FLORENCE, Italy — In the world of menswear, January is a full-on month of trade fairs and fashion shows. The super-charged schedule of activities begins with Pitti Uomo, continues on to Milan where mega Italian brands like Gucci, Prada and Armani unveil their collections, and concludes with a bang in Paris, where established Parisian fashion houses like Lanvin and Dior Homme show alongside a cornucopia of international designers from Korea, Belgium, Britain and the United States.
This season, the kind folks at Pitti Immagine invited me to Florence for my first-ever look at what Mesh Chhibber, Managing Partner of Relative|MO, refers to as "the chicest tradeshow on earth." Indeed, rather than a series of boring stalls, filled with 'me-too' product, Pitti Uomo offers an impressive menswear mix of urban and classic, formal and casual, and high-fashion and high-street. There is literally something for everyone in the maze of pavillions on the site of the Fortezza da Basso.
Though the mood was somewhat subdued, the total number of visitors at Pitti Uomo was up 3 percent, with over 30,000 visitors attending. And, some brands — including Bill Amberg, the British designer known for his sumptuous leather goods, and Engineered Garments, the New York based brand with casually elegant, unstructured clothes — were swarmed with international buyers writing orders when I popped in to have a look.
But ironically, my Pitti Uomo highlight was actually served up by a womenswear designer. Each season, Francesca Tacconi and Lapo Cianchi of Pitti Immagine invite a guest designer to showcase high-fashion creativity within the context of the Pitti Uomo schedule. This season's special guest was friend-of-BoF Giles Deacon, who was interviewed last year in our Inside the Studio video series.
Following on the heels of previous guest designers like Thom Browne and Proenza Schouler, Giles presented his pre-collection for Autumn in the almost three hundred year-old Richard Ginori factory. Giles said that he chose the location to showcase Florence's enviable "industrial heritage" and the tradition of hand-made crafts that to this day form a big part of the Tuscan economy.
Despite the long haul from the city centre, fashion watchers flocked to the factory on the outskirts of Florence. On my way in, both Suzy Menkes and Susie Bubble commented to me on the inventiveness of Giles' presentation — incorporating suspended porcelain, oversized paperclips and even a conveyor belt which transported dishes and ended with a celebratory smash — and the impact he had achieved by holding a fashion event in a decidedly non-fashion venue.
You know you have excited a blogger when she says: "I can't wait to get back home and blog about this!"
Imran Amed is Founder and Editor of The Business of Fashion