Before Ermenegildo Zegna celebrated its centennial and Dolce & Gabbana held its 20th anniversary runway collection during Milan Fashion Week, Pitti Immagine Uomo, Italy’s other main menswear event, led the buzz from Florence. And nary a moment too soon. Though well-dressed men continue to be represented on international city streets, the menswear industry appears to be off its axis: New York lacks a fashion week , and Paris (minus the Hedi Slimane heat wave) only simmers while Milan’s commercial tag remains unshakable. In Florence, meanwhile, Pitti is working tirelessly to cement the city’s status as a creative hub of art, history and modern menswear.
This move involves the lure of a changing cast of international designers, who are afforded the freedom and financing to extend their vision beyond the runway. Pitti’s “modernization and renewal” effort has been in the making since 2005, when it sought the global sheen of Yohji Yamamoto, and has since given a platform to talents such as Adam Kimmel, Thom Browne, Raf Simons and Max Kibardin. Haider Ackermann and Jil Sander were the invited designers this season, and both staged dramatic productions, which is the hallmark of new face of Pitti.
Ackermann’s show at Palazzo Corsini was attended by what seemed to be every noted menswear (and several womenswear) editors, bloggers and buyers in town. More than an hour before the start of the presentation, it seemed like a bacchanalian feast as urns spilled dramatically set fruits, and assortments of petit morceaux were served in cavernous rooms throughout the faded and frescoed palazzo. But when the clothes finally came down the chandelier-strewn courtyard—tinged with the sounds of model Jamie Bouchert crooning “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” at a piano—the fashion show was fully elevated to that of an unprecedented experience.
The well-selected venue served as a complementing backdrop for Ackermann’s loose fitting and romantic looks of a regal bohemian sensibility. Shown alongside a smattering of his column dresses for women, Ackermann’s menswear debut was distinguished by quiet ethnic embellishments: an elegant gray tie-waist jacket glistened with a heavy swatch of tonal embroidery; satiny, pajama-like separates were boldly striped and called for a regal confidence; and many of the looks were finished off with peacock feathered leather slip ons.
For Jil Sander, designer Raf Simons took his presentation half an hour outside of Florence to a villa atop the Tuscan landscape, where the unseasonably rainy conditions only added to the dramatic labyrinthine garden setting. This striking contrast was already considered in the fluorescent pinks, lemon and powder blue sweaters and jackets that created a juxtaposition with the stories-high shrubbery. Set off by the stormy skies and the industrial music, the site-specific nature of the garden party-cum-fashion show made the mise-en-scene integral to the collection’s artificial colors in geometric patterned jumpers as well as the colored tabs, which added a sporty feel to the bottom of jackets.
To round out the fanfare, the week’s other big draw, artist Andrea Zittel, set up her Between Art and Life installation at Galleria del Costume in Palazzo Pitti, while Who Is On Next? pitted eight finalists (Al_, Camo, FQR, Dead Meat, Maurizio Miri, Pierre-Louis Mascia, Yuji Miura, and Ozona) in competition as the next rising Italian stars in prêt-a-porter and accessories.
Brilliant marketing aside(oh yeah, a slew of fashion’s hottest bloggers were flown in to cover it all), Pitti is really a typical fashion fair comprising booths selling established, powerhouse European brands: Corneliani, Brunello Cucinelli, Hackett. Attendees wear soft tailored suits, play with textures and only push the dressing envelope by donning vibrant colored chinos and car shoes. For the editors and buyers seeking out directional menswear, Tranoi, Capsule or any one of the heaps of fledgling tradeshows are a better bet. And yet, for an event that celebrates menswear, leverages the fashion and historical importance of its city and is willing to support designers’ modern twist on menswear, Pitti is the axis point in Florence.