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Indies stay away as brands play it safe on trends at Pitti

UK independents were thin on the ground at menswear show Pitti Uomo in Florence this week, with most brands relying on safe looks from last summer.

Many exhibitors told Drapers that although buyers from the UK's main chains were all present, they had seen fewer indies than during the previous summer.

Most blamed difficult trading this spring and the pull of more trend-led shows such as Bread & Butter.

UK department store groups including Selfridges, House of Fraser and Harrods visited Pitti. But many indies settled for short visits, flying out on Wednesday and returning on Thursday afternoon.

Giulio Cinque, owner of Giulio in Cambridge, said: "I came for a day and a half and was hoping to find some new trends rather than new labels, but I didn't really see it. The modern classic brands didn't seem to have picked up on any of the trends, such as narrower trousers, slim shirts or smaller collars."

Most exhibitors were upbeat about business at the show, although much of the interest came from international buyers.

Tim Horsley, UK agent for Italian brand Canali, said: "We've seen Harrods and Selfridges but, apart from Flannels, we've seen no UK indies. I think the start to the year was difficult for retailers. April was a disaster, but it's picked up. Buyers are quite happy with what they have and aren't necessarily looking for new brands."

Official figures reported 628 UK visitors, compared with 629 last year. The total number of visitors was down slightly to 21,219, from 21,683.

While most tailoring trends mirrored last year's looks, with beige, cream and grey remaining prominent, some buyers said a handful of brands still offered something new, especially in casual product.

Selina Jones, buyer for casualwear brands at House of Fraser, said: "Some of the brands are moving out of their comfort zone a little, which is good to see. They are moving away from plain dark polo tops. There are more prints and colours, such as cobalt blue and yellow, coming through."

Exhibitors in the new Salon M area, which housed many UK brands including the British Menswear Guild, were pleased with footfall, despite early reservations about moving to the lower ground floor of the Padiglione Centrale building.

Raffaello Napoleone, chief executive of show organiser Pitti Immagine, said he was happy with the attendance despite a 24-hour train strike from Thursday to Friday evening. "There have not been any complaints, but the strike is annoying because 60% of visitors come to the show by train."

Napoleone also dismissed rumours that Pitti Uomo could move to another venue or city.

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