After last season's scheduling clash, which saw Florence's Pitti Immagine Uomo square off against the London Collections: Men, the Italians were no doubt keen to reassert their credentials. While London may win column inches for its fresh, young talent and enthralling subculture, they might have argued that Italy combines history with commercial might.
The timing of the 86th Pitti instead coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana. It was the perfect excuse for the city-wide style takeover dubbed 'Firenze Hometown of Fashion', involving some of Florence's most illustrious venues.
Four Florentine powerhouses - Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Emilio Pucci and Ermanno Scervino - were invited to stage events. First up was Pucci, which turned the Baptistery of San Giovanni into a beacon of colour (and an apt monument to the brand, with its penchant for joyful excess) by dressing it in the label's 'Battistero' print, designed by its namesake founde in 1957.
Gucci and Ferragamo opted for something a little more intimate. The former hosted a small gathering to celebrate the reopening of the historic Kering-owned Richard Ginori flagship on Via de' Rondinelli. The boutique also launched an exhibition of three original porcelain works by Gio Ponti, artistic director of the house from 1923 to 1930. Meanwhile, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo unveiled an engaging new exhibition, 'Equilibrium', which explores balance, movement and posture through art and ephemera and shows off gems from the house's extensive footwear archive.
While the other events celebrated the aesthetic and ethos of Italian fashion, Ermanno Scervino instead hammered home the financial clout of the Italian industry. The label threw an opulent dinner for hundreds of guests at the majestic Forte Belvedere, made famous recently for the wedding of musician (and former Wallpaper* Design Awards judge) Kanye West, who was present at the event.
Elsewhere, at Teatrino Lorenese, G-Star Raw showcased its commitment to clearing the oceans of plastic pollution with its first Raw for the Oceans collection, made from retrieved ocean plastic innovated into denim. Pharrell Williams (another of our illustrious Design Awards judges) added his own star power to the project, by curating the theatre in a blue-washed scheme.
Given the prominence of the participants, it was apt that this season's menswear guest design brand was Z Zegna, which returned to Florence newly conceptualised. Zegna Sport and Z Zegna have merged into one label, and designers Murray Scallon and Paul Surridge are working together to merge the two cornerstones of menswear - sportswear and tailoring. They hope to draw a busy yet moneyed urban shopper, whom Surridge dubs 'a new kind of traveller'. 'We're all so mobile today with business trips and commuting,' he says. 'Most people don't live five minutes from work, so they're travelling or cycling.'
The pair responded to this new reality with hard-working fabrications normally only found in sportswear. Suits came thermo-regulated in water-resistant Techmerino, while outerwear in resistant stretch fabric was constructed without seams, using thermo glue. Given the focus on function, fashion almost took a back seat. Designs were understated, clean and minimal.
The focus on practicality at Zegna couldn't have contrasted more with the unapologetic celebration of excess at La Perla's menswear presentation. The showy fabrications - borrowed from women's lingerie - and quirky flying oyster print may have looked outlandish, but then Pitti wouldn't be Pitti without a bit of peacocking.