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A Muted Men’s Fashion Month Kicks Off

This week, everyone will be talking about an all-digital Pitti Uomo, tightening lockdowns worldwide and the potential divorce of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Get your BoF Professional Cheat Sheet.
Pitti Uomo, before social distancing | Source: Pitti Immagine Uomo


Pitti Uomo Goes Virtual

  • Pitti Uomo returns in an all-digital format running Jan. 12-14; Brunello Cucinelli will open the week with a livestreamed show
  • London and New York have folded men’s shows into their main fashion weeks
  • The pandemic has accelerated a long-term concentration of major brands showing men’s collections in Milan and Paris

Last spring, when Pitti Uomo postponed its semi-annual menswear trade show from September to January, organisers surely thought the Covid-19 situation in Italy would have improved. Instead, they’ll be staging their event in the middle of the country’s strictest lockdown since last spring. Normally, Pitti Uomo involves some 1,300 vendors packed into historic venues around Florence, with a handful of high-profile runway shows to draw international press. Organisers say that format is impossible, even on a limited scale, in the midst of Italy’s second wave. An all-digital Pitti Uomo will include online appointments with vendors and a livestreamed presentation from featured brand Brunello Cucinelli. The digital format could provide an opportunity to reach new audiences, as even before the pandemic many trade shows were looking to connect with consumers.

The Bottom Line: Designers haven’t found a perfect substitute for in-person fashion shows, but can make do with small audiences or virtual presentations. The stakes are higher for trade shows like Pitti, which face competition from start-ups like NuOrder and Joor that claim to bring the wholesale buying experience online.

The Many Brands Caught Up in Kim and Kanye’s Potential Divorce

A Kim-Kanye divorce filing, reportedly imminent, should keep the tabloids busy for months, if not years. We’ll leave speculation about what led to the split and the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to Us Weekly. But it’s worth considering just how much real-world money is staked on these two. Coty just spent $200 million on a minority stake in Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty, on top of its investment in Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics a little over a year ago. Gap is betting a partnership with West will bring new relevance to its ailing brand. Yeezys are the reason Adidas isn’t totally dominated by Nike in the resale and hype sneaker markets. Kardashian’s shapewear line is emerging as a viable challenger to Spanx and is stocked by a growing number of retailers.

The Bottom Line: It’s impossible to know how a divorce would affect any of these ventures, not to mention the fashion lines, licensing deals, sponsorships, television shows, albums and assorted ephemera Kardashian and West produce on a seemingly monthly basis. But even if you’ve never watched a second of reality television or listened to a Kanye song since the “College Dropout” years, it may be time to tune in.

Europe’s Lockdowns Drag On

London's Oxford Street during lockdown.
  • France and Italy recently extended strict lockdowns, and the UK has entered into a nationwide lockdown
  • Initial post-Christmas retail sales were underwhelming in the UK; full December figures are due out on Jan. 22
  • Luxury brands and mass-market retailers with a strong online presence have performed better than expected

The lockdowns that have forced Pitti Uomo online are having an even bigger impact on retailers. New infections surged worldwide in November and December, trampling over what the industry had hoped would be a robust holiday shopping season. Though some brands — ranging from Tiffany to Bath & Body Works and Next — reported strong (or at least, stronger than expected) sales, the overall tone is grim. Even in the US, where lockdowns haven’t been as strict, store traffic was down more than 60 percent in the final week of December, according to Cowen.

Many retailers prepared for a second wave and went into Christmas with relatively tight inventory, potentially limiting the scope of any post-holiday sales. However, they must soon decide whether to write off the coming spring season as well. Edited, a retail data firm, found that many brands are introducing fewer new items and putting many spring items on markdown as soon as they’re released.

The Bottom Line: Sales figures and the growing number of discounts demonstrate the importance of the vaccine distribution efforts now underway. After a bleak winter, many struggling retailers are counting on a summer rebound if herd immunity is reached.


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