A Pitti diary: The experience, the brands, the parties

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Pitti is a long trade show: four full days, when most are usually three. As a result, by Friday everyone is exhausted, with selling, talking, and late dinners.

Although it does depend on why you’re there. Most people fall into one of three groups:

  • Exhibitors, who have to be there are 8:30am every morning on the stand, and so aren’t always out late;
  • Those meeting them, such as buyers, photographers and journalists, who don’t have to get up quite as early, but still have to work all day;
  • And tourists and hangers on, who are largely there to attend the parties and take pictures of themselves. They can do whatever they like.

One of the helpful things about this Pitti for me was that I was staying with three guys in the middle group: photographer Jamie Ferguson, journalist Aleks Cvetkovic, and PR Jon Holt.

We were all up and out in the morning, but would be back in the late afternoon to write or edit, and then out to the same parties in the evening.

For me, work means seeing brands and artisans, which I’m covering for Permanent Style or other freelance work.

So there will probably be four or five exhibitors that I’ve known for a while but haven’t written about – with whom I make appointments to meet, learn their story, see their product, and cover in some depth.

This time two highlights were Rifugio and Orazio Luciano.

Both are probably names that readers will know. Rifugio is a leather-jackets manufacturer and Orazio a tailor, both based in Naples. Both are also sold around the world.

Things that particularly impressed me were Rifugio’s range of leathers, including incredibly soft baby goatskin, perforated calfskin, and deerskin that is treated to allow it to be unlined (most deer is too thick and fibrous to make an unlined jacket).

And at Orazio I started the process of having a jacket made, in order to construct a review.

Even at the first meeting, though, it was interesting to see the exclusive fabrics Orazio has – which of course is one thing a brand often has over bespoke (pale-grey cotton shown above).

Scattered around these appointments are catch ups with makers I know well, but want to know what they’re offering for this season next year.

(I normally only cover these on Instagram – so follow @permanentstylelondon posts and stories there to see them all.)

At Drake’s, there was a new line of knitted T-shirts (above) – which feels natural for where they are now, but is still a completely new category.

Begg were doing more with artists, which makes sense when you have such a blank canvas as a scarf to work with. And makes new collections easier when you already offer almost every colour imaginable.

The Workers Club had shirts made in India using local print techniques (above), which looked very cool. I also learnt that ikat is a rope-dying process rather than a design.

Chapal, meanwhile, are doing biker jackets in their typical thick sheepskin – which is a nice combination of thick leather that will wear in well, but without the stiffness of horsehide.

And Craftsman Clothing had more pieces in indigo (below), including bandanas, chore jackets and shawl-collar pyjama-like jackets.

I always stop by Seraphin, the Parisian leather-jackets maker, just because I can’t see anything in London.

The piece I loved best from Henri this time was a hand-dyed leather bomber that looked like watercolour (below). A bit showy, but such a lovely texture and colour combination.

It was also nice to catch up with Thomas Brunschwig, who is now working and designing with Ducal shoes in Italy, after a career that has taken in Corthay, Gaziano & Girling and Stefano Bemer.

Ducal don't do all their own making anymore - they design, cut and finish in-house, while using an external workshop for the stitching - and some of their designs are a bit loud for me. But I liked their Blake-stitched Belgian loafers and white grain-leather oxfords/lazymen (below).

In recent years I’ve aimed to spend one afternoon wandering around the whole show, deliberately avoiding places and brands I know best.

This is both to gain a general awareness of where the market is going, and to try and remain as open-minded as possible.

Testing your own style and preferences is what keeps them strong.

Nigel Cabourn is always interesting in that regard, as a modern workwear brand working at high quality.

I also saw the full ranges of a few of the brands carried by Trunk and No Man Walks Alone that I rarely cover: Monitaly, Barbarulo, De Bonne Facture and so on.

And I stumbled across Meindl (above), the German deerskin specialist that makes traditional hunting leathers, lederhosen shorts and a huge volume of hiking boots. Apparently they’re the largest leather manufacturer in western Europe.

I knew the name from Connolly, who carry a couple of Meindl leather jackets and trousers. I’m still not sure I’d ever wear any of it, but the feel of the deerskin is amazing, as is the dark, bark-like colour that comes from hand-dying. You really have to feel it in person to appreciate it.

There were many more. Troubadour’s hyper-technical bags; high tops at Paolo Scafora; the lovely shrunken leather at Acate (below). Visiting Pitti is terrible as a consumer, but as a journalist it’s amazing.

Then of course there are the dinners and the parties. Particularly enjoyable when you can avoid talking about menswear after eight hours of nothing else.

This year there was a dinner on the Tuesday hosted by Scandinavian Man – a fashion magazine founded by ex-Plaza editor Konrad Olsson, and which made a big deal recently of taking no display advertising.

Matt Hranek hosted everybody on Wednesday alongside Fox Brothers, showing the new edition of his magazine, Wm Brown. It’s the second time he and Douglas have done it, and it’s becoming the best party of the week.

And on the Thursday, there was a bike ride organised by Colnago bikes, Pissei cycling clothing, The Rake, Fox Brothers, Stefano Bemer and Sartoria Vestrucci.

A group of us got to ride on some new Colnagos, in Fox/Rake/Vestrucci/Bemer branded kit, and finish in the Florence velodrome for a party.

There’s nothing nicer than getting out of the city, and getting some exercise, after several days walking round a baking city in tailoring.

Pitti is a long show, but there are definitely perks.

Photography: Permanent Style, except top two images, @littlefatyaa

More on those two outfits in separate posts. Below: new Drake's jackets

 

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Anon

Has the ‘hangers-on’ camp shrunk in recent years? Perhaps I’m just paying less attention to it, but it seems there’s less of the ‘Pitti Peacock’ syndrome flying about on social media these days.

Anon

Interesting – I’m not sure what’s worse, to be honest. The peacocks might have looked ridiculous, but I feel influencers have become a particularly insidious feature of our current media landscape. Hopefully the tourists are experiencing more of Florence than the Pitti wall.

Bolaji

You couldn’t have summed it up better. Warhol foresaw it all.

Robin

Interesting to read how ‘hectic’ life as a blogger is .
On that note might I take this opportunity to ask how life as changed for you as a blogger ?
One of main reasons for asking is that there are many trying to be ‘rich overnight’ and being encouraged by those who have ‘made it’ .
I know some of your back story (10 years working and blogging before you took it on full time) but I think it would be useful to get some real perspective from a more sober , distinguished gent (rather then the hyped t shirt wearing Gary Veynarchuk ).

P.S. Given the enormous amount of information out there yours is the only blog I look forward to . And that alone says a lot.

Mansy

With your permission, may I vent on two Pitti-related subjects please?

1. There seems to be a sort of sartorial machismo involved in dressing very formally (dark double breasted suits, neck tie, socks) in near 40 degree heat. Even allowing for the cooling effects of high twist wools and gauzy linen shirts some of the crowd (not all) just don’t look comfortable to me and, as I’ve learned all too slowly, this is the cornerstone to looking elegant. Then again I start sweating once the mercury crosses 20 degrees so maybe it’s just me that’s uncomfortable and I need to get over it. I’m not advocating Bermuda shorts and a T but something that is in harmony with the weather rather than a look you’ve been planning on wearing to Pitti for the last six months irrespective of rain or shine.

2. If I see another influencer fondling a negroni…[self-censored]

Simon, you looked smashing as always! The linen mandarin-style jacket from Prologue is magnificent.

Rabster

Interesting you mention some of the new brands at Pitti .
Some of the brands / people I have learnt about / used since reading PS …….
Incotex
Boglioli
Caruso
The Gigi
Drakes
Trunk Clothiers
Graham Brown
Prologue
Simone Abbarchi
Luca Avertable
Sunspel

Given the price points of the above who else should I now entertain ?

jamiemcp

Can we get a review of the bike please

Peter K

From the picture of you holding the bike it must be quite light.

Scott

Tell us more about Acate bags please. I’ve never heard of this maker.

Anonymous

Meindl are, and have been for many years, well known as a manufacturer of excellent alpine/trekking/hiking boots. Indeed there are few that rival or are better due to the suppleness of the leather.

Dan

Interesting you are having a jacket made by Orazio. Is it bespoke or MTM? I thought about Orazio, but felt the price for MTM was too much compared to other true bespoke offerings. Could you advise the cost? Looking forward to the review.

JDV

And time. Take measurements and you’ll get your jacket in 6 weeks. With travels and so forth my bespoke jackets take up to one or even 1,5 year for a suit. Jean-Manuel-Moreau in Paris is actually quite cheaper. I payed EUR 1890 for a Jacket.

Dan

For me, JMM is not an option as I find it is hard to obtain an appointment with him and I do not get notified when he comes to the States where I live. I cannot just jump on a place to NYC with a one day notice he is visiting.

Andy Poupart

Speaking as one of those sartorial tourists, hangers-on if you like, I come to Pitti for two reasons. First and foremost, its a chance to meet up with people who have become good friends. We have a shared interest–menswear, and by coming to Florence I think we all experience, for a couple of days, conversations that we might not have the chance to have “back in the world”. Second, although I realize I may not engage with brands the way a buyer does, or even a journalist, I do appreciate the opportunity to talk to, and learn more about, brands I either use, admire, or would like to know more about. I had good conversations this year with people from Begg, Drake’s, Foster & Sons, Edward Green, Albert Thurston, Ettinger, Budd, Borsalino, Craftsman (I was one of their first customers and it was good to finally meet them) and quite a few more. In no instance did I get the impression that anyone was other than very happy to talk to me about what they do.

As I’m not a buyer or a vendor, Pitti can only be a social event for me. I don’t apologize for that whatsoever. One particular highlight was a conversation with Simon Crompton. I’m making plans to go back in January and next June, too. I’m not taking anything away from anyone else by being there and I shall continue to attend.

Jackson Hart

I see your point, but I also see Simon’s. I’d feel the same if people just showed up at my job to hang out. Did it occur to you that Simon was working and possibly wasn’t in the mood, was busy, tired and didn’t really want to chat with “fans” and spoke with you out of politeness? Maybe you did take something of value from others – their time. I don’t know….it’s tricky, but you have to imagine how you’d feel about being accosted constantly by well-meaning readers – I am sure asking for photos, etc. while you were dead tired and trying to work. Simon, I suppose you’re being forced to endure the unwanted and quite public life of a celebrity.

Andy Poupart

Hi Jackson! You’re quite right. I actually saw Simon several times actually at Pitti (meaning inside the show), but each time he was busy and I didn’t not intrude. One time, he was bust being photographed by Jamie Ferguson and I really, really wanted to go find out what they were doing, but I refrained. I only spoke to Simon in person at one of the evening events, where I figure conversation is largely the point.

As for the people working the stands, I am sensitive to the fact that they are there to conduct business. Some stands, like Drake’s, were extremely busy when I went by, others, like Ettinger, were not. So, if I have a question, or questions, I’ll ask. I also identify myself as a blogger (or even as a “sartorial tourist”). No one was anything other than seemingly delighted to chat. But I am (or at least I try to be) mindful of people’s time.

DE

Interesting comments Mr Poupart, I can’t imagine that anyone who knows your positive interest and love of menswear would think you ‘out of place’ at this event. Any supplier too busy to speak to you I’m sure would politely let you know. If this were a real problem, surely the Pitti show organisers would restrict ticket supply to ‘sartorial tourists’?

Jackson Hart

Fair enough, Andy. You were clearly being thoughtful and sensitive to others. I am not sure everyone came with the same kind of consideration.

Andy Poupart

Thank you, Simon. It’s always a pleasure chatting with you! I can imagine if you come to Pitti thinking it’s a retail event then you’ll be sorely disappointed. I do ask, if there’s something I especially like, when the item might become available. For example, Edward Green had some interesting new colors for the unlined Dover on display. Those are, I think, for SS20.

See you in January!

Joseph

Given how the sun is usually smiling on Firenze, I’ve wondered if the odd waistcoat is a handy companion for Pitti.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen you outfitted that way in your forays to warmer countries. Has the waistcoat fallen out of favor with you? (Also, weather permitting, would you ever go sockless or wear invisible socks with an odd waistcoat over a shirt and trousers?)

Joseph

Point taken on the difficulty of matching up waistcoats. I guess it’s hard for the odd waistcoat to escape part of its history: being an odd color or material, yet still being very much a dependent component of ensembles such as a morning coat or a stroller. It struggles when tried as something independent of another layer on top.

P.F.

Dear Simon,

Could you please explain what the “real” purpose of Pitti is? Is this the place where the stockists decide what products to buy? If so, how come does Trunk and Drake, stockists by themselves, have a stand?

Apart of the showing place of the famous peacocks, I have never fully grasped the raison d’être of Pitti.

Thank you for a great blog!

Matthew V

I admit that a trip to Pitt (to two) is on my bucket list, but as effectively a tourist / consumer / enthusiast , admittedly with a very keen interest in menswear and a little knowledge of the business, I thought that passes to the show were restricted to buyers and press? Or are some passed available to others? Or do the tourist element meet brands outside the show itself?

I would be interested to know (so I can start planning!)

Thanks.

Matthew V

Thanks.

Gauav Mehra

What are your thoughts on this growing phenomenon of brands having their own e-commerce shop and in essence competing with the stores they sell to? Did you hear of much pushback from the stores at Pitti when discussing their order for new inventory? How can stores compete under these circumstances where often the brand can sell for less on sale and offer a much wider selection.

Matt

I’m interested and pleased to hear that you’re dabbling in Orazio Luciano – a brand I’ve actually tried myself for a change, albeit in RTW. (I’m an easy fit, though.)
They aren’t as good as Attolini (in fit, finish, feel or fabrics) but still fantastic. I look forward to seeing your review.
Can you tell us what sort of cloth you chose?

Michael Murray

Morning all,

I am considering purchasing one of the Alfredo Rifugio leather jackets. I am curious if anyone has had experience with their product? I wear a size medium in the United States and typically wear a sweater and shirt under my leather jacket in the autumnal season. I’d really appreciate any insight someone could offer on sizing advice. I’m reaching out to The Rake as well since they are a stockist.

Michael

Christos Nyflis

Hi Simon,
it was nice meeting you in person in Pitti, even if it was just for a short discussion.
Thanks also for your quick advice at Drake’s!
As a shirtmaker and a long time buyer, I love Pitti for giving us the chance to meet interesting people and fellow artisans.

Max

Simon,

Apologies for the belated comment, but what make and model is the hat in the first picture? Many thanks.