Florence, it’s been too long. Two seasons away from Pitti Uomo and I’ve relished roaming the maze-like tradeshow finding significant bits and bobs that don’t necessarily fall into the fast and furious pace of FASH-ON during say ready to wear womenswear weeks. I know I know. I’m sounding like a broken record harping on about longevity and craft and heritage. Those are loaded words that along with “timeless” and “luxury” can be used and abused in fashion vernacular. And on the grounds of Pitti Uomo, every stand is shouting out about their heritage/timeless/luxury credentials. It can feel tiresome. Therefore I’ve sought to find little nuggets at Pitti that balance out a joyful and witty aesthetic with admirable values of craftsmanship and increasingly social responsibility. It was satisfying to go around Pitti and find out about a handful of stories and endeavours to either keep a craft alive or try and do a bit of a good. And the ultimate end game? To create great product.
Geometric patterns! Lush colours! Kele Clothing’s rail was always going to catch the eye. Designed by Ildikó Kele, this Budapest-based knitwear label has been bringing Hungarian fashion to the forefront. Their A/W 15-6 collection on show at Pitti attempts to capture winter sun, storing it up in the form of cheerful knits. You could say the same for their S/S 15 collection too as they steer clear of trends as they get back to nature with traditional Hungarian csango patterns subtly worked into the knits. I know I misuse the word but “organic” is the feeling you get from Kele. They’ve also admirably launched a charity campaign #SharingIsMultiplying, working with autistic artists to create a collection of sweatshirts, where all proceeds will go to the Autistic Arts foundation. And the designs hold up. They’re things you’d want to wear, whether they’re associated with autism or not.
Any new hat discoveries are welcome by me and although Parisian hat brand Larose isn’t exactly new-new, it’s nice to see how they’re starting to come into their own with an increasing number of collaborations. Founders Isaac Larose-Farmer & Marc Beaugé work with a specialist factory in the south of France to make their hats and caps. They try and keep things minimal and clean with their design as to not detract from their sole offering. But choice fabrics such as collegiate stripes and nubbly wool as seen in their new A/W 15-6 collection makes all the difference with their well made caps. With their fashion collaborations such as with Japanese label Pine (past ones include Ami and Jacquemus), they get to play around a bit more with experimental materials. When people often need a bit of a push towards even donning a hat, Larose definitely fills a niche.
Westage & Co
My eyes zoomed in on the unique colourways at Korean menswear brand Westage & Co‘s stand. Waxed country jackets and jersey blazers are all very well and nice but Wastage & Co’s designer Don Kim has been experimenting with ombre dip dyed effects that make these menswear staples stand out. In smaller sizes, women would be seduced too. Kim ensures his Korean mark is made with red paper cut tigers in the linings and Wastage & Co in Korean embroidered on to the collars and establishing the Made in Korea label to denote quality is also a high priority for the designer. With these unique colour treatments though, Wastage & Co is certainly shaking up those tried-and-tested menswear traits.
If I had a penny for every printed silk scarf label that I get emailed about… well, I’d be mega rich. I thought the silk scarf label bank on this blog had well and truly been filled but then Istanbul-based brand Rumisu came and gave me a big hug. Literally. Their character Mr Hugs-a-Lot dominated their stand as well as their beautiful scarves. Sisters Pinar and Deniz Yegin are illustrators with a distinct style. ‘Whimsical’ is too facile a description for their silk and cotton scarves. Every design tells a real tale. It might depict something random like a dinner party with monsters doing a selfie. Or it might be an environmental issue that Pinar and Deniz feel strongly about like tiger hunting or killing snakes for their skins, depicted in humourous fashion. The addition of unique crocheted creatures to the corners of the scarves add a social responsibility dimension as they’re hand-made in South Eastern Turkey in co-operation with UNDP, a project to give employment to women in that region. Touches like the tales told on their tags and sweet embroidered canvas packaging all add to the charm of Rumisu.
Their e-shop has a fine selection of their current collections:
Here’s a label with a true Florentine flavour. Jimi Roos is originally from Denmark but learnt his craft from the small traditional shops of Florence’s back alleys. Anywhere you stumble in Florence, you’re likely to find craft in abundance. Roos’s hands might be rooted in tradition but his particular type of machine embroidery was developed accidentally as the machine trips up to create a sort of error-strewn stitching. With these mistakes, he has been putting smiley faces, toothy grins and drawing out union jacks and collars on t-shirts, shirts and sweatshirts. For A/W 15-6, Roos has also applied his embroidery to some awesome bomber jackets as well as collaborating with tailoring brand Harris Wharf for a more formal look.
This was one of the loveliest discoveries of my Pitti trip. In all my numerous trips to Sweden, not once have I been made aware of Böle, the last standing spruce bark tannery on Earth (to their knowledge…) right up in the north of Sweden near the Arctic Circle! This is a family business in its 4th generation, currently headed up by Anders Sandlund. Since 1899, Böle has been tanning Swedish cattle hides with spruce bark. The tanning process is 100% natural – simply bark and unheated water from the nearby Pite river – without any chemicals. It can take up to twelve months to tan a single hide and as a result you have a beautiful tanned leather that needs no further treatment or dyeing and is highly durable. Once made into bags and leather goods, the leather continues to take on a life of its own with a rich deepening of the colour. Böle would describe themselves as a tannery first and a saddlery second but their foray into commercial leather bags and briefcases in the 1960s means they’ve navigated their brand into the 21st century, picking up retailers like Harrods as well as becoming Royal Purveyor to members of the Swedish royal family. Their giant rucksacks, tote bags and doctor’s bags uniform in a deep shade of caramel make me think of Böle as a sort of Swedish Delvaux or Hermès – only far more minimal and stripped down (so very Scandi…). I was very impressed with their extensive website, which goes into great detail about the cows their sustainability and green credentials as well as being entirely transparent about their manufacturing processes. I’m so glad that I got to discover Böle’s debut at Pitti, as part of their recent restructuring to bring the brand into greater prominence worldwide.
For a bit of “fun”, in Pitti W, a few Ukranian designers were showing their collections. I’ve written about Anna K‘s fash-oh t-shirts that read with slogans such as “I’m not a fashion blogger” and “Fashion Circus”. That collection has expanded greatly but it’s her mainline collection that I’m more interested in. She was swishing around Pitti looking pretty fantastic in a trapeze navy number adorned with colourful patches from her brand new pre-fall A/W 15 collection. Her graphic S/S 15 and resort collections filled with stripes and funny fashion-themed stop signs are also a welcome break from Pitti’s sartorial finery.
Anna K wearing coat from her pre-fall 2015 collection at Pitti photographed by Tommy Ton for Style.com
And finally… my favourite moment captured at Pitti were these stacked-up bracelets originating from the Ndebele people in South Africa. They are worn by Jerri Mokgufe a fashion blogger and consultant from South Africa. Again, something of a break from the shades of navy and khaki that flood the people of Pitti.