If you really want to understand what’s been happening in the world of men's fashion, then Pitti is the place to visit. The mens fair based in Florence will give you an updated panorama about the ever growing menswear offering and even more importantly, give you an understanding of the scenario of how mens identities are changing and developing. The event itself and the products presented must however be analyzed to understand how it can create real meaning in the context of the fashion industry. We are all aware that we are living in a very complex historical moment that is in a way affecting fashion, and the intricacy of it, is pushing people to care about things in a different way. On reverse, fashion as a big industry (in Italy, it’s the second biggest manufacturing sector) has become over time, a tool to galvanize souls and start movements that often aren’t just trends but that as a whole are really changing world mindsets. Not by chance, the theme of this 97th edition is "Show your flag at pitti", which could generalize a bit too much. The Fortezza da Basso and all the events around the city offer so much, as undoubtedly, most of the things are positively presented in terms of pure offer of ideas and products, however rather less positively in terms of focused and clear style message.
On the first day of Pitti, Rome-based brand Brioni celebrated its 75th birthday going back to Florence. In 1952, the brand was the first menswear house to stage a runaway show. That was the beginning of a long path that, with ups and downs lead the italian brand (today owned by Kering Group) to its greatness. After the short but impactful tenure of the Margiela-trained Nina-Marie Nitsche, Norbert Stumpfl, young Austrian designer, took over the helm of the house by carrying on the beautiful approach Nitsche had started after the adverse previous digression by Justin O'Shea. The collection was set at Palazzo Gerini, a beautiful Florentine location, and indeed did a great job at doing what an Italian fashion house like brioni should do best: Italian style crafted with utmost perfection. The roots of the sartorial codes were redefined in a rather modern way, by mixing formal and informal. Extreme elegance peaked as tailcoats peeped from piano players coats, whilst more playful evening jackets were presented in hand-woven venetian jacquard fabric. Rather relaxed vibes came in the form of beautiful cashmere blazers, double breasted coats, blousons and deconstructed jackets.
The confused aesthetic of today begs for an antidote against the cemented men's wardrobe seen, and it was "Otherwise Formal" the performance created in collaboration with the disruptive team of Dust magazine, the publication managed by Luca Guarini and Luigi Vitali, an editorial publication that embodies at best today's blurred line between mens and womens aesthetics. The presentation was a real challenge for the young editors: applied to the often so called boring formal section of the fair, their unruly vision tried to give a cooler vibe to what is considered to be the everyday look of modern men. The result itself was a bit weak and the often shocking editorial point of view, turned into a urbanwear winked to Prada or Raf Simons's style staples. However, the positive aspect of the project was starting a dialogue about a sector of mens fashion that isn’t hip anymore and need to be resuscitated since the sportswear storm swept it away. Definitely not an easy task. However, maybe the styling wasn’t the right way to approach the conversation with a very rigid mindset. On the other hand, only pitti with its fair/event formula could be the right platform to experiment.
Following this mindset, Stefano Pilati’s latest digital project, Random Identities, was the boldest and best show of the Florentine kermesse. Stefano Pilati masterfully delivered a show which was perfectly balanced. The fluidity of the genders was elegantly told with looks that were not too feminine or masculine, tailored suits were worn with heeled boots, culottes and real skirts, but also puffer jackets and camouflage overalls. But (beautiful) clothing apart his message was what really made the difference in comparison to the other attempts made at gender blending this year at Pitti. The Italian designer really went beyond belief and conceived a new fashionable format. Starting from the casting, very often it was really difficult to identify men and women with the result that anything looked too extreme or unnatural, although there was a twisted touch that made everything look more magical. The clothing showed his masterful knowledge of tailoring and construction so nothing looked like an impromptu item.
With Jil Sander, Firenze officially kicked off men's season. The brand, designed by Lucie and Luke Meier, vowed its monastic look in the convent of Santa Maria Novella by proposing a very minimalistic and austere collection. With an eye to tailoring and the fluidity of the silhouette, often oversized and embellished with knitwear, fringes and silver details, the pieces recalled somewhat J.W. Anderson’s aesthetic. On the other hand, the outwear was highly desirable and sellable, well combined with the sober and conceptual collection. “We started from the power of handmade and craftsmanship without linking it to any specific region, even if we are very connected with Florence as we met here and we work a lot with local artisans,” explained the duo backstage.
In terms of different flags, the stand-bearer was definitely Telfar. The American brand was founded in 2005 by Clemens Telfar and art director/artist Babak Radboy joined later. It's very difficult to allocate what they do, but defining their work as merely fashion is a bit limiting. We could call them a community or a collective, as they span from art to performance, from music to movies, from fashion to society. Actually, these clashing aspects reveal a process that might seem very confusing and pointless at first, but, by looking closely, everything makes sense. This exciting energy is definitely a sign of a new creative world, but, if that’s the case, how does the creative world have to evolve in order to continue being exciting? Their democratic approach (the price point is not extremely high) turn them into a social phenomenon that allowed the brand to win the CFDA award in 2017. Since then, the underground posse became a worldwide brand who, to this day, has managed to keep its community mindset, sometimes not so wisely.
K-Way debuted on the catwalk with a 56 looks collection that, surprisingly, showed the right balance of creativity and products. In line with the company’s DNA, the brand didn't go for crazy styling tricks or impossible designs, just desirable and slightly fashionable urban pieces. This new direction could work, but what must be tuned around is the editing for the show as the looks were too many and the result was not as strong as it could have been.
Observing all these different visions, both inside and outside the fortezza, my mind goes immediately to one point: considering the confusion, the uncertainty, the widespread ideological and economical crisis, is it really wise to keep shuffling the cards of aesthetic by adding voices upon voices? In a coercive world, the rebellious chaos would be helpful to create new rules and set souls free, but in an helter-skelter society like ours, becoming a choir instead of a solo singer would help creating a sharper view of everything. Among this mayhem, comparing what has been seen in the Fortezza Da Basso to most of the shows and events that took place inside and outside the main fair, we somewhat lost the main focus: are we sure that men really want to change (or even evolve) their wardrobe? The gap between the two worlds looks drastically too big to find a common ground. So questions are still unanswered.