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At Pitti, Fashion in Flux

Fragmentation is, paradoxically, the strongest through line in menswear today, writes Angelo Flaccavento.
Models walk the runway at the Fendi Spring/Summer 2024 menswear show.
Models walk the runway at the Fendi Spring/Summer 2024 menswear show. (Spotlight/Launchmet)

FLORENCE — Fragmentation is, paradoxically, the clearest through line in today’s men’s fashion landscape. If menswear is in a state of flux, it’s perhaps because masculinity is. But the results can be hard to decipher: it’s tough to see a direction when things are exploding in every direction.

That was certainly the case at the latest edition of the Pitti Uomo trade fair, which offered a constellation of stylistic possibilities: formal, informal, hyperformal, tailoring, sportswear… they were like concentric waves flowing into each other in a reshaping of codes that was quite engaging. Old protocols no longer apply; new categories are born.

Workwear, due to its pragmatic but expandable code, is a territory of particularly fruitful intersections. And yet there have been so many experiments in workwear deconstruction that they risk becoming stale. It takes determination and sensibility to add nuance to the conversation. Domenico Orefice of DO™ works at the intersection of industrial and fetish. And although clearly indebted to Rick Owens and cyberpunk, the approach managed to feel fresh.

Speaking of Rick Owens, the dark master, the designer has been a clear influence on the next generation of designers, probably replacing Rei Kawakubo in this sense. This was apparent in many of the collections presented at the Polimoda Graduation Show at midday yesterday. It was a sensational production in terms of showmanship and craftsmanship but lacked the spark of the unexpected. A trained eye could spot references from Owens to Chris Nemeth to Dilara Fındıkoğlu.

Workwear made for a stimulating outing yesterday evening at Fendi, where Silvia Venturini Fendi keeps honing her singular signature: a unique mix of subtle humour, a perverted sense of obviousness, chilly precision and a profound appreciation for craftsmanship. The show took place on the production floor of the Fendi Factory in Capannuccia, amongst tables filled with artisans busily assembling Fendi bags. If transparency is mandatory today, this was fashion-making at its most see-through. There was a lot of flesh peeking from cuts and fabric, too, but the results felt more anatomical than sensual.

Obviousness is always pushed to the limits at Fendi, so much so that it becomes non-obvious. Tabliers and lab coats and work jackets were prominently featured, but despite the crafty materials — hemp, washi paper, canvas — the aesthetic was robotic rather than rugged, with the plays on elongated proportions and generous volumes that the high-spending, post-streetwear generation favours, and enough FF signifiers to please logomaniacs.

Of course, there is a clear commercial drive behind what multi-billion-dollar Fendi is doing. And yet, there is a certain kind of honesty in that, too. The clothes are straightforward yet full of amusing details. The bags are feats of craft. Little charms — leather tape measures like skinny scarves, for instance — activate desire. It’s all simple, but soulful, immediate and engaging.

Engaging is an apt adjective to describe what Eli Russell Linnetz, aka ERL, is doing from his Venice Beach, California base. The designer exudes infectious energy, his narratives are feats of fiction and his clothes burst with the patina of life lived in a sunny place.

ERL’s first show was held late last night in the decayed splendour of Palazzo Corsini to a cheerful crowd of fans and fashionistas. It’s mainly about following today, and ERL has attracted a colourful fanbase. But the trap with such a high cool factor is that the goings can get pretty unrealistic. In imagining a story of futuristic surfers raiding a Florentine attic and going all glittery with frock coats, top hats and skating shoes, ERL ditched his charming colours for a metallic palette and some clumsy couture shapes. It didn’t glue particularly well.

Catwalk shows do not work for every designer. ERL was born as a photographic project and it’s in the still image that Linnetz best expresses his sense of character and silhouette. His fresh sense of proportions and quest for a physicality that’s both sportier and rounder than the one typically favoured in fashion somehow got lost in the neon yellow set.

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