Prioritising workload a, b and c has meant that the blog has been relegated to… workload z? With January, a new season beckons and there is a botch load of upcoming projects, deadlines and weirdly, I find myself flying to Florence once again today for a meeting. Sounds like the high life? Not when you're wiping sleep out of your eyes and turning up to airports with static hair stuck to a Sarah Lund-esque jumper.
Rewind back a week and it was a slightly rosier picture. This is me scarfed and skirted ready to take on the delights of Pitti Uomo 81. Why is it that I insist on invading this hallowed menswear territory? In a small and very wee voice, and I may find myself faced with dissenting voices but *menswear just might be getting more interesting than womenswear*? For shame on me for the generalisation there. I'm only suggesting the notion, not proclaiming it by the way. The truth will out I guess when the A/W 12-3 shows come rolling but for me, there's a heft of innovation, genuinely interesting design synthesis and aesthetic shifts going on in menswear. Pitti Uomo had a wealth of tidbits that would be interesting to design aficionados period, regardless of gender.
On an outfit note, you may have seen that the Aldo Rise shoes from the likes of Preen, J.W. Anderson and Mark Fast have just launched in Selfridges in a pop-up store and online. Sadly these J.W. Anderson loakers are not part of the mix because of a production glitch which is a crying shame because as I was walking around, I got constantly stopped by men and women folk enquiring about their origins. The hybrid shoe as exemplified by a few specimens in this post is clearly getting people excited. Hey Aldo, let's try and make the loaker happen sometime soon, yeah?
(Vintage Celine cardigan, J.W. Anderson paisley shirt, Comme des Garcons Tricot scarf print kilt, black opaque tights, J.W. Anderson x Aldo shoes)
bStore came to Pitti Uomo for the first time in a long while and were welcome with open arms. Here's one for the girls AND boys as they have collaborated with Underground Creepers to bring us houndstooth, navy/cream and forest green and mustard combo styles, available in both mens and womens' sizes. The creeper train does seem to be lingering longer than one might expect but for me they're counter-cultural/design constant, much like a Dr Marten shoe and I don't mind the constant updates, especially if it involves a cheeky houndstooth and dalmation print.
A/W 12-3 bStore meets Liberty again for more print-based collaboration. Instead of going for the obvious flora, bStore have unearthed a leopard print to clash with a pixelated paisley. Expect the same prints for womenswear.
I've yet to conquer the bow tie for woman but there are so many stellar examples and labels prompting me to do so. Another one to add to that list is Jupe, designed by Jackie who is based in Amsterdam. Jackie here wears hers well. Jupe's bow ties are expertly embroidered by craftsmen in India, carefully sourced by Jackie, and they immediately catch the eye as you walk past the stand. They come in the traditional bow tie form for the more seasoned bow-tie wearer as well as the elastic band cheat's version.
I got a slice of Tokyo Redux at Pitti as a group of designers who showed during Tokyo Fashion Week as part of the Versus event made their way over to Florence for a group installation that showcases the best of innovative menswear design. Phenomenon, one of Tokyo's most cult-garnering menswear brands that could potentially make it overseas , made its presence known with a rainbow interpretation of its MA-1 bomber jacket complete with a zippered grid on the back.
I'm going to sound like a broken record as I recount my bomber jacket memories and nobody around me seems to get it. I excitedly asked Steve "Don't you remember when we were ten, EVERYONE was into bomber jackets with orange linings and everyone also wore theirs with these gold heart brooches that we bought from the Variety charity?" "Errr‚Ä¶ NO!," came the reply. Ok, this may have just been a very specific trend isolated to Finchley/North London. I daringly wore my black one inside out once, which made me feel like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
More jacket frenzy as we entered the Facetasm room. The question of "Do these come in girls' sizes?" doesn't even enter my mind as this is the sort of design I'd wear oversized or otherwise. Yes, they are yet ANOTHER aberration on the varsity jackets and yes, I realise American jocks might sneer at these bastardised FASH-WAN versions but when Facetasm designer Hiromichi Ochiai takes a reference such as tacky souvenir items, you have to at least be slightly amused. Here, Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper, which in reality probably gets its fair share of tacky souvenir tributes, is transplanted to the jacket in carpet tapestry form. You could see these jackets as defilement of the artwork in much the same way as when you see a cheesy mug or a badly reproduced print but I guess it just shows the number of ways iconic imagery can permeate product.
Facetasm's match match take on furniture is also making me think I might need to give Hiromichi a call when I come to decorating my house. Who wants a real Persian rug when I can get a nylon printed one instead?
The man skirt gets proposed every once in a while as a catwalk statement, only to fall upon deaf ears when the trickle down to mass retail and high street fails to see the sellability of a skirt for guys. Will this change? Perhaps not but at least designers are proposing it in realistic ways. These knitted kilts that come attached to tweed shorts in Discovered's new A/W 12-3 collection seem like a fairly plausible solution, taking the grungey thing of tying shirts/jumeprs around the waist another step forward.
Why are most trades hows formulaic and stale? Because they don't normally have the kind of space that Pitti Uomo gets to cover at the Fortezza de Basso, where in open space, designers can just set up a guerilla installation in an instant. Camo's very elegant gamblers started a game of poker at sunset. Steve will be dissecting all the details of the label's A/W 13-12 collection in the next few days.
Long johns get colourful with the strangely named Chic Appeal collection by the traditional Italian sock company DePio. The name does induce the cringe, but the socks are beautiful and I'm definitely convinced by the layers of warming knitted leggings, shorts and socks.
A visit to Pitti isn't complete without a hello to the smiliest exhibitor ever. Shoe maker Eiichi Katsukawa of the label H? Katsukawa from Tokyo, quite literally gives us the most enthusiastic hand wave whenever we see him. Steve has already enthused about the collection of Nibe leather brogues (his signature of brushed/texturised leather) and a new addition of the loafer/desert boot/bowling shoe hybrid. I don't even know how to come up with an appropriate name for such a shoe. We'll be calling on Katsukawa on our next trip to Tokyo for sure.
Andrea Pompilio perhaps summed up the sort of style mixing that is so indicative of contemporary menswear, that is really quite attractive to someone like me, who doesn't like rigid style categories. Military, workwear, traditional tailoring, sportswear and streetcar all get a look in with a smattering of eye-grabbing motifs. Planet of the Apes monkey won't be new to those that were bamboozled by gorillas back in Christopher Kane's S/S 09 collection but the imagery still maganges to grab your attention. On the accessories front, the lumberjacket essential of a trapper hat gets updated with a decorative pom pom and the flaps firmly upturned and the treads of a hiking boot get merged with a tasseled loafer.
There is a point where this can all read like a predictable formula. Take a classic, give it a twist, add an eye-catching print, inject some stellar craftsmanship into it all – bobs yer' uncle – you've got yourself a bunch of guys clamouring for your wares. Thankfully, there's a heartbeat throbbing through most of these designs and there's an affability to it all that hopefully will prevent it all from becoming hackneyed fare.