‘We started by thinking about what our connection is to Florence,’ said husband and wife creative duo Luke and Lucie Meier, after presenting Jil Sander’s A/W 2020 show at the historic Santa Maria Novella Piazza. Connection is a suitable synonym to sum up brands’ thinking at this year’s Pitti Uomo 97, which mused on our relationship to fabrication, handcraft, the cultural climate and the natural world we inhabit.

Join the sartorial dots behind menswear’s autumnal unveiling...

Jil Sander

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Photography: Jason Lloyd-Evans

Jil Sander creative directors Luke and Lucie Meier met in 2001 as fashion students at Polimoda in Florence. Since taking the reigns of the famed Germany-founded Milan-based house in 2017, the duo have cultivated a timeless, materiality and handcraft-focused aesthetic that chimes with the artful heritage of the city. ‘Our discovery of making and craft started here,’ the duo said backstage. ‘It’s so important to have the hand touch.’ It’s a prescient message amidst the frenetic whirl of the Pitti Uomo trade fair, that hosts hundreds of brands each menswear season.

At the brand’s majestic show space at the historic Santa Maria Novella, piles of vibrant orange marigolds lined the runway, a reference not just to the desert flowers the Meiers discovered when exploring South West America, but also to the medicinal properties of botanical-inspired products found at the nearby Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, the world’s oldest (and most resplendent) of its kind. Here, models strode to Bjork’s Hidden Place in impeccably cut cashmere coats and capes, shirts with abstract watercolour splashes and soft mohair tabards. There has always been a push and pull behind the duo’s aesthetic, which unites minimalism with maximalism and the artisanal with the futuristic, and there was a softness bought to the more pared back shapes with fringed shawls, orb shape hammered-metal jewellery and tasselled shoulder bags. ‘We just do what we think feels right,’ they added. It’s an intuition that is spot on. 

Herno

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The 72-year old Lesa-based company is a leader in highly performing, technically expert outerwear, and now Herno fans can also put their best outdoors-focused foot forward with its first sneaker. The label has teamed up with fellow Italian mountaineering shoe brand S.C.A.R.P.A. on Herno Laminar Assoluto, a technical trail running-inspired shoe in five colourways, ranging from black to reflective silver. True to Herno’s performance focused heritage, the style is anything but a fashion sneaker, and is constructed using waterproof, windproof and breathable Gore-Tex, and features a Vibram Megagrip sole. The ultra lightweight style weighs merely 320g, and is the ultimate accompaniment for wood, mountain or desert hiking, or simply sauntering to the office.

Armani Exchange

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Armani bought a sense of fairground fun to Pitti Uomo’s tradefair terrain, setting up an Armani Exchange-themed funfair, complete with high striker and water pistol games. The brand’s accompanying A/W 2020 collection featured a cacophony of casual and sportswear essentials, ranging from chunky sole sneakers, AX logo backpacks and puffer jackets. Game on!

Woolrich

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At the end of 2019, Woolrich opened its Snow Experience Room at its Manhattan flagship space, allowing customers to try out its protective parkas at glacial temperatures dropping to -20° Celsius. For it’s A/W 2020 presentation, it also had something Arctic in mind. On entrance to the brand’s hangar-size presentation space, guests were asked to layer waterproof rubber socks over their shoes, before stepping into an icy snowscape lined with powder-topped trees, with snowflakes falling from the air. The snow globe-like set up celebrated the 190th anniversary of the American outerwear label’s signature Arctic Parka, which has been redesigned for autumn in three different categories: Luxe, Tech and Eco.

Brunello Cucinelli

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It’s no surprise Brunello Cucinelli threw a luxurious banquet dinner to kick of Pitti Uomo 97, the Italian label’s business grew an impressive 20 per cent in 2019. Luxuriousness lies at the heart of the Solomeo-based company and it’s A/W 2020 ‘Town about Man’ collection was comprised of sumptuous pieces, including a cashmere pinstripe tracksuit and impossibly soft vicuña overcoat. Burnt tones abounded in the offering, which included sporty puffer jackets with houndstooth panels, cord jackets and rubber toed hiking boots. Cucinelli’s strength lies in its ability to blend clothing categories, and a cream cord tuxedo jacket was particularly contemporary. Now we just need another banquet to wear it to.

Margaret Howell

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The British label celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and at an in-store Pitti cocktail party its guests made a toast to its A/W 2020 MHL collection. These are clothes that will travel timelessly not just into the next decade but into the next half century too, including colour blocked scarves, suede walking boots, fishing hats, stripe shirts and duffle coats. Cheers!

Telfar

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Photography: Jason Lloyd-Evans

The Renaissance splendour of Florence is palpable, and at Pitti Uomo guests gather in gilded and fresco-lined palazzos, at times pondering the raucous festivities and high jinks that once took place in their splendid chambers. For Telfar’s show at the Palazzo Corsini, guests entered into a post-banquet scene: a circular dining table laden with leftover-inspired cuisine designed by Spiral Theory Test Kitchen, like littered bone marrow and juicy pomegranates, grapes and half swigged bottles of wine. Baths were filled with punch, table cloths were stained, floral arrangements drooped and partly made double beds and poufs provided seating.

For A/W 2020, renegade designer Telfar Clemens (who counted Solange, Michèle Lamy and Grace Wales Bonner in his audience), bought baroque tropes to his idiosyncratic take on Americana, and to an energetic live performance provided by hip hop group Standing By the Corner and Carrie Stacks, models sashayed and wiggled across the brand’s dining table stage, sporting Telfar logo varsity hoodies, flared denim and colour blocked puffer jackets, paired with striped plus fours, slouchy crushed velvet tracksuit bottoms, laced medieval shirting, densely ruched elastic tops, dandyish pussy bow blousons and ‘T’ logo riding boots. Clemens has long explored sartorial homogeneity and the nature of wardrobe archetypes in his designs – his brand’s affordable ‘T’ logo shopping bag, has become a cult hit and is a democratic take on the It bag. Here, the banal was imbued with the baroque in a truly modern take on the Renaissance man.

Brioni

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There was a sense of symphonic celebration behind the brand’s 75th anniversary presentation – after all the Roman tailoring house was the first menswear label to stage a runway show at Palazzo Pitti in 1952. For its septuagenarian send up, the label opened up the Renaissance rooms of the astonishing Palazzo Gerini, where framed by gilded cornices, intricate frescoes and jaw dropping chandeliers, members of the world’s most talented Philarmonic orchestras, from Berlin to New Zealand, performed wearing soft Brioni tailoring, in deerskin, washed silk, embroidered silks and glittering jacquards. ‘I wanted to create a kind of haunted house mis-en-scene’ explained design director Norbert Stumpfl of the space, which was festooned with ghostly swathes of fabric. In one resplendent room, father and son cellist duo Andreas Brantelid and Ingemar Brantelid performed Tchaikovsky’s ‘Variations on a Roccoco theme for two cellos’ amidst two banqueting tables which were eerily draped with gauzy white linen and illuminated by candlelight.

Valstar

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Street style supremo The Sartorialist could be seen outside Pitti Uomo’s Fortessa Da Basso location, patiently waiting to snap its most sprezzatura-encapsulating attendees. Inside its space, Scott Schuman also made his menswear mark, debuting his varsity-focused capsule collection with Italian label Valstar, pioneers of the Valstarino, a sporty take on the A-1 flight jacket, first designed in 1935. Here, this signature jacket was reinterpreted in soft suede and with a hood, and styled with relaxed hoodies and pocket detail t-shirts, embroidered with the calligraphic letter ‘V’.

Random Identities

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Photography: Jason Lloyd-Evans

Since 2017, ex-Yves Saint Laurent and Ermenegildo Zegna creative director Stefano Pilati has been operating his SSENSE-stocked label Random Identities from Berlin. Stepping into the brand’s debut catwalk show space inside Florence’s old Leopolda station – a vast interior illuminated with red light and smoke – you’d have been forgiven for thinking you’d been transported to a vast industrial hangar of one of the city’s notoriously hedonistic night clubs.

Berlin is emblematic of freedom and fluidity, and these tenets are essential to Random Identities, which since its launch has been framed around Pilati’s own archival wardrobe signatures. On the runway, a gender fluid mix of Pilati’s friends sported looks that mediated between evening wear and tailoring, sportswear and streetwear. Like an executive black suit and white shirt layered with a twinkling rhinestone embellished bra, camouflage parkas paired with light up trainers designed in collaboration with Li-Ning, oddly proportioned tuxedo jackets paired with chunky thigh high boots, and graphic intarsia knits swathed around the body. The mood was one of individuality, sensuality and triumph, and at the show’s climax, Pilati himself took a turn on the runway clad in a camel cashmere coat and stompy riding boots, giving the audience a final peace sign before disappearing into the darkness of the venue.

Piquadro

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The Italian leather goods company had us mentally reevaluating our luggage leanings, with its latest range of sleek brushed stainless steel aluminium suitcases. Available in a range of sizes, including handy carry-on proportions, the styles feature brown grain leather details, silent swiveling double wheels and TSA locks. For the more multihued minded, the label’s ‘Pop Collection’ also presented a series of lightweight polycarbonate styles in sunburst yellow and postbox red.

Brooksfield

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There was a sustainable sensibility behind the Italian label’s latest offering. ‘The Green Project,’ sees its denim, knitwear and signature polo shirt reimagined in eco-friendly fabrics and dyes. Soft wool jumpers are knitted in delectable shades of bright orange, petrol blue and grassy green, coloured using dyes found in the food industry. Elsewhere a series of light hearted slogan knits had an environmentally-aware élan, emblazoned with the phrases ‘Done is better than perfect’ and ‘Urban forest not concrete jungle’.

Canali

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The Italian label turns 85 this year, and unveiled three diverse and celebratory collections inside Florence’s Odeon Cinema, ‘Black’, ‘Exclusive’ and ‘Canali 1934’. Its sportier ‘Black’ range, unveiled last season, has a more urban focus, featuring hybrid puffer jackets, backpacks and sleek knitewear in shades of black, grey and neon green. Elsewhere, its premium ‘Exclusive’ line sees the introduction of a new suit style, featuring jackets with wide lapels and gathered shoulder seams and trousers with a high waist. §