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An air of optimism greeted visitors at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, as sharply dressed industry insiders wrote orders and compared pattern mixing. This was the 85th edition of Florentine trade fair Pitti Uomo, which stands as the first large-scale menswear-trend indicator for the 2014/15 winter season for the globe’s buyers.

Despite a two-day crossover with the showcase London Collections: Men, this January saw some 30,000 attendees with a buyer turnout exceeding 20,800. “With relatively strong international consumption the challenge for Italy is to bolster its domestic markets,” says Raffaello Napoleone, ceo of organising body Pitti Immagine. Indeed, the spotlight was back on home ground and the choice of Diesel Black Gold to present the headline show seemed logical: a nod to the domestic market and large Italian groups such as otb, which owns Diesel.

While a number of well-established companies introduced new lines or capsule collections – such as the Baracuta Blue Label Collection from WP Lavori in Corso – of the 1,047 vendors showing this season a sustained 15 per cent new-brand attendance ensured buyers could keep on their toes scouting for discoveries.

At W-D Man a reinterpretation of the English Norfolk jacket met sleek Italian tailoring with quirky originality, while acf (Avec Ces Freres) offered modern travel-inspired tailoring with clean lines. The understatement in many colour palettes at the fair drew attention to sophisticated plays on texture, with new label The Gigi making use of soft casentino wools, alpaca and hairy mohair in a standout debut collection. Elsewhere, traditional fabrics meshed with hi-tech production as bonded felts and cottons at Aquascutum allowed designer Thomas Harvey to elaborate on shape while enhancing durability.

Domestic manufacturing companies have historically used Pitti Uomo as a jumping-off point for launching their own brands – menswear giant Ermenegildo Zegna, for example – and this trend continues. Sandro Zara’s Barena, Bresciani socks and Merola gloves have all cultivated international reputations here.

But if the enduring power of “Made in Italy” was to be seen anywhere it was at Brunello Cucinelli and its expansive booth in the main pavilion. “Pitti is where I introduced my brand to the world,” says Cucinelli. “It’s also where I meet the institutions who shape the menswear business.”

Amidst upbeat global retail forecasts it is encouraging that a presence at Pitti remains important for industry titans and new brands alike. As the closing figures came in, a recovery of more than 4 per cent growth for domestic buyers sent a message that the confidence pendulum is swinging the right way for team Italia, too.

The highlights

The Gigi

In a diverse but beautifully realised first collection, Pierluigi Boglioli’s new project makes use of Neapolitan-shouldered jackets with minimal structure for increased comfort. The softness of fabrics used along with the high degree of handiwork invested in each piece results in a line that is a Pitti highlight and a key brand to watch during the months ahead.
thegigi.it

Aquascutum

Following its acquisition last year by YGM, this season the London heritage label used Pitti Uomo to launch its new menswear collection. Aquascutum has looked to re-engage with old customers by reworking the classic trench coat while also appealing to a new high-fashion clientele with luxury knitwear and tailoring.
aquascutum.co.uk

Man 1924

In making the raw refined, Carlos Castillo mixes texture, tone and pattern to fantastic effect. Based between Madrid and Bilbao, the company uses Scottish, Irish and English fabrics to create its line of soft-tailored jackets, slim trousers, rugged outerwear and accessories. Separately the pieces are an exercise in casual chic; layered they combine to create a sophisticated masculine aesthetic.
man1924.com

Tabarrificio Veneto

Reinterpretations of the traditional Italian cloak or tabarro have been cropping up everywhere of late, from Kiton to the sleek lines of Caruso. Tabarrificio Veneto is the sister company of Venetian favourite Barena and has been specialising in the production of authentic tabarro since 1976. Using raw wools from Alpago, each piece is individually numbered to ensure authenticity.
tabarroshop.com

Carmina

Majorcan company Carmina craft Goodyear-stitched shoes in a variety of leathers. With stores in Paris and Madrid – and imminently in London – the shoemaker’s star is rising.
carminashoemaker.com

Q&A- Linda Loppa

Director of Polimoda,

International Institute of Fashion, Design & Marketing

Florence’s Polimoda institute is recognised globally as a centre for excellence in fashion education. Linda Loppa is the director and has a career spanning over 40 years in the industry.

Post Pitti Uomo and Milan men’s week, how would you describe the mood in menswear for winter 2014/15?
Men during Pitti Uomo are dressed up; the show is in the streets, around the restaurants and of course in the fair, but also in the fashion events and performances. We need this energy along with an enthusiasm and passion for creating new design. This came through in Paris men’s week also and I hope the momentum will continue.

What gives a student from the Polimoda institute a particular edge when breaking into the industry?
Polimoda is a laboratory for creative thinking. It is important to give the young generation the right tools to be able to perform within the industry but at Polimoda we also give them additional tools to think in a personal way. This makes the difference.

How does the school go about fostering new design talent?
We are constantly in contact with our graduates. Polimoda is more than a place to study: it is a mindset and a vision. Once students experience this they want to stay in touch and the network becomes a great community of knowledge. We also have an accolade called PolimodaTalent, which is a website and student installation we organise at the school during Pitti Uomo. They can create a page on our site where real companies can see their work and contact them directly. We give visibility to students that impress us in a particular subject to help them along in their career.

In 2014, is Italy still recognised as a good place to be launching a brand?
Any place is good to launch a brand – even in your basement. Italy is a good place to find production for your brand, although it is too expensive to make prototypes and have a showroom so designers are searching for alternatives.

Umit Benan recently moved from presenting his collection in Milan to Paris. How significant is this for the Italian fashion capital’s men’s showcase?
I have followed Umit Benan since he won the “Who’s on next” award during Pitti Uomo. After his experience as designer at Trussardi he is mature and ready to go to Paris where he can be himself.We have to be open-minded and understand exactly where designers belong and where they can grow.

Should young brands pick Pitti or is it better to try and do a full individual show?
Designers need to understand the differences between a fair, a showroom and a show. Each message and target is different. However, in each case you learn; you understand who your customer is, how they react to your collection, if your price setting is correct and what you have to adjust. It is about choosing your priorities but all processes are important at different stages and Pitti can be a great way to establish a name.

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