The 87th edition of biannual menswear trade show Pitti Uomo in Florence closed this weekend. The outlook of the show was sunny and not just due to the mild weather, which brought out the usual swarm of peacocks parading around the Fortezza da Basso in double-breasteds, triple-welteds and well-accessorised outfits. Preliminary figures for attendance show it was a positive edition: 24,000 buyers were at the fair – up 18 per cent compared to this time last year – with a total of 1,200 exhibitors showing off their wares.
The sunny statistics were to be expected, especially compared to last January’s rather damp edition. In 2014, Pitti Uomo had its feet trodden on by the new young upstart on the menswear calendar, London Collections: Men. This time last year the events overlapped by two days with press, buyers and members of Pitti Uomo’s governing body Pitti Immagine having to charter a private jet out after the Burberry show in London on 8 January in order to get to Florence before Pitti Uomo ended on 10 January. But the British Fashion Council and Pitti Immagine have crucially sorted out their differences, meaning this year they both got their own four-day stretch in the calendar.
But the problem for both London Collections: Men and Pitti Uomo runs far deeper than scheduling. It also signifies an increasing nationalisation of the menswear industry. Italian buyers increased 20 per cent at this edition of Pitti Uomo, which shows the industry there is finally beginning to really recover from the effects of the financial crisis, but the numbers of international buyers increased by just 13 per cent. The collections at Pitti Uomo were strong but there was very little in the way of new finds, especially international ones. The event is still feeling the threat of London Collections: Men. Representatives from one major British brand I spoke to had left many of its key pieces for autumn/winter back home in London, where it hosted a big presentation on the opening night of London Collections: Men – they had to show me them on an iPad. That’s fine by me but what if I was a big Isetan buyer with even bigger bucks to spend and – as is more than likely – I am yet to take London Collections: Men seriously as a place to put in orders?
London Collections: Men is brilliant for its home city but the British Fashion Council is cagey about visitor numbers, especially those coming from abroad. But it feels resolutely, parochially and proudly British as an event – do we really need to see so much of David Gandy in a Savile Row suit? This actually goes against the grain of the menswear business, which for years has been a happy global community served by international gatherings at places such as Pitti Uomo. Yet the balance is tipping. Late last year it was announced that Bread & Butter – a key fair on the trade circuit with biannual shows in both Barcelona and Berlin – will be indefinitely cancelled. Bread & Butter, like Pitti, was always borderless: a gathering place for global brands to meet on neutral territory and be seen and bought by a global set of buyers and press. Its cancelation is another blow to the internationality of the industry.
Come rain or shine, Pitti Uomo will always reign supreme but the organisers need to keep the outward-looking global flavour of the event alive and to make sure those visitor numbers keep to a steady ascent – as cities such as London draw back their talent.
Tom Morris is design editor for Monocle. Listen to his special report from Pitti Uomo on this week's episode of 'Section D', broadcasting on Tuesday at 19.00 UK time.