Pitti Uomo Diary


Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,

Greetings from the beautiful Tuscan countryside where I am hiding from the Milan men’s fashion week and trying to distill into a few hundred words what I saw at the Pitti Uomo men’s trade fair in Florence. And it’s a lot to ponder what with the over one thousand exhibitors from all over the world.


Pitti Uomo is particularly known for its suited look and there was no lack of quality tailoring on display, and I am only talking about the attendees. I saw men dressed to the nines looking cool as a mountain spring in weather that demanded shorts and a tank top from lesser beings. These men are often called, somewhat pejoratively, it seems, as “peacocks” in the fashion press, and to be sure there was plenty of pageantry on display. But, there is also something admirable about the determination to look dapper no matter what, which I think goes beyond mere surface to a certain core in man’s character, a desire to maintain excellence and grace under any circumstances.


The sartorial prowess of the attendees was matched by the offerings from the numerous vendors of suits in every shade, cut, and fabric imaginable. And while the look can be utterly bourgeois, the craft that goes into making these clothes demands respect. It makes you love Italy, a place where they still make things with care, for taking pride in what you do, for not being alienated from your craft. It’s a country where you can still stumble onto a tiny shop with quality goods that are neither marketed nor hyped by the fashion press – they are just there on their own terms. I would rather see that than an H&M on every corner. And that’s what Pitti Uomo provides – an antidote to the dispiriting march of fast fashion.

Pitti Uomo is of course not all tailored. Another big part of it is streetwear. In my six years of coming here I have seen more distressed blue denim and faded t-shirts with tired crests and inverted Coca-Cola logos than I cared for. I am happy to report a steadily diminishing presence of this aesthestic.

What’s taking its place? On the one hand a preppy, Ivy League look that the Japanese seem particularly fond of. On the other hand a darker vision of streetwear. It is fairly safe to say that when I came to Pitti Uomo for the first time I was one of the very few people in black. At least I don’t remember seeing others. (People who know me as the founder and editor of StyleZeitgeist still ask me what is it that I am doing at Pitti. “Reporting” is the answer.)  Not so today, as I begin to see a steady trickle of black, drapey clothing popularized by Rick Owens some years ago and knocked-off ad nauseum since. There is a small but growing presence of this “goth ninja” aesthetic, a tongue-in-cheek term that was coined on StyleZeitgiest years ago and that has since has taken on a life of its own. And though it’s become a uniform in some major cities with no shortage of “get the look” brands, it is still in its infancy at Pitti Uomo. But infants grow and Pitti Uomo knows this. Perhaps this is why one of their two special guests was Marcelo Burlon.

Burlon is an Argentinean DJ based in Milan who has launched a line of t-shirts two years ago. Like other goth streetwear brands Hood by Air and KTZ it has become popular in no time. At Pitti Uomo Burlon presented his first collection that extended beyond t-shirts. It was heavy on the motorcross references, and the two bikers doing extreme sports tricks provided the entertainment. Whether what was presented is actually fashion is another question. One thing is clear, making clothes (and calling them fashion) is no longer just for designers. This notion has blown apart the ramparts of convention, and the likes of Burlon and Gosha Rubchinsky have poured unto the breach with much revenue and little critical acclaim.


And yet, Burlon’s presentation had more energy than Z Zegna’s, which ran with the tired “tailoring meets sportswear” theme. Hoodies under blazers, tech fabric anoracks over blazers, designer sneakers. Ok. There would be absolutely nothing wrong with any of it – the clothes were impeccably made – were it not for the context. The magnificently disheveled, industrial interior of the venue, and the athletes doing parkour in suits were in complete dissonance with what was presented on the runway. Sometimes things work when you take them out of context and sometimes they do not.


One last note on the presentations. In the past Pitti Uomo and it’s women’s pre-collection counterpart, Pitti W, were fantastically good at bringing top fashion talent such as Haider Ackermann, Thom Browne, and Gareth Pugh to the fair. These guests provided additional fashion cache to the fair, while receiving unparalleled opportunities to showcase their talent. In the past few seasons I could not help but notice Pitti’s pivot away from the avant-garde. I hope this is temporary, because Pitti Immagine’s access to Florence and its magnificent venues, and the impeccable professionalism of its staff gives Pitti Uomo a truly unique ability to create fashion moments that are magical and that will go down in the history of fashion.