The autumn 20 edition of Italian menswear trade show Pitti Uomo was comparatively slow, but exhibitors praised the quality of buyers
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Barely back from its collective desks after the festive break and the fashion industry was straight into the new buying season, which kicked off with Italian menswear trade show Pitti Uomo. Held at Florence’s Fortezza Da Basso on 7-10 January, the mood of the show was buzzy and upbeat. The first day was noticeably quieter than previous seasons – perhaps a result of a European public holiday, which fell on a Monday this year – and there was a slower trickle of visitors making their way through the gates of the imposing fort than usual. However, footfall rapidly picked up on subsequent days and the show drew large crowds.
It was a case of quality rather than quantity for the UK buying cohort. Although comparatively few British voices were heard in Pitti’s sprawling halls, the show attracted top-tier retailers. Names such as End, Next, Browns, Mr Porter and Tessuti were in attendance. Exhibitors were pleased with the international nature of the show, which drew visitors from as far afield as the US, Korea, and Japan, as well as from across Europe. There was a strong showing of buyers from the domestic Italian market. Some orders were spotted being written, especially from US buyers and smaller European independents. However, most exhibitors agreed that buyers came to get a first look at trends for the coming season and would place their orders later.
Unsurprisingly, sustainability was at the top of many brands’ agendas, and going green was a buzzword in conversations around the show. Sustainable initiatives from brands included organic and recycled cotton, down-free outerwear and carbon offsetting.
The UK’s impending exit from the European Union did not dominate conversations as was the case at previous editions – there was a sense that both buyers and brands wanted to get on with business as usual after months of uncertainty.
Among the British brands showing, both Ben Sherman and Superdry drew in crowds with dynamic themed stands: the former designed in the style of a vintage record shop and the latter impressing with its new premium sub-brands.
Streetwear remained an influence. There was an abundance of puffer jackets on display and many brands had also turned to their archives to create vintage-inspired pieces. Oversized checks and tartans were another trend – key examples came from Viyella and Barbour.
Exhibitors and buyers maintained a pleasantly positive outlook for autumn 20 and agreed that Pitti is still the tradeshow destination for menswear. Although there were some questions about the future of the trade show format, most brands remarked that the ability to network and showcase their product was still valuable.
The mood of the show
Oscar Macdonald, sales director, and Stuart Jamieson, executive director, Johnstons of Elgin
Tuesday was quiet, but it’s always a slow start at Pitti and it picked up on the second day. Pitti isn’t about the number of buyers that come to the stand – it’s about the quality. We’ve got a new account from a client in Paris who we’ve been speaking with for a couple of years, and it’s nice to see new faces from Russia, Korea, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Asia.
We come to Pitti with international hopes and to tap into the overseas markets as a lot of international buyers come here before heading to Milan to do their buying.
It also allows us to show existing customers what’s new. In general, buyers have been positive about the season, and we’re seeing people looking for product that is a little bit unusual. Coming from Scotland, everything can be traditional, but we have some great on-trend pieces to show.
We’ve been coming for years and Pitti is still recognised as the best show by far for menswear. From the UK we expect to see Mr Porter and Matchesfashion before the show is out.
David Keyte, co-founder, Universal Works
It seems to be more of the Italian stores that are here. We like to see the local stores and the southern Italian stores that don’t do Milan as much. However, as the show has progressed we have seen international visitors from the US, Asia and the Netherlands.
We come here to write orders – and to be able to attract the right new people. Pitti gives us accessibility. However, I would rather be doing just showrooms because it is a nicer environment.
Every season we consider the value and reason to come to trade shows. For us the show has felt good and is a positive start to season but it’s still so early. If buyers have had a good season with our brand, they will come back.
Mark McAnulty, head of sales, Gloverall
We’ve had a great reaction to the collection at Pitti – we’re showing a collaboration with [Japanese sportswear brand Descente] which has been a real hit with Japanese buyers, who we see lots of at Pitti.
We’re also playing with some higher price point products, such as a cashmere duffel coat, to gauge the reaction from buyers. Consumers are looking for something special, something different, and they are prepared to pay more for the right product. Products like ours last a lifetime, which is increasingly the way the market is going – shoppers are prioritising quality, not quantity.
The show is mainly a place for buyers to window shop and get a feel for the trends for the season, but we have had a few people writing orders on the stand, such as independents from Switzerland and Belgium. You have to be at this show – it is a must for menswear.
Nicole Lawson, international sales manager, John Smedley
The first day was a little quiet, but we still had some good-quality buyers visit the stand. Footfall definitely picked up over the subsequent days and, all in all, it was a good show. We come to Pitti to see international buyers and that’s definitely who visited the stand – obviously there was a large proportion from Italy, but also from the US, Japan and Scandinavia.
Pitti is the first window on the new buying season: it gives everyone a first look. Buyers tend to come and see what’s here, then write their orders later. For us, this is the most important show in Europe.
Henry Hales, director, Sir Plus
It’s my first time at Pitti as I’ve always been a direct-to-consumer brand and I now want to grow the business. Pitti is the place to come to do that. I came here thinking if I can leave having paid off the cost of my stand then I would be happy and it looks like that is going to happen. So far I’ve met with lots of Italian buyers.
What’s been really good is the level of visitors, and also the social aspects to be able to meet the right people.
Sandra Duke, head of wholesale, Cambridge Satchel Company
We’re concerned that because of Brexit we might not see the European response this season, but we have seen a lot of German buyers – which is great because we don’t have much presence there – as well as Polish and Italian faces. It’s important to keep pushing European Union sales and showcase the brand at Pitti and not shy away because of Brexit.
Our location in the show among the sartorial brands fits really well and our product complements the “Pitti peacocks”.
There hasn’t been many from the UK other than Mr Porter, but we have seen a couple of Irish customers. A lot of people seem to be holding back on new orders and you hope you’d see that change for the summer edition.
We’re looking to explore the Berlin trade shows, as a lot of people are going back out there, as well as the Danish shows. But Pitti is the place to be for menswear with the buyers and press it draws in.
Daniel Gilchrist, international sales manager, Nicce
It’s our first time at Pitti, and its been a steady level of busy for us. We plan to go to Seek [in Berlin] as well this year, along side our Paris showroom. We expect Pitti to have more international buyers than Seek, but it’s been mostly Italian so far [halfway through the show]. From the UK, we’ve seen End and Browns and overall they have been positive as we have a strong outerwear focus for the season.
David Godfrey, regional manager, EMEA distributor markets and licensing, Barbour
The show was a little bit quieter than usual on the first day, although we were busy [on the stand]. We show with our distributor, WP Lavori, so we always get a lot of traffic. There has been a consistent flow of buyers, primarily from Italy but some from the UK, France and Asia. Pitti is an important show for us, as it kicks off the season for a lot of the trade. They come to get the general direction [of the collections], and then they will come into the showroom next week.
Andy Hewat, brand director – EMEA, Wolverine Europe, showing Sperry
It’s been a great show. We’ve seen retailers from the UK as well as Italy and Germany. We have come to showcase the winter side of Sperry, and we’re very pleased with the reaction we have had so far.
Buying season kicks off with positive Pitti