Critics who've forgone the Florentine trade show Pitti Immagine Uomo in recent seasons were clamouring for invitations for S/S 2017. Having recently been held back by schedule clashes following the ascent of London Collections: Men, the fair was back on form with its best line up in years.

The guest designers were two of menswear’s buzziest names; the new kid on the block, Russia-born Gosha Rubchinskiy, and the original innovator, Raf Simons. If one were searching for a uniting theme across proceedings it turned out to be the relationship between old and new.

That’s something that’s already central to Simons’ work. For his show, he looked back both at his own archive – filling Florence’s Stazione Leopolda with hundreds of vintage mannequins sporting highlights from his archive – and the photography of the late great Robert Mapplethorpe. The show, a collaboration with the Mapplethorpe Foundation, was a tribute to the artist’s life and work – his images of flowers, nudes and muses decorated the pieces, while models looked like mini Roberts with their black leather separates and caps.

If the clothes were a tribute to a great artist, the set up was more of a Simons retrospective – fitting given that just over 10 years ago, in 2005, the designer held his 10th anniversary show at the fair. It was hard not keep in mind the rumours that Simons will shortly be heading to Calvin Klein and consider this a watershed moment and turning point for his eponymous brand.

Rubchinskiy is also obsessed with old and new; with the history of his native country, the highlights of style culture and the aesthetics of those young boys around him (many of who walked in the show following a casting call on Instagram). He paid tribute to Italy’s sportswear heritage through collaborations with Italian brands such as Fila, Kappa and Sergio Tacchini. They’ll fly off the shelves. The designer also used the opportunity to debut a Pasolini-inspired film and new limited edition book of his photography, both titled The Day of My Death, hammering home his multifaceted approach to the creative process.

Also showing were Japanese label Visvim, who presented their first ever proper runway show. They used the opportunity to focus on spectacle rather than clothing, offering a show full of ‘Instagramable moments’ for the fashion pack – see the retro dancers, flags and vintage motorbikes. Fausto Puglisi has enough spectacle in his clothes themselves – he used the occasion to debut a menswear offer full of Anicent Greek inspired emblems, heavy prints, slogans and embellishments. He described it as ‘fearless’ – the wearer would definitely have guts.

Elsewhere, in keeping with the notion of past and present, Gucci unveiled fresh additions from the Tom Ford-era into their museum, while Karl Lagerfeld, a man who’s usually always looking forward, offered a retrospective of some of his recent fashion images in the imposing setting of the Palazzo Pitti.

TAGS: ITALY, RAF SIMONS, GUCCI, KARL LAGERFELD