The Tuscan sun shone down on Pitti Uomo, which kicked off the international trade show season for spring 18. Running on 13-16 June at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, there was a sunny atmosphere and positive fizz from buyers and brands alike at a show where orders were written and big brands made an impact.
The show got off to a positive start on day one, and the ferocious heat lent it a holiday atmosphere as visitors wandered the grounds with ice creams in hand. By day two, most of the UK buyers had arrived. While there may have been some sore heads lurking away from the heat after an exuberant first evening in the Tuscan city, buyers hit the floor and business was done across the show. A similar story persisted on day three, which had a buzz from the early hours, and brands anticipated another strong showing from both UK and international buyers.
This year, the menswear trade show took the theme of “Pitti in Bloom” and billowing floral banners dominated the central square, where the Pitti peacocks were on parade, undeterred by temperatures nudging 35°C.
New for this year was the “Make” hall for artisan designers, while the contemporary “Touch!” hall had been relocated to the entrance of the show, a move that was widely praised by exhibitors.
“We’ve seen a real mix of people and it’s been nonstop,” said Sarah Hutchinson, head of sales for Grenson. “It’s amazing to be right by the entrance.”
Several big name brands returned to Pitti for the first or second season in recent years, and there was much talk of the fact that Pitti’s standing and importance was back at the top of its game after a slight lag a few years ago.
Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Z Zegna and Paul Smith were all showing off their wares in bold, eye-catching and entertaining stands – from the denim customisation station at Tommy Hilfiger (which was so popular, the brand ran out of jackets two days in a row), to the wall of falling rain at Z Zegna, a tempting lure for those seeking a respite from the heat.
Brit designers also took top billing at Pitti. Alongside PS by Paul Smith, Christopher Raeburn launched a collaboration with outerwear brand Save the Duck with a special reception in the grounds of the adjacent Villa Vittoria, and JW Anderson held his catwalk show as part of the event, which drew international attention to the already-prestigious trade show.
British buyers were also out in force, as the buzzing terraces at Gilli bar would attest. Big name retailers including Arcadia and Office were spotted, along with a strong showing from the UK independents, who praised the event for both its networking opportunities and brand mix.
“Overall, it has been a wonderful show,” said Ravi Grewal, director at Stuarts London. “It’s been a tough season, so it’s good to see people are coming out, and I’ve found two good new brands at the show.”
Pitti is famed for its international appeal, and this year was no different. There was a strong showing from Germany, and South American and Asian buyers were also at the event – Japanese buyers were out in greater numbers than previous seasons, and brands reported their return after several absent seasons.
A clear split emerged this season as to how exhibitors used the trade show. Many labels, such as Penfield and Lyle & Scott, opted to use the event to showcase a curated selection of product rather than push for orders, and several buyers also highlighted the importance of Pitti as a networking opportunity.
“I don’t place orders at the show,” said Chris O’Dea, managing director of indie OD’s in St Helen’s. “I get more from outside of the show than I do from in the show itself – it’s all about networking.”
On the other hand, several brands used the event as a place to do business, bringing large portions of the collection and writing orders on the stand.
“Usually we only bring a small amount of stock, as a flavour of the brand, but now we bring a much bigger range so we can write orders,” said Martin Gill, head of wholesale at Oliver Spencer. “Pitti used to be more of a showroom space, but we do still write orders here.”