At Pitti Uomo, Fashion Runs the Gamut

Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,

After spending several glorious days at Pitti Uomo, the men’s trade fair in Florence that kicks off the men’s fashion season, it’s time to reflect on what I have witnessed.

First, to call it a trade fair is no longer, well, fair. Pitti Uomo has transcended the normally bleak business of trade fair where store buyers place orders from brands, usually in venues that range from boring to depressing. This has been my experience in New York, Paris, and Copenhagen. Pitti Uomo is another beast. Not only because of its venue in the historic Fortezza de Basso, but also because of a full fashion program that includes fashion shows, presentations, cocktails, and dinners. Did I mention this all takes place in the heart of Florence?

Pitti Uomo owes its transcendence in part to the fact that the local government, the Italian Trade Agency, and the Italian ministry of trade are all involved in the fair directly, and they finance it, too. This year, the Italian government earmarked 45 million euros for the expo industry, 18 million of which goes to fashion trade fairs such as Pitti Uomo. This would not happen in the United States, for example, where public financing for anything that possesses even a hint of creativity has gone the way of the horse-cart. To say that, given the size of the industry, such policies are idiotic is not in any way an understatement.

Pitti Uomo is also the oldest fashion trade fair in existence. It has morphed and progressed alongside menswear trends. In my experience, this, 88th, edition, which drew 24,000 buyers from 188 countries and 1178 exhibitors, was the most varied in terms of what the brands had to offer. The wares ran from the traditional tailoring to its modern counterpart, from dress shirts to denim, and from ties to swimming trunks. I dutifully browsed the stalls at the fair for a couple of days in order to get the feel for what was on offer.

Mercifully, it seems that the blue distressed jeans and cheesy printed t-shirts, the uniform of Italian street kids, is losing ground. Instead, we are looking at a neater, crisper way of everyday dressings, something that the hipsters of Williamsburg and Shoreditch have been doing for a while. Not that I am a big fan of plaid shirts or raw denim, and I am definitely in favor of striking the word “heritage” off the English dictionary, but this is a pretty good deal considering the alternatives.

I have only one complaint about the fair, and I can no longer hold my tongue. Something must be done about the terrible house music that seems to blare out of pretty much every hall. Please change it. The people of Pitti will thank you.

Outside of the confines of the fair itself we were treated to a slew of presentations. It all started Monday night with Calcio Storico, a traditional Florentine game that most closely resembles rugby.

On Tuesday, there was a presentation by C.P. Company, which celebrated its 40th anniversary. On display was a selection of its famous outerwear, charting the history of the company. It is always interesting to see how the silhouettes change over the years, and this was no exception.

To witness more fashion history we were shepherded to the Marino Marini museum for “Senor Nino,” an exhibition of Nino Cerutti’s closet. Well, kind of. It was a selection of garments Mr. Cerutti has collected over the years, curated by the journalist Angelo Flaccavento. It’s worth seeing if you are into history of menswear.

Wednesday night held more in store. I attended the Emilio Pucci presentation, first under its new creative director, Massimo Giorgetti. I liked his take on the brand. The prints, often depicting scenes of Florence, including tourists with selfie sticks, were humorous and flawlessly executed. (My report here.)

Afterwards, we rounded the corner and entered the Boboli Gardens, where the Canadian-born, London-based designer Thomas Tait had an installation. Tait is talented and still under-the-radar, despite having won the LVMH prize for young designers last year. It was a visionary move on the part of Pitti to invite him and to give him much-needed exposure. (My report here.)

From the Tait exhibit a few of us went to an intimate, off-schedule presentation by the designer Emiliano Rinaldi. The invitation arrived at my hotel the day before. I opened it and my eyes popped at the casual mention of a performance by Mos Def. The event was at Rinaldi’s hillside villa on the outskirts of Florence. It also included an al fresco dinner.

The clothes were familiar to those who know Rinaldi’s work – relaxed tailoring in lush fabrics. I could see why Mos Def would like this, since he’s become quite a dandy as of late.

The music theme continued Thursday when I ran into Patti Smith in the center of Florence. She told me she had a concert the same night, and I considered ditching my fashion duties.

The day’s main event was the Moschino show. Jeremy Scott, Moschino’s current creative director, sent down what looked like one part reworked auto- and cycling-racing gear and one part reworked curtains. It was loud, garish, and tacky. Its vulgarity was all the more highlighted when juxtaposed against Tait’s minimalist and mature presentation the day before.

The show was held at Palazzo Corsini. The infantilism of the show was particularly offensive in its Renaissance setting and I couldn’t help but wonder if the figures in the paintings on the walls would come alive in order to turn away in dismay.

That fashion has recently taken a juvenile turn has been remarked on before, particularly by Rebecca Gonsalves in the Guardian. The campiness of it all has been exacerbated by Instagram, which loves clothes that shout. But camp is only good when it’s done on the sly. There was nothing deadpan or subtle about the Moschino show. It was all surface and so substance – witless and fatuous. Next time fashion people wonder why the rest of humanity thinks of fashion as a circus devoid of any redeeming quality, take another look at what Jeremy Scott put on the runway on Thursday.

The best part of the show was that some models were crowns. It reminded me of the Hans Christian Andersen story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” That the emperor has no clothes has never been more evident than yesterday.