Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,
Last week I attended the 89th edition of Pitti Uomo, a men’s fashion fair held every season in Florence. This one seemed like a toned down, more timid affair than usual.
The main guest designers this time were Juun.J, who presented his Fall/Winter 2016 collection at Stazione Leopolda. The venue is brilliant, a disused train station, completely stripped down and cavernous, and thus lending itself to interpretation. I have seen it transformed into a birch tree forest by Corneliani, among other things.
Juun.J, whose company is sponsored by Samsung, which must afford him capabilities many designers can only dream of, decided to do nothing, leaving the enormous hall barren and uninviting. Conversely, the show invitation itself was great – a leather-bound notebook with my name and seat assignment. Perfect, because I forgot to pack mine.
The clothes itself, again showed Juun.J’s abilities to realize complex sartorial ideas. The first part of the show featured lots of leather – pants, jackets, and something that was a mix of a bolero and American football shoulder pads. Each was embossed with slogans that ended with “LESS” (which was the collection’s name). Thus – genderLESS, viewLESS, bounderLESS, and so on. Maybe these things mean something to someone, or maybe they don’t. But they will look good on Instagram. Mixed with these, there was some well-executed tailoring, elongated, flowing, and wide-legged.
The show ended with a procession of shearling coats of various lengths with graphics by a cult Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama who is famous for his roboto-erotic pictures. The shearlings were beautifully done, weighted a ton, and will probably be so expensive that I doubt that many stores will order them. Thus, there is a good chance that they will not be produced, which would be a pity. But as a fashion exercise they were glorious, and if they are produced, they will undoubtedly be Instagrammed ad naseaum. By the way, the prints were on the back of the coats and none of them got photographed by front of house photographers. Which goes to show you that the traditional full frontal photography during fashion shows does not work (and never did).
Oh, yes, before Juun.J there was a Woolmark prize finalists show and winner announcement. I almost forgot about it, because, well, it was forgettable.
The next day I attended two presentations. The first was a womenswear collection by Marco De Vincenzo. It was held in a splendid theater building, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. There were a few looks made of dark suede, with harlequin patterns, and a couple of flapper dresses. Most of these were enclosed in glass cases that reflected the already dark room (and the viewer). I get the idea (I think) – the pantomime, the tragicomedy of life where we are all actors, etc., but it seemed quite poorly done, and well, this critic, for one, likes to see the clothes clearly.
Then it was onto a show of Adidas Originals by White Mountaineering. We were back at Stazione Leopolda, and this time there was a little bit more going on, with a long line of white globe lights leading us towards the farther end of the station where an intimate (perhaps too much so) show took place. It was all health goth (may this abominable term forever burn in fashion hell) – black, tech-fabricated workout gear that hipsters like to wear when they don't exercise – and it will sell like hotcakes in SoHo and Shoreditch.
Its presentations was neat. The models walked out and each took a spot that eventually made a kind of a triangle. As they took up their positions, white triangulated neon lights descended onto them. By the end they were standing in a pyramid of triangles, whose sides were then lifted in succession – and, presto, you were looking at a white mountain! Needless to say, everyone’s phones were out and up. All fashion bows to the god of Instagram.
Did I already mention Instagram three times? There is a reason for it, as it really is becoming the new fashion god. During fashion weeks its main priests are the street style photographers and its flock of sheep are the men whose vanity and closet space seem to know no boundaries. The peacocking has gotten out of all control at Pitti Uomo. The main area of the pageant is in front of the central pavilion. It was bad before, but this time you simply could not get through people who were fake-checking their emails, smoking pipes, and supposedly talking, all the while furtively looking around – am I being photographed? Please? Pretty please?
How many of these people were agents of the brands presenting at Pitti was hard to tell. It is even harder to tell what lengths people will go to for free clothes.
For those of us whose work involves looking rather than being looked at, the pageant was annoying, and several journalists have grumbled about the peacocking phenomenon slowing all foot-traffic around the main pavilion to a crawl. But, you have to take these things in stride. My remedy is humor.
I did plenty of looking at the fair itself – my Instagram (again!) takeover of @asvof will attest to that. I did not find much that was new and exciting, but Pitti remains a great place that allows you to take the temperature of menswear. The temperature remains unchanged – part sartoria, part distressed, faded streetwear, and a newish part, the gothy, black, asymmetric, drop-crotch stuff. Most of the latter are kitsch, get-the-look imitations of Rick Owens and other designers that we have championed on StyleZeitgeist for close to ten years now. The people who wear these clothes at Pitti Uomo look unconvincing. But I have written on the subject enough, so I won’t bore you further.
And that’s pretty much it. My takeaway? At the end of 2015, quite a few critics have voiced the opinion that fashion is crashing, and Pitti seems to reflect that to some degree. There was a kind of a paralysis in the whole thing, a sense of uncertainty where fashion is going. In such times people hunker down and bet on the tried-and-true. What remains is future.
Adidas Originals x White Mountaineering image by Vanni Bassetti. Juun.J and Pitti Scene images by Eugene Rabkin