How Italy's Pitti Uomo menswear trade fair became a vanity project

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 12:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 12:03am

Pitti Uomo, the international menswear and accessories trade fair that takes place in Florence twice a year, is a cultural phenomenon as famous for its extracurricular activities as for the millions of euros of business that it generates.

Set inside the confines of Fortezza Basso, the fair has earned a certain amount of notoriety for "peacocking", where men compete with each other for the attention of street-style photographers.

Pitti Uomo not only sets the business agenda of the men's fashion world but also the trends for the coming season, not to mention providing the bulk of content for fashion blogs and Instagram.

"It's become a sort of menswear Woodstock," says Alberto Scaccione, the dapper chief executive of Ente Moda Italia and the Secretary General of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana, the bodies that operate and promote the Pitti trade shows. "Pitti is a way to promote an elegant way of living, of being proper. Dress in a proper way, act in a proper way."

Scaccione says that he, too, has become caught up in the sartorial aspect of the show.

"There have been occasions when we're in the garden for a photoshoot and it's taking half an hour to make sure everybody looks right … nobody is doing any business but it's a pleasure to do something different. I don't see it happening in other fashion weeks."

But while the cultural side of Pitti Uomo has blossomed, Scaccione says the big success of the fair is its ability to unite buyers with brands.

"We didn't encourage the street style stuff, it just happened," he says. "Our primary focus is to bring the world's buyers to Florence in one place, and also to give small and medium Italian fashion companies and manufacturers a platform to the world."

A native of Florence, Scaccione takes great pride in the influence of Pitti Uomo globally, but even more so in the trade fair's ability to create and safeguard manufacturing jobs in cities throughout Italy.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Pitti Uomo is vital to the Italian fashion industry.

"You have to be here," says Kim Williams, the chief executive of footwear company Pantofola d'Oro based in Ascoli. "It's a good fair to find Japanese buyers, Korean buyers."

And it isn't just Italian menswear brands. British, French, Spanish and increasingly brands from outside of Europe are seeing Pitti Uomo as their best opportunity to engage with global buyers and press.

"We're looking outside of our own market and Pitti is a great chance to meet people from Asia," says James Eden, owner of Manchester based brand Private White VC. Eden feels that the knowledgeable fair-goers at Pitti are more receptive to Private White VC's made in Manchester story.

"There's a real appreciation here for craft, for real heritage, for the right way of doing things."

Buyers, too, cannot afford to miss Pitti Uomo.

"The majority of our business is done in and around the Pitti fair," says Jake Grantham of The Armoury, Hong Kong.

"It is the only fair for classic menswear where the entire industry is present."