Sunny skies and bright moods got the spring 20 trade show season off to a positive start, as brands and buyers descended on Florence for the 96th edition of Pitti Uomo.
The menswear trade show returned to the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy on 11-14 June. The “Pitti peacocks” preened in the sweltering heat of the Fortezza’s main courtyard, and there was a holiday atmosphere across the show as guests snacked on ice lollies and giant punnets of strawberries.
This positive attitude continued for the brands showing at the show. The mood was buoyant, and exhibitors stressed the continuing importance of the show and looked ahead warmly to the new season. Brands continued to do business on stands, and despite an overall malaise with the trade show format, exhibitors noted Pitti’s importance for both business and marketing purposes.
Although some exhibitors conceded that the summer edition is always more muted than the winter edition – as small retailers increasingly avoid travelling in the peak summer months – there was still an enthusiastic buzz and healthy flow of visitors across the four-day show.
Buyers from the UK were, as ever, strongly represented, and representatives of names such as Flannels, Next, Matchesfashion and Browns were all spotted. However, many brands had their eyes set on the international clientele – buyers from as far afield as Iran, Australia and South Africa. The Asian countries once again had a large contingent visiting the show. Thanks to its heritage reputation, Pitti is popular with Japanese and Korean buyers in particular.
The Eastern influence could also be seen in Pitti’s spring 20 guest nation: China. An exclusive area was dedicated to showcasing up and coming Chinese brands such as Pronounce, Private Policy and StaffOnly and the innovative and creative collections drew a buzz throughout the show.
Elsewhere, the Karl Lagerfeld stand was one of the most popular across the four days. The label held a tribute to the designer, who passed away in January 2019, in the form of a giant, graffiti-emblazoned wall in the centre of the Pitti courtyard.
Other impressive stands included Ben Sherman’s return to Pitti for the first time in seven years with a London-themed space, complete with Tube signs and underground bar, and British brand Baracuta’s jacket customisation station.
Several trends began to emerge as key for spring 20. Textured T-shirts in terry fabrications were spotted at Ben Sherman and Portuguese brand +351, the 1990s influence continued to dominate young fashion focused brands, and a soft colour palette of rose pink and pistachio greens was widely popular.
As ever with Pitti, the events outside of the main trade show were a vital part of its appeal, and the streets of Florence were abuzz with visiting buyers and brands revelling in the sunny weather – as many Brits gleefully celebrated the contrast to the UK’s outlook.
Elsewhere, this season’s guest designer, Clare Waight Keller showed the Givenchy menswear offer as Pitti’s guest designer. Waight Keller’s debut standalone menswear show was hosted in the dramatic, glamorous Villa Palmieri in the hills near the city. Dubbed “Nouveau Glitch”, it celebrated a fusion of historical opulence – in rich textures, colours and luxurious fabrications – contrasted with hyper-modern, urban styles.
The Givenchy show’s mix of the historical and modern was a fitting summation of this year’s Pitti vibe – celebrating menswear traditions and encouraging creative innovations in equal part.
The Mood at Pitti
Joe Hutchings, brand director, Grenson
We see a lot of key accounts here early and use it as an opportunity to write orders as we might not get the chance to see buyers again after this. They are so busy and have so many brands to see that if we can make it easier for them and write orders on the stand, it makes sense.
This means both Pitti and Paris are very important for us. Although we do see a lot of UK buyers, here it tends to be fewer in the summer. Winter is more important for them, and they often come for less time in the summer.
Pitti is always a great show for us. We’ve met with American and UK department stores along with UK and international independents.
We do see a lot of Asian buyers, but they’re not coming to write orders – that is all done in showroom appointments in Paris. However, as we deal with Japan and other Asian markets directly, it’s important that we come here to get exposure.
Mark McAnulty, sales manager, Gloverall
We’ve not seen many UK buyers here, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of UK independents. It was quite slow on the first day, and day two was busy but with a lot of press. However, we have had a lot of Korean and Chinese interest, and we have got a big business there.
It’s definitely a more premium crowd at Pitti than at other shows, and you need individuality to stand out. Although we’re a classic menswear brand, this season we’re moving to a different level – with higher quality and higher prices. Pitti is the right place to show that.
After this we will take the collection to Paris for the first time, as part of the Polly King & Co showroom. We won’t be doing Moda or Jacket Required.
Tony Evans, managing director, Gola
Pitti is not about writing orders. For us it’s about showcasing the brand to markets we’re not in. It’s a meeting place and has a global reach that other trade shows don’t. We’ve seen mainly Italian, Japanese and Korean buyers, which are all good markets for us, alongside some Benelux buyers.
This is definitely the right environment for us to be showing, alongside other similar brands here [in the I Play streetwear hall]. At Pitti you know you’re going to see a strong Asian and European representation.
We will do Seek this year followed by Modefabriek [in Amsterdam] for the first time. Benelux is a growing market for us.
You have to have a specific reason to do trade shows. For example, in America we’re a small brand in a huge market so we do shows there to get visibility.
Sandra Duke, head of wholesale, Cambridge Satchel Company
It’s our first time showing at Pitti [in the Pitti Uomo hall] for several years, and we came back because of the opportunity it gives us to promote the men’s side of our offering. It’s an easy fit for our products for the smart guys and retailers that come to Pitti, but the show’s variety also allows us to showcase our products for younger consumers.
We’ve not seen as many Americans as we thought we would, and we’ve been surprised by the predominance of Asian buyers. We’re very interested in Japanese and American buyers and are pushing wholesale into new international markets. It was a slow start on the first day but has picked up and is much busier the second. It will be the only trade show we do this season.
Morten Hvidtsted, managing director, Native North
UK buyers are everywhere at Pitti. It’s been a mix of the bigger retailers as well as a handful of independents. We’ve seen the more premium department stores that have slightly better reputation and individual style.
It’s our first time at Pitti and we’re in a good location next to Oliver Spencer [in contemporary hall L’Altro Uomo]. It’s helpful that there are a lot of similar style brands on this floor that share the same retailers, so traffic has been really good.
We also show in Copenhagen, but Scandinavia is a relatively small market. Most of our new customers come from Pitti, London and showrooms in New York.
Nils de Wolf, sales director EMEA, Herschel
This is our first time at Pitti. It’s great that the brands booths are so well curated, rather than just showing whole collections. It means our location in the streetwear area [I Play] works really well because brands have refined what they’re showing.
Pitti is a globally relevant show, and although we’ve seen mostly Italians there have also been buyers from Japan and Iran alongside the main European countries. We mainly focus on Seek in Berlin and our Paris showroom after Pitti for the season. In the UK we pulled out from Jacket Required this season – the show was not working for the brand.
Sigurd Bank, founder, MFPEN
Although it’s my third year at Pitti, I’m here for the first time with a new Italian agency. The first day of the show started a bit slow, but I like the curation of Scandinavian brands by Revolver in the Scandinavian Manifesto area. In a big trade show, it is good to have a specifically curated area. Other trade shows can be very sprawling.
At Pitti most of the UK buyers are from the top premium retailers, like Browns, who do the full tour of Milan, Pitti, Paris and New York. Smaller independents tend to just do Paris. Because of that, trade shows are dying as a platform for brands.
There are so many brands around now and while it’s harder to get buyers into showroom appointments, the advantage is that you therefore have to be on a certain level to compete.