On Tuesday I was lucky enough to say a quick hello to one of my heroes, Italian innovator Nino Cerruti.
Heading towards his 85th birthday in September, this entrepreneur, designer and luxury market creator is frail now, but he still dresses imaginatively and immaculately and an inquisitive twinkle still lights up his eyes. The occasion was a celebration of the achievements of Il Signor Nino, staged in a small Florence museum by Pitti Immagine Uomo and built around the fascinating archive of his own clothes. Dozens of garments – bespoke and ready-to-wear – dating back to the 1950s are on display, an inspirational reminder of his personal stylishness and the longevity of his influence.
After the sudden death of his father in 1950, Cerruti, at the age of 19, was obliged to take over as head of Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti, the family weaving business in Biella, northern Italy, which had been founded in 1881 – a date that was to become an integral part of the brand for the ready-to-wear empire he developed from the mid-1960s.
The patrician and erudite Cerruti is, I believe, a grossly overlooked figure in post-war fashion history. If he is acknowledged at all, it is usually because he gave a window dresser called Giorgio Armani his first chance to design menswear for Cerruti’s innovative Hitman menswear label in 1964. Armani stayed until 1970. Cerruti also opened one of the first unisex boutiques (in Paris in 1967), developed a huge licensing empire and got into designing for movies, of which Pretty Woman (1990) is the best remembered.
Nino Cerruti is a lovely man, brilliant company and has an enviable insight into the role of fashion in society. During an interview I did with him in Biella a few years ago I asked what his view was on modern fashion trends. Thoughtfully, he said he was pleased that the old rules and restrictions on dress that he grew up with from the 1930s to early 1960s had been relaxed, but sagely added: “I don’t think we have ever lived in a time like today when ugliness is tolerated so much.”
With the warmer weather upon us (just in time for the summer Sales!) too many outfits sported by the British populace will remind us of the accuracy of Nino’s assessment. However, there was no sign of ugliness on the stands at Pitti Uomo, undoubtedly the best-dressed menswear show in the world. As we report on pages 2 to 3, there was an air of realistic confidence about the show with most progressive British exhibitors ready to enjoy the swings and roundabouts of currency gains and losses and differing conditions in different markets.
I was mildly disappointed that more British and Irish buyers did not make the trip, but the spring collections are, generally, less important than the autumn ones, so until the very good times return, we will not see a change to that pattern. There was not a lot of newness in the trends, but canny buyers – and hopefully discerning consumers – will like the attention to detail, attractive fabrications and injection of colour for spring 16, especially if they are fond of every shade of blue.
Just a final reminder that the deadline for the Drapers Awards 2015 has been extended by a week to Friday, June 26. New categories this year include Most Improved Retailer, The CSR Award, Best Innovation in Fashion Retailing and Best Place to Work. I strongly encourage major retailers and their suppliers to get behind the event this year.
Check out all the categories and criteria at Awards.drapersonline.com and give it your best shot.