As the fashion tribe is getting ready to leave Florence for Milan — Pitti Uomo for Milano Moda Uomo — amidst a 24-hour transportation strike throughout Italy, I reflect back on the great things I’ve seen in the last 36 hours. While this year’s Pitti Uomo has been truly fantastic and full of personal highlights, the last day also managed to be pretty mind blowing.
ETON: You went and saved the best for last.
I’m a huge fan of the Swedish shirt brand Eton. It’s beyond their cool attitude and the fresh way they make a menswear staple exciting, even for a dress shirt skeptic like me. Eton is stylish, on and off, both worn and behind the scenes. Throughout my Pitti Uomo days I’ve gotten to know and love this brand because they manage to reinvent the dress shirt each time and add in a few irreverent rockstar looks that I would wear in a heartbeat.
This time around, the staples included a serious dress shirt with an ice cream design that from afar looks like a colorful background, highbrow enough to be worn to the office, yet up-close reveals cones, ices and ice bars that will be the wearer’s inside joke, literally under his suit jacket. Also, for the more relaxed casual Fridays, there is a reworked Hawaiian print short sleeve number (pictured above) that is inspired by the shirt worn by Magnum P.I. AKA Tom Selleck in the 80s series.
As usual, it was a pleasure to catch up with Eton’s Creative Director Sebastian Dollinger who was able to put into words why I felt the brand looked even better than usual this season. “Spring/Summer feels more like an open door,” he explained, to a designer like him, “because you get more assorted colors, patterns are more vivid, it’s just easier, especially when I’m working with shirts, accessories; Autumn is a bit more challenging that way.”
Yoshio Kubo: The prince of trends.
Give me a brand that brings on dreams of faraway travels and supplies a backstory full of wondrous imagination and I’m its biggest fan. So when Japanese designer Yoshio Kubomarched his urban prince-slash-warrior down the block stone runway of the Stazione Leopolda on Thursday morning, he captured my full attention.
In his designer statement Kubo states that this season was all about a mix of “technology and handcraft” and that he wanted to bring to life “special colors, blooming from a shading laser show on the desert at midnight.” In fact, coming out of the pyramid structures that lined the start of the runway, his cool designs included what looked like Dutch batik fabrics from Indonesia, Sanganer-style cottons from Rajastan and a few African prints thrown in, cut in silhouettes that had a Laos look to them.
I imagined the Yoshio Kubo man as a traveling poet, who stopped in Abidjan, Jaipur and Jakarta on his way to his small yet elegant home in Bali where he would host a party for artist JR, Keith Richards and Snoop Dog, and a few select friends.
Kubo’s lines are impeccable, as one usually expects from Japanese designers but the true genius of his creations lies in the colors he has chosen for this collection. Black long kurtas with just a hint of white tie dye and a splash of bright pink, head to toe yellow-toned ecru worn with Superga-like sneakers and a wide-rimmed straw hat, and a bright red suit that he marched out as the first outfit, the model’s face hauntingly covered by a sheer red veil. Everything truly theatrical but utterly wearable — if styled a bit more conservatively.
Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh™: These clothes are made for walking!
There was a eerie feel to the Off-White presentation designed by Virgil Abloh, which took place in the Piazza Pitti, models walking down a slope that used to be a parking lot when I was a child and is now a centerpiece of the Oltrarno section of Florence, an oasis of traffic-free block stones. In the extensive setting, they looked small and defenseless, like asylum seekers walking across the tundra of perils that so much humanity finds itself in these days. Up-close of course, things changed as details like white boxing sneakers with large orange pull tabs hanging from them and oversized bags, or bright orange Timberland work boots worn with all white or all black clothing marched on confident male models who braved the darkness/treacherous steps combination to bring us the last fashion show of this season’s Pitti Uomo.
As a special guest of the fair, Off-White by Virgil Abloh™ left its mark. I know the pieces can be separated from the complete outfits that came down the runway and be worn as cool status symbols of a new America, albeit one that is not represented by our current President. Think more Kanye West than Donald Trump.
Artist Jenny Holsen did a light installation that projected poems by Middle Eastern writers onto the facade of the Pitti Palace — the new royal residence of fashion in Florence since the advent of visionary museum director Eike Schmidt at the Uffizi Galleries. Music by Gioachino Rossini played in the background, a recording by the Maggio Musicale orchestra, complete with audience cheering and clapping at the end of each aria.
Eerie and mercurial mixed with streetwise and pragmatic and the result was a collection that could be pulled apart for accents or worn as shown for effect.
J.W. Anderson: Who says you can’t go home again?
When I was a young child, I remember a particular visit to Sir Harold Acton’s Villa la Pietra, a beautiful, sprawling property on the Old Bolognese road, just outside of the Florence center. My father knew the English collector and intellectual and Sir Acton generously hosted us, the entire family consisting of my parents and me, over for an early dinner. We never ventured to the gardens below the house, as probably we could have risked getting lost and while I was warned by my mom to behave like an adult — I was five at the time — because Sir Acton didn’t like children very much, the distinguished Brit treated me well. Less like the annoying child that came as a package deal with my parents and more like a peer. I can still remember how great that made me feel. Anyway, when a woman with diverging eyes came in, I also remember being frightened of her, or perhaps intimidated at trying to figure out which eye to stare into while she said hello to me. At that moment, a furtive glance from Sir Acton let me know I wasn’t alone in my hesitancy and a very understatedly whispered, “she has a slight problem with her eyes” from the wonderful gentlemen put me further at ease.
Fast forward forty years and I got to walk through the gardens and admire the house where I first remember feeling like it was fun to be adult, once again. Thanks to Irish-born designer J.W. Anderson who picked Villa la Pietra as his must-have venue to both show and inspire his latest collection.
One can hate what Anderson represents, or love his simple, I want-to-wear-them-now clothing, his irreverence towards the fashion industry and all its social climbing wannabes, and his attitude which makes it seem like he doesn’t care about what he does at all. But it’s impossible to remain untouched by his presence, his vision and his style. Hate it or love it, indifference is never an option where Anderson is concerned.
In fact, I loved that at the preview for his line, earlier in the day, he threw at the press a few irrelevant influences and confused the heck out of my esteemed colleagues, only to then show something in the evening that was completely different and unrelated. On the romantic white square pillows with his name embroidered on them where we sat sprinkled among the paths of Villa la Pietra, we found a booklet of dirty photographs from the turn of the Century. He showed on a big screen ‘A Room with a View’ by Merchant and Ivory. And yet his models wore modern, castigated clothes, no skin to be seen, and displayed a totally now, wearable clothes. A vision for street style that both gets you noticed and takes you places in today’s world.