Take a glance at recent headlines about the future of luxury fashion and the outlook might appear bleak: most new-year predictions seemed to warn of revenue dips and the need to cut costs. But this week there’s a more positive mood in Florence, where menswear trade fair Pitti Immagine Uomo has welcomed back international buyers from countries such as Japan and South Korea, alongside guest designers from the UK, Finland, Belgium and more.
Brand owners are acknowledging that price hikes are inevitable for everything from raw materials to production and transportation. Reassuringly, however, no one seems willing to simply fall back on cost-cutting. Instead, designers are committing to quality, European manufacturing and partnerships with speciality menswear shops. Some mainstream department stores might have slowed down their investments in favour of riding the streetwear wave but there are plenty of other opportunities to do business with boutiques that continue to recognise the value of a good garment, according to Marie Ramberg, who represents Swedish shirt-maker Stenströms. “We’re still confident because we’re a brand that people can trust will deliver on staples,” she tells me. “That’s a strength during difficult economic times.”
She’s right: for many, the appeal has shifted from newness for its own sake to well-made, hard-working products. Examples at the fair include a smart velour polo shirt from up-and-coming Spanish label Unfeigned and Valstar’s luxurious brushed-wool and cashmere coat. Some in the fashion crowd might roll their eyes and dismiss such an approach as boring but Belgian designer Jan-Jan Van Essche proved them wrong on Wednesday with a captivating catwalk show and dance performance in the city’s Santa Maria Novella church complex that featured nothing but classic designs and great tailoring. It was a reminder that being the loudest person in the room isn’t the only way to make an impression.
Natalie Theodosi is Monocle’s fashion editor. Hear more from her time at Pitti on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’.