At Pitti Uomo in Florence, you almost get battered with brands that constantly talk up their “timeless”, “classic” and “well-crafted” credentials. It’s evident everywhere you go in many of the tradeshow’s booths and on the men that stalk around Fortezza Basso. Therefore when Thomas Tait was deep in discussion with Pitti over a year and a half ago to be their guest designer, it’s no surprise those values would seep into his carte blanche Florence “happening”. This wasn’t a show. This wasn’t a presentation. This wasn’t even a new collection. Instead, Tait, together with architect Mehrnoosh Khadivi and the support of Pitti Immagine put together an exhibition inside the Boboli Gardens where, he reflects upon the current state of fashion, through conversation, installation and the tightest edit of physical garments.
Tait’s conversation piece segued rather nicely into what I recently wrote a piece for AnOther/Dazed Digital, where I talked about our obsession with the “new” and not allowing designers enough time or freedom to really work out who they are as creatives. Ever the contrarian, who will do things his way at his own pace, he rebuffs the new and instead decided to revisit and refine the old. In seven displays, there was a face-off between the initial experimental “original” from one of Tait’s old collections and then a new-and-improved version, made with specialist manufacturers mostly in Italy. In the central display, a video featuring conversations between Tait and longtime supporter Cathy Horyn, his stylist Beth Fenton and architect Khadivi showcases the physical dialogue to support what we were seeing.
Whilst it’s something of an insight into the way a designer like Tait creates and develops collections and his technical nous in terms of how to really perfect a garment as a complete vision, what’s more significant is the way he is probing the industry and goading them to slow down, touch and see with our own eyes an attention to detail that is in danger of not being appreciated. In Khadivi’s mirrored and neon-lit set, a light is being shone upon us and our bodies are warped in the reflection. We’re confronting and questioning the industry’s modus operandi as much as we are pondering say, an expertly made red patent plonge leather jacket. By taking advantage of the luxury of having the freedom at Pitti to do what he wants, Tait gets to showcase what his design ethos is really about – disciplined design, where every cut of the cloth, every seam and every aspect of fabrication is considered and considered again.
That doesn’t make for an in yer’ face snappy moment to upload onto social media. In any case, there’s no way of digitally communicate exactitudes like Tait’s use of a dandelion and smoke fragrance by Perfumer H that permeated the space. Nor is there a filter or lens sharp enough to do Tait’s choice of fabrics justice. Therefore there will be people looking at these photos scratching their heads. What are we looking at here? What are we seeing? A better question would be to ask – is there too much “new” in fashion? Can we learn to appreciate what has gone before ensure that there’s an established foundation before moving on so swiftly?
The Original: Nude lycra thigh boots from S/S 13. Now: Purple stretch thigh high boots manufactured by Mario di Castri in collaboration with Tacchificio del Brenta
The Original: White plonge leather biker jacket from S/S 12. Now: Double faced bonded patent red plonge leather jacket manufactured by BIMAT Paris.
The Original: Yellow and clear filament yarn striped knit jumper from S/S 15. Now: White cashmere and celluloide knit jumper manufactured by G.P. SAS
The Original: Resin mould LED earrings from A/W 14. Now: Silver plated crescent LED earrings manufactured by Forlioro group
The Original: Navy leather clutch from A/W 11. Now: White moulded leather with patent leather tubular pocket manufactured by Atelier Betenfeld-Rosenblum
The Original: White viscose jersey t-shirt from S/S 12. Now: Black knitted silk tee manufactured by G.P. SAS
The Original: Navy cashmere and wool coat from A/W 11. Now: Black and navy reversible wool knit coat manufactured by G.P. SAS
Down the road in a different part of the gardens, we got to see something very new indeed. So new in fact that it’s not even being labelled as an official season. It was new creative director Massimo Giorgetti’s “Pilot Episode” for Pucci, to showcase what is suffice to say, a radical new aesthetic. You couldn’t get more of an aesthetic volte-face as Giorgetti does away with that glamour-ridden cliched-hippy sass of Peter Dundas’ Pucci girl. This is meant to be a taster of a collection, perhaps for Giorgetti to “feel” his way into the house before he presents his first show for the house in Milan in September. And feel he did. When you Google Image “Vintage Pucci”, you’ll find zane, kookiness and an absolute abandon for convention in colour combinations and print formations in what Emilio Pucci did. Giorgetti dialled all of that up for his pilot episode, dipping into veritable vintage prints like a 1950s paintbrush design, abstracted colour combos that hone in to what the house did for rainbow palettes in fashion as well as adding his own touches of the oddball. Tourists in Florence on a cartoonish print for example (if you look closely, Obama can be seen taking in the sights). Never mind the saturated colours and eye candy prints though as the most dramatic change-up about Giorgetti’s vision for Pucci is in the casualfication of the silhouettes. There’s a newfound slouchiness and off-kilter sense of proportion. A sweatshirt creeps in here and there (albeit attached with feathers). Shirts are twisted and made asymmetrical. Foulard tops aren’t body conscious but hang off the body. Giorgetti rejects stereotypes of sexiness and reaches out to search for “modernity” and “realness” – ok, they’re vague catch-all words but you get the idea.
Viewed in a broader context, one by one, each house belonging to LVMH has been radicalised in branding, aesthetic and feeling, with seemingly one ultimate goal – the ensnare a younger generation of luxury goods customer – one that isn’t necessarily attached to heritage or history, but is looking forward to the future, much like the visionary creative directors ensconced at the maisons. It’s too soon to say whether Giorgetti’s radical vision is a step too far for the existing Pucci customer but not knowing what to expect is what keeps you tuned in. At the very least, given that I’m an unashamed colour and print kookster, he has hit something of a bull’s eye. I’m there. But how many of my ilk are out there, you wonder?