is preparing to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a big event. The label, which closed 2020 with a turnover of 35.5 million euros and in 2021 expects to reach 48 million euros, presented a collaboration with Mackintosh, a company iconic in the fashion world for its unmistakable London raincoat.
Remaining on the theme of sustainability and attention to the planet, the event also gave space to young but promising brands such as Federico Cina. “Craftsmanship, sustainability and humanity are the three core values of my brand,” said founder Cina, who had a stand at the Sustainable Style section of the Central Pavilion. “For us, being sustainable means supporting the Romagna ecosystem by creating wealth and opportunities for the businesses, craftsmen and people of our land,” the designer said.
Not far from his stand were the clothes and accessories of young talents from Florence fashion school Polimoda. A few days earlier on the evening of June 29, the school had transformed the city’s iconic Piazza Santa Maria Novella into a runway show. “This is my first fashion show as director of Polimoda,” said Massimiliano Giornetti. “But I have been working with the students for two years now. I have had the privilege of experiencing their explosive creative energy and also the fragile moments of this uncertain period.
“With a path of personal and professional maturation that has probably been the most difficult in recent years, today, they are finally ready to take flight, each with their own creative identity and uniqueness of thought.”
Other highlights at Pitti included the sartorial creations of Ugo Federico Ianaro and the boots and bags of Annagiulia Giannetti. Cuoio di Toscana, a brand created to spread the culture and characteristics of style and quality of Italian-made leather, is 36 years old and was the protagonist of the new edition of Pitti Uomo with an initiative to relaunch the role of Italian style on a global level. ## Thebe Magugu
The project involved the event of Thebe Magugu, a young rising South African fashion designer who was the winner of the 2019 LVMH prize and special guest of Pitti Uomo 100. His new menswear collection for spring-summer 2022 was presented with footwear conceived as bold cowboy boots as well as soft bags developed in a palette of vibrant colours and finished with naturally green materials of unquestionable quality, supplied by Consorzio Conciatori Ponte a Egola, a historic Italian leather tanning consortium.
Twenty-seven-year-old Magugu presented a collection whose inspiration comes from the book ‘The Wistleblowers’ by Mandy Wiener, which tackles the topic of corruption. “Whistleblowers are not celebrated or presented as heroic characters. Instead, they are largely treated as insubordinates, outcasts or troublemakers, wearing the scarlet letter W and unable to find a job of their own,” Magugu said. “I chose to shed light on the plight of whistleblowers in South Africa, in the hope of urging change in legislation, organisational support and social attitudes.”
There were few events in the city for Pitti 100. One was from Gucci, which in the year of its centenary presented the new headquarters of the Archives in Palazzo Settimanni, the brand's historic headquarters.
Another event was from Borsalino, which unveiled its new collection of soft accessories for spring-summer 2022. The accessories are made in collaboration with the Italian company Isa spa.
The collection also includes ultra-light scarves, shawls and ties made of cotton and silk, natural textile fibres. The iconic Borsalino calligraphy font, the symbol of the Maison first introduced in 1907, becomes a dominant pattern in the collection and is superimposed with arts and crafts suggestions in an explosion of colours and patterns.
Due to the ongoing uncertainty of Covid, visitor numbers were considerably lower this year than at previous events. But perhaps such high numbers will now be a thing of the past following the integration of new digital platforms that were introduced in the past year due to the pandemic - platforms that could stick around for a while.
And perhaps the focus on sustainability and the planet will change the rhythm of collections, perhaps the international fashion system will need to rethink its exhibitions and calendars, or perhaps everything will go back to the way it was before. Time will only tell, but perhaps we'll have a clearer idea of what the future holds at the January 2022 edition of Pitti Uomo.
This article was originally written by Isabella Naef for FashionUnited.it before being translated and edited into English