The long-held tradition of Pitti’s peacocks, men who embrace sartorial stylings and then turn the sophistication up to 1000, continues on to this day—even in a time when streetwear here in Florence still seems to take precedence. The trade fair is a hotbed for them: archetypal ‘gentleman’ running between meetings, while others wait around for the street style photographers to take note of their outfit each passing day. At a fashion event that always seems to be evolving, thanks in part to the rotating exhibitors and the guest designers that make their mark on each season here, these suave show-offs seem to be the only real constant. But what would Pitti be without them?
The second day at Pitti Uomo started early, as this year’s star guest designer Glenn Martens of Y/Project met with the press to discuss his Fall 2019 collection ahead of its final presentation, getting a closer look at Martens’ pieces, and the detailing that we missed out on on the runway. You can read our review of that here.
As well as talking us through the particulars of what was to come (as well as keeping some key things close to his chest), he bounced back multiple questions about the possibility of a bigger venture happening anytime soon: being enlisted by a legacy brand, like his contemporary Demna Gvasalia, to take over proceedings. He’d be an audacious choice for any brand that hadn’t dipped their toes into the unfamiliar quite yet, but his ability to create collections that channel peculiarity and beauty in equal measures mean I’m sure he’s more than up to the task; last night’s show proved that. But to quash any rumors, he did stress that he was more than happy with his current post too.
The first show of the day came courtesy of Concept Korea: the collaboration run by Pitti and KOCCA, the Korean Creative Content Agency. The programme exists to champion South Korean fashion talent here, in front of international press and buyers. This year’s choice designer, the preppy cult brand BEYOND CLOSET by Ko Tae Yong.
The collection, titled NAVY, or ‘New Archive of Valuable Years’, dwelled on Tae’s childhood fascination with the traditional Americana: the New York Yankees, Harley Davidsons, and military wear. It translated into a collection of detail-based, wearable pieces that would just as much at home in the wardrobe of a 19th-century English child of the aristocracy as it would a 2019 Depop obsessive. An eggshell blue knit sweater emblazoned with the image of a bulldog was a particular highlight, as well as a series of pinstriped and tartan shirts with knotted scarf collars, layered under cable-knit cardigans. A brilliant fusing of future and tradition—something we’ve seen work for Burberry and Gucci in the past few seasons—mean Tae stands a great chance of replicating his success in European markets too.
But perhaps the most eye-opening venture of the day was a visit to the market, encountering a number of brands who’ve brought their work from the world over to be exhibited here. In a miasmic sea of color and noise (the Urban tent, as fun as it may seem, is best avoided), there are a handful of exhibitors producing exemplary, often jaw-dropping work. Central Saint Martins graduate Eleanor McDonald caught my eye during her MA show last year; her men’s tailoring on show here is some of the most sensual and sophisticated you’ll see.
Then, there was HUEMN. Having focussed on graphic-led garments in the past, this genderless Indian fashion brand run by Pranav Misra and Shyma Shetty stands out for the pieces they’ve embellished with obscenely intricate detailing. The pair has designed a series of sweatshirts that have been hand beaded and embroidered to replicate paintings and photographs of their home country with so much precision that each sweater takes up to six weeks to complete.
It serves as a stark reminder that, no matter how mundane menswear might seem to sniffy critics in comparison to the lustrous fantasies of women’s fashion, it’s possible to create something for a man that’s so stunning it can stop you in your tracks.