PITTI WHO? – WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY?
Those are some of the questions I get whenever I talk about Pitti Uomo. Back then when I was still learning about fashion and style I used to surf the net looking for inspiration and style tips. I would always stumble into pictures of gentlemen looking so sartorially elegant. Questions will come tumbling down my head as I ask myself where all these people live. Apparently these people are from every corner of the world and they have pretty much the same passion and that is to look good. It was flattering to know that there are people somewhere out there that have the same interest as me.
More questions aroused about this place that all these gentlemen descend to every year was and what exactly happens there. Looking at the pictures it looked like it happened twice in a year, which is January (winter) and June (summer). I still didn’t know much about it but I could compare it was more like a pilgrimage, because judging by the pictures these gentlemen went there religiously. There was even familiar faces that was always trending on every social media during this sacred time. Talk about sacred there was this knee-high wall that really looked sacred because almost everyone that went there, would want to have a sit on it as if there where blessings to be received.
I must say even though I never knew much about this so-called “MECCA” of menswear fashion and style, I got a lot of my style inspiration from those pictures. I then started doing research about the event and what it is all about but still didn’t get the right answers. There was not much info about the event which led me to start consulting a few public figures seen at Fortezza Da Basso. Oh that’s the name of the holy place. I was still not finding the essence of it all and that’s when I thought maybe I should go visit the place myself. I always flew all around South Africa but flying out of South Africa let alone out of Africa was a bit nerve racking. This was going to be my first trip out of South Africa and oh what a way to get my first visa stamp in Europe.
Anyway I arrived in Italy after hours of flying and I must say it was a flattering experience to see the faces I used to see on social media and style magazines in person. Amazingly enough and as much as I regarded them as celebrities, they were quite friendly and courteous. As cold as it was men looked fashionably warm, making bold statements with different pieces of clothing that tell a story about the fall (winter) season. The art of layering and accessorizing was put on display in all shades; tones and textures. These fine gentlemen were directly and indirectly involved in the fashion industry and some are simply doing it for the love of fashion and style.
Usually when people go travelling overseas they come back home with souvenirs and other tangible goods that will remind them of the experience. In my case it was different, I didn’t have the financial capacity to buy myself or loved ones such luxuries but I received the best gifts money can’t buy. I made friends and best of all I received wisdom from the wise. I met a wise gentleman by the name of Ignatious Joseph from Dusseldorf, Germany. Mr Joseph is one of the pioneers and living legends that’s well known and respected at Pitti Uomo and Europe as the icons of style. He was kind enough to answer all the questions I have been asking myself about this event. I am sure a lot of gentlemen who have seen pictures relating to Pitti Uomo have almost the similar questions. I mean people are still asking me what really happens there, so worry not as I have some of the questions that one would want to know about this prestigious event. Below are all the questions I asked Mr Joseph about Pitti Uomo.
- What is Pitti Uomo?
Simply stated: Pitti Uomo is the principal trade fair for the men’s clothing and textile industry, held in Europe twice annually.
- What does the words “Pitti” “Uomo” stand for? Pitti refers to one of the Florentine palaces initially used as an exhibition space for the high fashion displayed when the “Pitti” began in 1952, while “Uomo” simply means “man”. It is the men’s clothing trade exhibition organised by the firm Pitti Immagine since 1971.
- The number next to Pitti Uomo (89), what does it resemble? The number denotes the “edition”. There are two seasons each year. The “Uomo” has been held for the past 45 years.
- When did this event begin, and how long has it been running?
- Why was it started? After World War II Italy, like most of Europe was in ruins. The organisers of the first Pitti Uomo sought to revive Italy’s extensive clothing industry by providing a platform in which the country’s clothing manufacturers could concentrate their efforts on the world market.
- How has it evolved through the years?
Initially the Pitti exhibitions were started for Italian haute couture—women’s fashion. In 1971 the men’s editions began. Meanwhile there are Pitti fairs for children’s wear and other elements of the clothing and fashion industry.
- People see this event as a place where men from all over go to show off their colourful style, it is definitely more than that, what more is it all about? Florence is historically one of Italy’s most prosperous cities. It was a powerful influence in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It is located in one of Italy’s most fertile regions. The Pitti, although a development of the post-war reconstruction of Italy’s textile and fashion industry, successfully instils a sense of continuity in men’s clothing fashion and style that is necessary to preserve Europe’s artisanal and artistic culture.
- As one of the pioneers of this prestigious event, what does this event mean to you and most importantly your brand? In an era dominated by electronic media, the Pitti is still a place to see real people and communicate with them in person. I prefer not to imagine a world in which the only clothing we see is in the Internet while everyone in fact sits at home on their computers wearing athletic suits or pyjamas.
- Some people that have been there a couple of times feel that this event is losing its essence due to people taking it as a carnival where to come view menswear style and fashion. Do you agree or disagree?
- The Pitti is a trade fair. Its focus is the clothing business. On the other hand clothing is not the same as chemicals or steel—it is people-centred. In fact much of what makes the Pitti interesting is what you call the “carnival”—that is the parade of vanities, fashion, and style that animates both the trade and the general visitor in Florence during the fair.
- Where do you see the future of Pitti Uomo and menswear fashion and the industry as a whole?
There is a tension in the menswear industry between the artisanal tradition, the mass production sector and the demands for profitability in a classically labour-intensive sector. It would be naïve to ignore the overall economic developments throughout the world, which have intensified price pressure in all but the most exclusive high-end segments. The Pitti Uomo could easily turn into a mere auction block for mass produced, branded products made far from the country that initiated the fairs—to restore its own industry. On the other hand the European textile industry, especially in Italy, derived much of its early inspiration from the Orient. Nearly a thousand years ago, China did everything it could to prevent the export of its silk production technology; to no avail. Europeans smuggled silkworms out of China and began their own silk industry. Today we see that Asia is again the fulcrum of the textile and clothing industries.
Labour in Europe has always been more “expensive” than in Asia—just based on the vast population differences. Yet it has been European style, which dominates the high-end clothing market.
After this interview it gave me a reason to go back and learn more and enrich my knowledge. I hope these questions and answers will help you understand what really Pitti Uomo is all about. A special thanks to a gentleman that made this interview possible, Ignatius Joseph. Ignatious is also well-known for his brand of impeccable shirt collection, follow him on Instagram @ign.joseph
Until next time…