Held within the walls of the 14th-century Fortezza da Basso in Florence, menswear tradeshow Pitti Uomo is famed in the fashion world for being a spot for posing, peacocking and, of course, purchasing, too.
This year was no exception and some 30,000 visitors – many braving the balmy heat in wide-brimmed boaters and double-breasted jackets – pawed through the SS16 offerings of menswear’s best and brightest designers. As the 88th installment drew to a close last week (and figures confirmed a five per cent surge in buyer’s numbers from last summer), the good weather and buoyant mood belied the ongoing jostling between the Italian tradeshow and an English upstart.
Three years since the launch of London Collections: Men (LCM), Florence still finds itself competing for prominence and footfall with the British capital. Initial scheduling clashes in 2012 even lead to planes being chartered to allow the international press to attend both events.
In future the calendar will be divided amicably between the respective tradeshows; well that’s what Pitti’s manganimous CEO Raffaello Napoleone says when we meet on the final day of this year’s show. But Pitti’s numbers suggest that despite vast increases in visitors from Germany, France, Spain, Holland and Switzerland, the number of British visitors remained merely steady.
This offers a clue that LCM may now be the show of choice for less established designers whose businesses are not yet ready to compete on the international stage – an admirable niche that LCM should be commended for catering to.
Despite its detractors, the London-based show seems to have found its feet, as well as a willing market. Post-show reports suggest – among the spurious listings detailing the amount of cappuccinos served (5,000 cups, apparently) – that press and buyers in attendance have almost doubled since it launched. But despite its growing clout, for me LCM still lacks the pageantry and sense of place that have come to define its Italian adversary.
Although much has been made of the competition between shows, the city of Florence itself is key to Pitti’s persisting charm. Riotous parties are held in age-old palazzos, Aperols are ordered by the dozen and destination bars like Gilli in the Piazza della Repubblica are thronged until the wee hours. Pitti Uomo may no longer be the first show in the fashion calendar but in an industry where image is everything, it remains the calendar’s most lively and anticipated offering.
Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s Design/ Edits Editor.