You know the Liza song ‘I happen to like New York’? Well, I happen to like Florence. How to put it? The city somehow agrees with me. This city still encourages a well-dressed man to give it some attitude, smoke a cigarette with conviction and view men, women and mirrors as potential opportunities for amore. We also go back a long way. I’ve been coming here for more than ten years to report at the b-annual Pitti Immagine Uomo men’s fashion fair. Pitti is without doubt the main event on the men’s fashion calendar when press, buyers, peacock poseurs and bloggers descend on the city for a mutual love-in and a celebration of a collective cult of men’s tailoring.
Summer Pitti always brings out the best and in some cases worst excesses of super styling. It’s very much in the spirit of The Only Way is Essex but with higher taste levels. We’re all competing to look ‘reem’ and cause the biggest buzz amongst the legion of bloggers who haunt the gate. This season Pitti is particularly honoured with the presence of Scott ‘The Sartorialist’ who is a little pocket of a man but with a very sharp eye and keen lens. I was very anti-blogger when the phenomenon first manifested itself but have since warmed to the charms of endless Japanese fashionistos obsessively photographing your every pocket square and buttonhole.
Florence and Pitti Uomo are very dear to my heart because they fundamentally changed my career. Before Pitti invited me to curate The London Cut Savile Row bespoke retrospective at the Palazzo Pitti in 2007, I was a newspaper style writer with equal measures of ink and gin in my veins. Pitti gave me the opportunity to become a multi-slash author/curator/broadcaster/archivist. So you’ll understand why I get a little misty as I pound the cobbled streets of Via Faenza en route to the Fortezza del Basso. The mood is not dissimilar to Elsie Tanner’s last walk down Coronation Street.
What I adore about Florence and Pitti Uomo is how much I have learnt from the brass here: Chairman Raffaello Napoleone, directors Francesca Tacconi and Lapo Cianchi and of course Sibilla della Gherardesca my Florentine Mum. I think we all agreed that in the early years I suffered from Stendhal Syndrome whereby foreigners are driven insane by the beauty of Florence. This morning I was up and dressed by 7am ready for a morning constitutional over the Ponte Vecchio and up to Palazzo Pitti. I then took breakfast in the Piazza della Republica on the terrace outside the Savoy and was at Pitti by 9am. Back in the day, I’d have been falling out of Tabasco with Anthony wailing ‘I wasn’t the ringleader’ at 9am on a Pitti Thursday morning. Some things do change, no?
Pitti Uomo has given me more solid gold fashion moments delivered with glamour and terribly high class than Milan, Paris and London put together. Highlights include the season my fixer/friend Patricia Carruthers and I flew into Florence at 3pm and by 4pm had an exclusive interview with Gianfranco Ferre moments before his exhibition at Palazzo Pitti, Pierre Cardin’s valedictory show at the Palazzo Corsini and the ludicrous Viktor & Rolf show whereby they dressed and undressed on a catwalk in total silence for over an hour as we all tried to stifle a giggle.
Don’t even get me started about my very early years at Pitti assisting Stefano Tonchi on his seminal military uniform exhibition at the Stazione Leopolda. As for the magical year spent in Florence in 2006/7 curating The London Cut, it will have to be a story for my memoirs darling. Suffice to say, having the keys to King Vittorio Emmanuele’s private apartments in a wing of the palace to dress the mannequins was quite simply unforgettable as was the evening walk alone through the Boboli Gardens.
The next 48-hours will be full on Pitti Uomo. The Anderson & Sheppard team are in town so we’ll be doing some good No 17 Clifford Street work today. But I will be sure to take some snaps of the fashion boys who will doubtless be a’preenin and a’queenin all over Florence. Savile Row can congratulate itself that we’ve won the battle to make tailoring the foundation of a well-stocked wardrobe. Even the daft fashion folk who are still working the Thom Browne ironic tailoring look – shrunken jackets, skinny rolled-up jeans, brogues without socks, bow ties and gormless hats – are accessorising in the spirit of Savile Row. My favourite sights aree the loud silk pocket squares exploding out of jacket pockets like a magician entertaining the audience on Margate Pier.
Without doubt, the story this season at Pitti Uomo is the shorts suit or the shorts separates look. A shorts suit is too try hard for me so I tailored a pair of white Huntsman cotton trousers and a pair of khaki Gap chinos to knee-length shorts with turn-ups. I have not packed a single tie either. Well, it is 34 degrees in the shade with the threat of 40 come high noon today. You’re dripping with sweat before you’ve even taken two steps into the Fortezza.
Well Rowley, I’d better get out there and start reporting on the fashion rather than gossiping with you. Until next time…