At Pitti Uomo, realists and dreamers

FLORENCE — “I am interested in certain everyday life and ordinariness; that’s why I’m attracted to men from all walks of life and not professional models for my shows,” said Martine Rose at a press conference on the morning of her appearance at Pitti Uomo. As Pitti’s special guest, Rose brought a taste of London grit to Florence, as demonstrated by her penchant for characters on the fringes of fashion, her love of outsiders.

This was the first time Rose had shown her fierce local vision outside of her hometown, yet her quiet influence on the wider fashion system is undeniable. And against the influencers and “content creators” who populate Pitti, positioning themselves as “real”, Rose’s baristas and calcio fiorentino players dressed in shrunken cuts, with heavily gelled hair were even more authentic.

The juxtaposition of the real and the fictitious permeated the Florentine fair. Pitti, as a fair, is all about wearables, and as usual there were plenty of high-quality offerings, from Ecoalf’s emphasis on sustainability, purposeful design and playfulness to survival outerwear in the craziest elements of Ukrainian label ObjectX. Performance wear is an enduring trend, epitomized by Finnish designer Rolf Ekroth, but it’s the tailored formalwear that usually steals the show at Pitti: a mode of dress that’s making a comeback but currently looks costumed or trapped in the distant pre-pandemic past.

All the players working in this traditional menswear segment seem intent on doing something big, while the beauty of tailoring is often found in subtlety. That’s why the return of Aldo Maria Camillo with his AMC label, under the direction of Hirofumi Kurino’s Humanos project, seemed particularly on point: soft tailoring as simple as a whisper.

Meanwhile, on the catwalks surrounding the Pitti fair, reality prevailed, which came in handy this season in left field. First up was Jan-Jan Van Essche, the Belgian purveyor of flowing, dreary-colored, highly tactile, multicultural clothing: a designer so quiet and averse to fanfare that this was his first real fashion show after more than twelve years in the business. Van Essche works with flowing lines and beautiful materials and favors simple yet soulful shapes that can be found in traditional costume in cultures from Africa to Anatolia and Japan. He has a confident, if subtle, voice: you can see echoes of what Issey Miyake was doing with Plantation in the 70s or early Lemaire, but it’s all filtered through Van Essche’s unique lens.

Reality took a bombastic turn with Martina Rosa. Perhaps due to the choreographic confusion, the man had the feeling that he was looking at passers-by in a crowd. In other words, the show was quite chaotic and that made looking at the clothes difficult, albeit charming. There is something vivid about Rose’s interest in the filth of life and the characters that inhabit it. This season they looked particularly wild and combative: a bit like bouncers mixed with clubbers. Rose, one of the pioneers of the trend of oversized cuts, now pushes a super-slim silhouette that looks fresh and toned. Her way of expressing masculinity is free and paradoxically macho even when it leans towards femininity. The firmness is exhilarating.

But for all its edginess, Pitti was also dreamy, with eccentric clothing and an abundance of prints and patterns. Pierre Louis Mascia has long been a champion of mixed motifs scattered across his silhouettes in the most poetic and unusual ways. He was way ahead of the curve in that regard and very original in using simple pieces as his base. And yet, after Alessandro Michele’s Gucci, Mascia’s take on fashion seemed a bit out of step with the times.

A wonderful addition to Pitti’s dreamers was Chateau Orlando, a brand created by artist and writer Luke Edward Hall, who built a folk tent as a booth at the fair, looking like a gentle alien among the other exhibitors. Drawing on British folklore and a sense of naïveté, Chateau Orlando is on the more transient side of hipsterism. It wasn’t entirely new, but the brand has a fresh energy that ultimately registered as both dreamy and real, which is always a good balance.

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