How was Pitti?

Friday, June 21st 2024
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Forgive me dear reader for writing about Pitti, but so many people have asked about it since the summer edition last week - both industry people and, perhaps surprisingly, readers - that it seemed worthwhile. 

The news isn’t good. There are fewer brands and some buildings remain closed. One London shop we all know said that since Covid, five of their suppliers have stopped showing and now are only in Milan. The Armoury only had Alan there, when they used to send a squad. 

The Wednesday was busy, but Thursday was quiet, and Friday was dead. Friday has always been an odd one, with brands trying to work out how soon they could start closing down their booth, but this was the first time everything just shut down early, apparently. Two agents we know left on the Thursday evening, knowing this was coming. 

Yet the parties are getting bigger and bigger. At the Wm Brown drinks on Wednesday evening, they had to pre-mix negronis to try and keep up with demand. There was still a 20-minute wait to get a drink, and it actually became a cash bar at 8 o’clock, at which point the place thinned out suspiciously. 

I love these parties; they’re great fun. My favourite is the drinks on Thursday night organised by Jake Mueser and Maximilian Mogg, where a couple of hundred people attempt to squeeze onto a narrow street, and cheer the cars that try to drive through them. 

The problem is, these are all work events for me and many others, and if they stop making sense from a work point of view, I won’t be able to come - or maybe come for only one day. I’ll go to Milan or Paris instead. 

If the Japanese and Americans I want to meet don’t go, then I’ll stop coming. I’d suggest that if people like me stop going, some others that want to meet me and tell me about their brand, will also stop. The layers peel away until only the tourists are left. 

A friend likened the situation to a dead whale floating to the bottom of the ocean. The animals that feed on the carcass are having a great time, but the whale is dead, and at some point it will all be gone. 

This is too harsh: the whale isn’t dead yet. But there seem to be fundamental problems with the fair, disguised online by a blizzard of cocktail-drinking. 

Talking of photos, it’s easy to forget that the more important photography has also slowly disappeared. Big magazines no longer want Pitti street-style photos as much, and so there are fewer photographers. There are fewer people posing to have their photo taken as a result: it’s the same vicious cycle as between brands and buyers. 

And while it’s easy to mock the posing peacocks, I know so many readers that enjoyed seeing what their favourite people were wearing to Pitti. I still post a photo each day, because people ask, and I’d like to see everyone else’s as well.

“Pitti used to be good for two things,” a magazine editor told me this week. “There was always a little brand you discovered - some French pyjama maker or something equally obscure - and you could do trend pieces based on what everyone was wearing. 

“Both of those things have disappeared. The brands are all the same, with generally lower quality. And there are fewer really stylish people going, so the big trend feature we used to do no longer works.”

I’ve seen these trends myself in the past 11 years. When I first went, the biggest party was drinks at Liverano & Liverano. There were maybe a hundred people, a great band, and everyone in there was a hero I wanted to talk to. 

It used to be even better still. At the Mueser/Mogg evening I spent a good half hour chatting to an Italian cloth agent who first came in 1984 (as I said, these are work events - not just chatting to friends). He talked of the little booths containing Kiton, Attolini and Brioni, with the founders themselves there. I wish I had a time machine and could go see it all.

Pitti is still, of course, wonderful. If I compare it to the industry events I used to go to in my previous life, it’s a hell of a lot more glamorous and fun - and more fun than buying in Paris or Milan, or cloth fairs like Unica (above)

But to me it feels like something has to change, before the whale actually dies. If I was involved in Pitti I would try to bring more of the events and brands closer to the fair. I’d give them free spaces to hold events, and give deals to makers (and there are a lot of them) that show in hotel suites outside, inside. 

Pitti flies people over to cover the fair and puts on events, like the Paul Smith one this time. But there’s no point bringing people over if there’s nothing to see. And shows like the Paul Smith one are a one-off. It needs substance before marketing.

Perhaps it would be nice if it were set up like a festival. Somewhere that customers and buyers were welcome but it was clearly a show, a place to show off your brand. A clean break with the idea of it being about wholesale and writing orders. Florence is an incredible location that everyone wants to go to  - the concept of Pitti just has to make sense. 

Street shots courtesy Maximilian Mogg. Normal non-industry business will be resumed in full force next week

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Dario

You had me laughing loud at “it actually became a cash bar at 8 o’clock, at which point the place thinned out suspiciously.”
About it being a place to show off your brand, if I have to go by my instagram feed, it kind of is… Many people I follow are there posing in outfits from a different brand each day. I don’t really know the extent of the business relationship, if they just get the clothes for free or are actually paid to go there, but it’s clear that both are getting something out of it.
Whether this helps the fair survive in the long run, it’s not something that I can answer.

Robin

Oh dear ! All sounds a bit down .

It’s not clear , to me, why things are not so good .
Is it the wider economy ? Change in tastes ? Has something like private equity moved into brands ? Etc etc

To the layman say at home looking at social media all seems alive and well at Pitti.
If anything the Instagram impression seems to be less tight fitting menswear .

Jan

Hi Simon, thank you for the analysis. Thoughtful as always and generally sad to hear. I must disagree though with the notion that “Overall times are tough”. Surely times are better than ever in many ways. If you are talking about the elite producers producing for the elite, then maybe things are more difficult (because of the competition of big fast manufacturers I guess), but generally speaking more people on this planet are able to spend money on clothes and things are going ok? Are you referring to the demand for quality? What’s tough exactly? Many thanks for your thoughts

H Robinson

speaking of Maximilian Mogg, I’ve been hoping for some time that he might be featured on PS, perhaps an interview – is this something that might be on the cards?

Eric Michel

Pittinstagram…

What you describe is happening globally: new generations do not attend events to meet with new people on site, but to share such events with their followers and then potentially attract new followers… You are mentioning 200 people events, they are sharing their feeds with ten of thousands and most of the time answer DM’s rather than meet new people in real life.

Events are converting more and more as a simple source of contents used to exist on social media…

Petronio

As far as I know Pitti is not open to the public (I found out since I wanted to go but I couldn’t). Due to the increasing interest of “ordinary people” to the products (the number of readers of PS is clearly an evidence of this) I wonder whether opening to the public might contribute to revitalize the whale.

Petronio

It is exactly what happens in Milan during the Design Week.

Petronio

A lot. Milanese people love the event for its inclusivity and the vibe it brings to all the city while they dislike the fashion weeks that essentially mean traffic, no taxi and restaurants fully booked for few events involving a closed community.

Max Alexander

Ciao Petronio, I used to go every year to a now mercifully defunct film rights market in Milan (MIFED). If I never see the Fiera Milano again (or the taxi queue at end of day), I shall be happy indeed…

Bob M

In a previous life, I manufactured clothing for technical sports. The big show was Salt Lake City, and it was big. But as the rate of new product introduction decreased, gatherings moved from the floor to hosted parties in hotel suites. When there is nothing new, it’s hard to justify continued investment. This is especially true when there are alternatives … Zoom, online catalogues, etc.
I’ve seen this trend for at least 40 years. It’s surprisingly predictable.

Bob M

The organizers retooled it with a bigger focus on connecting to its host community. Yes, more like a festival with more local involvement. They also changed dates to make it better align to buyers patterns. It’s smaller, probably more fun but at the same time, not as much a factor the way it once was.

Nick

What struck me this time was the amount of people not really aware of Pitti being a trade-fair and not primarily a menswear meetup, made up of negronis and cigars. I actually talked to someone on the Thursday who hadn’t been inside the halls at all yet (except to use the bathroom) although they attended the venue every day. What also struck me was the lack of awareness on how small the, neither buyer nor seller, menswear enthusiast crowd” is, compared to the people actually keeping the tradefair going. They are the most visible, but by no means an especially important part of keeping Pitti Uomo afloat. It was still, of course, a lot of fun.

Sartorialworld

Hello Simon,

I share a big part of your observations.
Perhaps a big event like Pitti is not more adapted to today’s world. It appears to me that 7-8 years ago, it was easier to come for 3 days for a little shop even in Europe as flight and b&b were not expensive. Today, everything is more expensive, so you really need to have a good reason to come.
In the same time, as you said, we are in an era where there are more makers closing their activity than opening new factories, so if a shop or brand manager is not looking for a supplier he already has, he has no reason to come.
I hope that things will change before it’s too late.

Zak Wagner

I think some type of fair is probably the answer too. The watch world had Bazel World and through covid it kind of died. But I think the Windup Watch Fair in the US is a great idea. I think brands are still getting work done, but then there is something for everyone to come and see as well. It’s like a trade event with a huge customer facing arm.

Bryan

That is a really good comparison. BaselWorld was getting so arrogantly expensive that it simply priced itself to death. Even companies like Patek, Omega & Rolex (all with unlimited budgets) walked away. The little company had no chance and it became a Hot-Take event for the inside crowd rather than helping the industry overall.
Increased costs, decreased exposure and the continued devaluation of quality will continue to hurt events like Pitti. Given the volume of clothing purchased untouched from Amazon, fast fashion and increase of synthetic materials, it is clear that physical events no longer hold the same value….especially if you don’t care about Followers & Influencers.
BaselWorld wrongly assumed it was the star of the show rather than the participants. It imploded in less than a single year.

Matrix.RX1

BaselWorld died mostly because of the management, which lived as lavish as I amhave ever heard a board live.

Bryan

Correct, I’ve heard that rumour also. Combined with other Basel events dying, the management kept overcharging the watch companies to offset.

My point is mainly that industries change and physical events like Pitti/BaselWorld aren’t as vital. This isn’t good though, as it limits exposure of smaller companies and manufacturers.

Victor Kernes

Simon, thanks for the insight into Pitti. I was hoping to make it this year for the first time, however I’m starting to second guess whether or not it makes sense to try for next year’s event. Are you seeing any folks (like the Japanese and Americans, other niche brands, industry people, etc.) migrate to another event? More so in Milan or Paris? Or neither? Cheers.

Victor Kernes

Wonderful, thank you, Simon.

Ondrej

A general trend indeed. You hear the same story over and over again. Car shows like those in Frankfurt or Geneva are gone. Computer exhibitions such as CeBIT or E3 for gaming, and watch exhibitions like Baselworld, have all disappeared.

Burt

Dear Simon,
A couple of years ago you organised a meeting between tailors from all over the globe, and what appealed to me then was the differences in approach, but at the same time the focus on craft. I re-read the article (and video, I belief) a couple of times. Would you still organize such an event today?
Or put another way are there still tailors attending from London, Italy, Japan or other places? And if so, for what reasons? Thanks!

David

Going forward I think the future for luxury menswear (and therefore the future of PS) is to find interesting ways to review star products.
For example there have been many launches from PS but we never hear how a ‘real consumer’ is enjoying the product. This is the missing piece of the jigsaw.
Indeed the popularity of ‘Readers Profiles’ would endorse this thought and seeing product in action would certainly give boutique brands an edge over their Bond Street rivals.
This for me is much more important and productive then trying to revive flagging trade shows.
Also what about some embedded videos featuring star products in action ?

Nicolas Strömbäck

Second this. The Reader profiles combined with exploring new brands, stores or the like is what is interesting. Combine this with the pop-ups (even though I havent been able to attend yet) that is great setup.

Johnny Foreigner

Tailors don’t go to Pitti, and that says it all.

J Crewless

Sounds as though its run its course as there’s a staleness creeping in. For what it’s worth, and this seems to be an unpopular opinion on PS, I loved the pics of the Peacocks in the Heyday.

Tom

Hiya Simon,

Slightly off topic but what cut of jean do you go for – straight/slightly tapered?

I’ve been wearing my chinos a lot lately and am beginning to look at my jeans and wishing they were broader – both the chinos and jeans are from Blackhorse Lane so the quality is great but the chinos are their W11 model and my jeans are the NW8 model.

Secondly have you tried Anglo Italian’s jeans?

Thanks

T

Tom

Hiya Simon,
Thanks for this, it’s very useful.
My main reason for considering AI is that they have washes which I think would be difficult to achieve from other new/raw denims, and hopefully a broader leg to work with tailoring.
Was that your experience with them?
T

Tom

Thanks for the feedback Simon!

Tom

Hiya Simon,
If I could pick this up again, I tried the AI jeans and ultimately came to the same conclusion as you. Like a stubborn child, I had to try it my way!
Having read your article about your favourite pairs of jeans, if I were to put you on the spot, could you choose between your Bryceland’s pair or Rubato? In both black and blue. Which would come out on top and why?
I have been considering the NW1 model from BHL for a broader legged jean but would like to try Bryceland’s when they’re available.
T

Tom

Thanks again

Max Alexander

Interesting post on an event I shall never attend despite my passion for menswear, and my living 90 minutes away, as I am not in the menswear business.
Which doesn’t seem to stop many of the attendees I see on IG. A lot of the partygoers appear to be Yanks playing dress-up on their Italian sojourn. I have no problem with that, and generally find the photos entertaining if often as comedy. Sometimes I even see looks that I like, and inspire me.
But peacock parties wouldn’t seem a sustainable business plan.
As reflected in comments below, most of my friends here in Rome who genuinely are in the business (tailors, stylists) no longer go to Pitti. They already have more customers than they can service given the dearth of young workers, so no need to show off in Florence. As for acquiring shop stock like belts and shoes, they already know all the Italian small artisans and don’t need to roam event halls in search of merch.

Dimitris

Good evening Simon, everybody. Ι’ve never been to the Pitti, but I’d love to one day, summer and winter also. I would like to go, mainly to meet people with common -as mine- clothing interests, dressed in their best. To spend my money there an not to… “it actually became a cash bar at 8 o’clock, at which point the place thinned out suspiciously.”!!! Something like a celebration, thats the way i see it. I don’t own a retail store, so i’m not interested in wholesale orders. Then, to my opinion it is a casual clothing exhibition. Most of my clothes are tailored and my needs for casual are easily covered by the clothing shops in Athens where i live, or by the internet. Somebody wrote that the exhibition is not open to the common, but only to traders… tragic… And after that, to visit the show, you have to book the hotel and the flights months before (not sure, i guess so because of the people flow), ways i dont like. I noticed long ago, that some folks laugh at the peacocks. I believe that without them Pitti would not even exist these nowadays. Finally, Pitti is a dream, a wish, for the reasons i said before and a possible suspension of it would be something like the end of an era for me

WES WP

Probably the best piece you’ve ever written, Simon. It’s a bit like: Truman Capote’s The Dog’s Bark meets New Yorker Magazine’s “Talk of the Town.”
A joy to read this (despite what the story augurs).

Nigel C

Hi Simon
At first I thought you’d gone all Lady Whistledown on us with your opening line.
Like all of life things move on. I cannot be the only one who looks on social media and sees the same people doing the same thing on multiple accounts. Negroni and cigar anyone? After a while you just disconnect – unfollow. I wonder if that is contributing here too. Not sure I’d want to do business in what seems to have become a social event.
Your profile of Tetsuya this week brought it home to me that something a little real and normal that we can relate to more easily is what we need. I love that his considered approach made me think not about acquiring more but about reappraising clothes I already have and about how I can wear them differently. It’s probably harder to find these subjects but very rewarding.
Keep up the good work.
Best wishes Nigel

Wouter de Clerck

Second the comment on the Negronis. Surely the avant garde can come up with something more original to drink now that even 43-year old lawyers in Dutch university towns have caught on?
And excellent article, Simon, thanks. Love your writing.

John

Great article as always, it’s an unfortunate thing I’ve never been to Piti but I’ve always wanted and from what I’ve seen it thus seem to be on the decline especially since covid. Pre covid it seemed like there was a good mix of satirical tourism and brand exposure but since Covid the brand exposure has gone down. But the idea of creating a festival sounds like a good way of salvaging it as theirs a risk that it becomes like Basel world.
But that is the risk of a good thing not evolving.

Dimitris

Simon, which precovid years do you believe was the Pitti Uomo’s peak?

Fenvig

Like a ‘Coachella of Tacky Taste’ it seems

Matt

It’s a Pitti that it’s come to this

Alec

A great article. I’m always hoping you’ll write more posts like this about the deep realignments taking place in menswear industry post COVID (not style choices but rather what tectonics are driving the artisans, the brands, the workers, the customers). But it still feels like menswear is in a rapid period of flux. And the changes are very different in Asia versus Italy versus London. It’s still difficult to predict where the new normal will be. Pitti is perhaps the closest we get to a global overview since it draws people and brands from all over.

Stefan

I need that grey wool (?) polo shirt on the second picture. Any guess what it can be?

Ruggero

I used to attend 10 years ago, the marvelous Liverano band and The Rake parties full of sartorial idols. I remember my only goal was to say hello to you but you were chatting with Mr.Cifonelli in the Four Seasons’ garden…I didn’t dare to interrupt!
I agree on your suggestion to bring all the events and parties back to la fortezza, to really leverage the fair as an hub for like minded individuals to meet, do business, be inspired.