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How I Became... Head of Special Projects at Pitti Uomo

BoF Careers meets Francesca Tacconi, the woman behind Pitti Uomo’s special guest designer programme who is responsible for bringing the likes of Givenchy, Raf Simons, JW Anderson and Craig Green to the fair.
Undercover by Jun Takahashi at Pitti Uomo for Fall 2018, photo by Giovanni Giannoni | Source: Courtesy
By
  • BoF Careers Team

FLORENCE, Italy — One of the most popular women in menswear, Francesca Tacconi has played a leading role in the evolution of Pitti Uomo. Founded in 1972, traditionally the Florentine fair was dominated by Italian tailoring businesses. However, over the last decade, Pitti Uomo has successfully evolved its image to keep pace with the industry's pivot to streetwear and athletic-wear — largely due to the success of Tacconi's strategies. In January 2019, Pitti welcomed over 36,000 visitors to its 95th edition.

Under her supervision, the fair has welcomed some of the industry's most respected and popular designers, including Raf Simons, Y/Project's Glenn Martens, Jonathan Anderson and Craig Green, drawing industry-wide attention and maintaining Pitti's traditional role as the event that launches the menswear season. For the 96th edition of the fair, taking place in June 2019, Pitti Uomo will host Givenchy's first ever stand-alone menswear show.

Francesca Tacconi, head of special projects | Source: Courtesy

Having studied Art and German at university, Tacconi initially intended to become an educator. However, after volunteering to work at Pitti Uomo as a result of her linguistic skills, she quickly decided that "this was my job.” Starting out as a seasonal volunteer, over the course of 25 years, Tacconi has built her career to now oversee all press and special projects relating to Pitti Immagine, the parent company which oversees not only Pitti Uomo but also Pitti Bimbo, its childrenswear edition, Taste, its culinary and food fair, and Pitti Fraganza, which is dedicated to luxury fragrance and beauty brands.

What attracted you to a career in fashion?

It was very much by chance. I studied Art and German at university and, at the beginning, I wanted to stay at university to study or to teach. I was very much into art, classical art, literature, but back then, as it is now, it took a long time to secure that kind of job. Too long. I needed to find a job and because I spoke German, I volunteered at Pitti Uomo. Very quickly, I realised this was the right job for me and I started to build my career.

How did you develop your skills as a junior?

I developed them by actively seeking out individuals I could learn from, and learning not just from one teacher but many. I believe you need to have different teachers in different stages of your life. I tried to learn something from everyone around me that I admired when I was a junior. Not only in fashion, but people working in contemporary art, working in ancient art, writers, filmmakers, musicians — many, many teachers.

First of all, be curious. Then, be humble and listen to people.

I tried to be like a chameleon, not to become my mentors but to be able to reflect what they wanted from me, which enabled me to really fine tune my skills. I learnt the necessary organisational skills and I tried to gain the most by paying attention to every single detail. Curiosity and discipline were my greatest skills.

How did you approach launching the guest designer programme?

We wanted to do something that is unexpected. In our world, we always strive to do things differently. I wanted to offer the possibility to the designers to express themselves in an unexpected way. When it comes to deciding which designers, we have always treated it very much like in a festival, where one edition is more classical and the next more experimental. In the past, we have taken a risk in hosting and investing money in young designers and, equally, we have invited designers with fantastic sales.

I believe dealing with people is like surfing. You have to ride the wave you have been given and change your approach depending on the nature of the wave — otherwise there is going to be a crash. You have to adapt and find the right words, find the right way to face the wave. Of course, you occasionally get stressed because it can be a completely different way of thinking, and you have to learn how to interact with new people and new businesses every six months, but this is what I love.

I tried to be like a chameleon, not to become my mentors but to reflect what they wanted from me.

Every designer means a different way of working. You never get tired. Givenchy was of course another step up for Pitti [Uomo], where there’s always a familiar and easy going way of doing things. But we are already super proud of how hard we have worked, and if we do it and do it well, it is another step forward for us.

Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?

I take care of the details. That is not to say that I lose the wider vision or the end goal, but I believe details are crucial to success. My mother was one of the first female doctors in Italy and she taught me to pay attention to every detail, just like a medical diagnosis, when you have to pay attention and to listen to every single thing — only then can you build a truly reflective picture of what is actually in front of you.

What advice do you have for the younger generations that want to enter fashion today?

First of all, be curious. Then, be humble and listen to people. Live with your eyes open. Everyone on the planet can teach you something but it’s up to you not to stay stuck to one teacher. You must take risks to find others. You can control that risk however: take the risk when you know all the rules, then you can break the rules. But you have to start by learning them.

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