The Pitti Effect: peacocks, peddlers and paparazzi. Lifting the lid on the Men of Pitti

A few have made it. Some are on their way. Others are just starting out. Many are just there to observe the grand spectacle unfold. One thing is for sure though, everyone is there to enjoy the circus that is the biannual Pitti Uomo Fair.

But Pitti Uomo hasn’t always been this bold, the atmosphere so ebullient. Once upon a time…not so long ago actually, the Pitti Uomo trade fair was a fairly pragmatic occasion where buyers in sensible suits would go about their business of visiting the booths, placing orders, having a chit-chat over a cigarette and espresso and then they’d move swiftly on. Many buyers would have gone about their meetings in one day and then flown the coop back to managing their respective businesses.

Well, what a difference a decade makes: Pitti Uomo has experienced a change over the past few years – at least on the face of it. Make no mistake, Pitti Uomo remains first and foremost a place of business, where orders are placed, relationships are formed and decisions are made as to what men will be wearing next season. But thanks to the rise of social media, Pitti Uomo has become so much more than a transactional marketplace – it has become the most important platform for menswear and accessories, for launching up and coming designers and for the dandies, peacocks and street-style darlings to exert their influence on the men’s fashion scene.

Which brings us to the question, who exactly are the ‘Uomini (and Donne) of Pitti’? We take a peek behind the kimono and guide you through the 5 types of people you’re likely to encounter around the Fortezza da Basso:

The Buyer

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Above: Buyers often are more discreet. However the gentleman in the green suit and bowtie is Antonello From AE Marmora fashion store.

Buyers include the big boys from major department stores from the US to Japan and can also include smaller men’s boutiques everywhere from the tried and tested men’s fashion capitals such as Milan and Vienna to Brooklyn NY, the home of hipster-dom. He’s got one eye on the latest trends and the other on what he can sell to his home market. Interested in the finished product, he’s hoping to square away a deal with eponymous Italian brands like Brunello Cucinelli or discover the next up and coming virtuoso from Tokyo. He might be here to order brogues, braces, boaters or double-breasted jackets. Either way, this is where the rubber meets the road and the buyer is likely to place orders for next season’s collection, essentially dictating what you will be wearing in about 9 months from now.

The Brand

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Above left to right in clockwise direction, heads of brands and brand owners: Jason Yeats, Massimo Pirrone, Thomas Op De Beeck and Leonida Ferrarese, Luca Rubinacci, Lino Ieluzzi and Andrea Luparelli, Angel Ramos (Pink Linen Suit) and Dean and Charles Bakes (centre photo).

At the one end of the spectrum, you have some of the largest fashion brands in the world who will set-up a booth in one of the Pitti Pavilions, maybe offering free drinks and gelati at their custom-built bars, replete with models and a DJ. Often these brands will host glitzy events outside of the Pitti Uomo Fair proper, held on hotel rooftops at night. Make no mistake, big investments are made by these brands to promote their collections to potential buyers.

At the other end of the spectrum, smaller boutique brands try a more personal touch. These brands are not just represented by chic jackets and fashionable pants, but by the passion and personality of the people who represent them. These fervent designers include the iconic Lino Ieluzzi of Al Bazar Milano, Jason Yates of Beckett and Robb, Leonida Ferrarese of Bottega Dalmut and our own Philippe Perzi; These menswear boutiques with their own label are at the Pitti Fair to plan their collections for the coming seasons. The Pitti Fair gives these brands an opportunity to place orders with suppliers (ranging from fabrics to cufflinks to socks), to network and to market their own brand.

These boutique brands may have set-up meetings with suppliers in advance or they may spontaneously drop into see supplier’s agents in any one of the thousands of booths housed inside the immense pavilions. They will try to get an understanding of what the supplier can do, including the standard of quality, reliability and if they can modify their product to their own liking and customer preferences. Some will haggle over quantities and whether they can have their own label on the garments. But they may also be discussing the formation of new partnerships with these suppliers, and securing their future through the evolution of another season, forged by the people around them. Representatives from brands will of course be wearing their own label – in the hope of being photographed by international press and street style photographers.

But it doesn’t stop there. Tailors such as Italy’s Massimo Pirrone and Andrea Luparelli, Brooklyn’s own ‘mod squad’ led by Angel Ramos and Manhattan father and son dynamic duo Charles and Dean Bakes have cleverly utilised the ‘brave new world’ of social media to give street style photographers and the world’s press a sartorial feast, as they pose and peacock around the Fortezza da Basso wearing their impeccably tailored suits and accessories well-chosen by a learned eye.

The Supplier

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Above left to right in clockwise direction: Silvano Imparato of Scabal and Davide Bianchi, Bevin Elias of By Elias, Silvano Imparato of Scabal and Davide Bianchi, Joao Paulo Rodrigues of Cabo D’Mar, Bevin Elias of By Elias, Renato Plutino (left) an agent of Brunello Cucinelli.

As is always the case, there are big and small suppliers. Many will have their booths set-up in one of the many pavilions at Pitti, where they are armed with swatches, samples and ready to take orders.

This includes the large weavers of the most beautiful fabrics in the world, such as Albini, Loro Piana, Fumagalli and Bresciani. However, let us not forget the local family-run knitwear and silk businesses, which have a deep heritage and commitment to hand craftsmanship, along with brands who are hoping to sell their accessories into menswear boutiques.

Whereas in the past you may have had the new kid on the block on the outskirts of the Fortezza or in nearby hotels, today you can also find them wandering amongst the dandies in the center of Pitti. A prime example can be seen through the surge in men’s bracelets and wrist bling over the past few years, which has seen suppliers busy amongst the dandies and bloggers, sharing samples of their creations and often finding willing ‘hand models’ to be photographed wearing their product, this blogger/buyer included.

But whether he’s an established supplier or an entrepreneur just starting out, the aim is the same; to maximize exposure and take orders. This direct contact between supplier and buyer, unencumbered by geography or financial constraints is part of what makes Pitti Uomo so unique and distinct from other fashion weeks,

The Influencer

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Above left to right in clockwise direction:Vincenzo Langella (Italy) , JoJo (Switzerland), Mariano Di Vaio (Italy), Antonio Turino (left) and Danilo Carnevale, Giorgio Giangiulio (Italy), Frank Galluci (Italy).

Fashion bloggers or fashion influencers arrived on the scene a decade ago and their power cannot be ignored. Many of them have a social media following that rivals traditional fashion magazines, so some have serious sway amongst a fashion-forward audience, interested more in photos rather than text. Brands collaborate with these bloggers/influencers/trendsetters/models/consultants/stylists or ‘slashies’ as we’ll call them, in order to promote their brand and connect to their fan-base. At Pitti Uomo, some of these brand ambassadors are professional models, but many are not – and that’s why the consumer can relate to them.

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Above left to right in clockwise direction: Guillaume Bo from Men Need More Style (France), Marco Taddei (Italy), Dejon Marquis (USA), Samir Imran (London/Dubai), Ricardo Vigano of The Stylian (Italy) and Alberto De Luca (Italy).

More so than in other countries, the Italians have really embraced the power of social media, genuinely sharing, liking, commenting, engaging and promoting people and products, without any sense of ‘tall poppy’ syndrome or trolling. The burgeoning presence of ‘slashies’ at Pitti Uomo over the years is like a celebrity troop coming to town, with photographers clambering to get a shot that no one else will have.

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Above left to right in clockwise direction: Francesco Costagliola and Fabio La Mantia (Italy), Justus F. Hansen (Germany), Fabrizio Oriani of Gentlemen’s Wear Daily (Italy), Gianni Fontana (Italy), Elias El-Indari (left) of Sydney Men’s Fashion Blog (Australia) and Adrian Azodi of The Monsieur Fox (Dubai/USA), Nick Wooster (USA), Miles Wharton of Men’s Fashion Blogger, A model from French Designer Lords and Fools (France).

If you needed any further proof of the power these fashion bloggers and influencers possess, it is in the figures; Fashion influencers like Mariano Di Vaio have 3.8 million followers on Instagram, whereas American GQ has 1.7 million. Vincenzo Langella has 118 thousand followers on Instagram, whilst Italian GQ has 20.3 thousand. Danilo Carnevale has 81.9 thousand followers on Instagram, whereas Vogue Hommes has 46.8 thousand. Other influencers at Pitti Uomo include Antonio Turino, Giorgio Giangiulio and one of our perennial favourites, Frank Galluci who between them have tens of thousands of followers.

The men you see littered all over people’s Instagram feeds, online galleries and on the pages of GQ are men who usually have the business acumen, the gift of the gab –speaking multiple languages, and an innate sense of style who have truly mastered the art of sprezzatura.

The Paparazzi

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Above left to right in clockwise direction: Photographers from around the world. Top middle photo in baseball cap, Neil Watson from A&H Magazine/Suitsupply (Canada). Bottom left, Luca Gallaccio from Bonne Gueule France, and bottom right, Alex King from Philippe Perzi Vienna.

Whether it’s the real OG’s like Scott Schuman, Tommy Ton, Kinta Kimura (from Japan’s Leon Magazine) or budding photographers/bloggers who just want to share their images on facebook, instagram, tumbler and the like, there’s no shortage of long and prime lenses clicking away, hoping to capture the fashion and frivolity of the Pitti Uomo Fair and of course that perfect Pitti Wall photo. Many photographers are freelancers and partner with bloggers and magazines just for the Pitti Uomo show, whilst some brands travel with their own photographers to capture their ambassadors or representatives wearing their product. The interdependent relationship between the street style photographers and the men who dress for them is partly responsible for the trend towards ‘dandyism’ afoot in the male population. The more that men are bombarded with images of rakish dudes popping up on their social media feed – who look just like them, but dressed really, really well – the more likely they are to have that epiphany, that ‘penny-dropping moment,’ that it’s cool to wear lots of colour, to dip their toe into old-school gentlemanly accouterment and to be more adventurous with their clothes. And as far as we’re concerned, that can only be a good thing.

Part of what makes Pitti Uomo so inspiring is that it’s a symbiotic melting pot of personalities from over 30 different nations. It’s a meeting of the minds of new talent and the old guard. International media, street style photographers and the men who dress for them, clamouring to be seen, whether it’s on the pages of GQ or someone’s Instagram feed. Sure, the patina of Pitti Uomo may have changed somewhat over the years, but underlying the peacocking and preening, it remains the epicenter for men’s style where the taste-makers, models and movers and shakers are taking care of business.