If you struggle to tell the difference between rayon and bamboo or ash and slate, you’re probably not a regular visitor to Pitti Immagine Uomo. Known simply as ‘Pitti’ by its devotees, this bi-annual event held each January and June is probably the most stylish trade show on Earth and the most important platform for men’s clothing and accessories.
Wondering why this season’s boots are covered with buckles but all have zips at the sides? Or why last year all shop assistants as one began using the word 'shirting' instead of 'shirts'? These and other baffling phenomena probably originated at Pitti, where press and buyers — 30,000 of them at last year’s spring event — come to check out new colours, fabrics and styles, while many designers give the world a first look at their collections a year before they hit shop rails.
Pitti is also the world’s most aesthetically pleasing trade show as it is held in a beautiful old fortress in Florence. This location, and the city’s food and shops, possibly accounts for the event’s popularity, if not the surge in Instagram’s value. Not that the show rests on its laurels. Pitti chief executive officer Raffaello Napoleone says, poetically, that each year the fair’s organisers “listen to the different sounds of the contemporary” to select a guest designer, who then stages something special. Gianni Versace staged a fashion ballet in 1997, for the penultimate show before his death. In 2009 Thom Browne recruited a troop of model-typists for a presentation part fashion and part performance art.
Recently, quirky French label Carven treated guests to a five-course meal, seated at elegantly appointed tables — in the middle of a soccer field. And to the accompaniment of a marching brass band, with 450 actors dressed as waiters carrying trays. Of course, Pitti regulars immediately knew that they were actors — the real waiters were too busy modelling the clothes.
Click the slideshow for images of the myriad stylish attendees of Pitti Uomo 83 (January 8-11, 2013) and our choice of the merchandise displayed — a preview of what the dapper gentleman will be wearing come autumn/winter 2013.