Cautious optimism and stability characterized the 65th edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo, the international menswear trade show held in Florence, Italy on January 8-11.

The event showcased hundreds of new collections for the autumn/winter 2004/05 season and registered a slight increase of the number of buyers who attended. The number of Italian visitors remained stable at about 17,000. Approximately 9,000 foreigners attended, a 1.3% increase from the last edition of Pitti Uomo. The show attracted more visitors from Germany, the USA, Japan, France, Russia and Turkey than previous editions. Spain, Portugal, Taiwan, Canada and Northern Europe, however, sent fewer visitors this time.

Considering the overall panorama of a slow market situation, weak dollar, Italian sale season and local strikes in public transportation, the fair’s organizers said that they were happy with the show and optimistic about the business atmosphere improving.

SPARKLES AND COLORS LIGHT UP THE MARKET
Many sportswear designs at the show expressed with an optimistic and lively attitude. Bright colors such as purple, red, orange, yellow and bright green and jewel-buttons and rock-’n’-roll—inspired brooches on jeanswear and menswear items seem to want to wake up the market. Among those showing such looks were COAST+WEBER+AHAUS and WE-R-REPLAY.

Metallic touches with lurex inserts or silvery strata applications were on display at REFRIGIWEAR and GAS.

Jeanswear manufacturers showed numerous innovations, including new interpretations of ’80s fits; dark denim that was either very dark or reworked with particular garment treatments or contrasting colorful and personalized stitching. CLOSED, COMBO, CYCLE, DECAUVILLE, G-STAR, LIVEE’O, NOSE, SIXTY and SEAL KAY were among those that offered these looks.

Ergonomic shapes are also still very popular—in both denim and traditional menswear fabrics such as tweed or Prince of Wales. Also new are a few pants models that can modify their silhouette by opening a side ZIPPER (BLOCK 60, CYCLE, NOSE). In addition, a new anti-fit interpretation was presented by LEVI’S Antiform jeans.

New tops—hybrids of T-shirts and collared shirts—featured stitched shirt collars, mixed fabric and jersey components or applied fancy ties on T-shirts. EUROPEAN CULTURE and CYCLE showed such looks.

BRAND NEW BRANDS
The fair presented a few innovative, new brands. LIVEE’O, designed by the Italian Livio Graziottin who also makes the E-PLAY pret-a-porter collection, focused mostly on black and white, numerous material mixes (denim, laces, wool, satin), visible contrast stitching and innovative rubber prints.

Dutch designer CAROL VAN LAERE, already producing his unique-piece creations through his own home-based studio in Milan, presented his "open-tailor-jackets" both in the leather and fabric versions. After having dressed stars such as Ringo Starr, Howard Jones, Prodigy and David Beckham, he’s now ready to start a higher-scale production of his outstanding unique ideas.

Also new were IJIN MATERIAL, a Japanese ergonomic jeanswear collection, TOUGH, a collection of Japanese hand-made functional bags, J-SITE, RIFLE Group’s reborn high-research jeanswear collection, and SPALDING, a new European project aimed at launching a new and trendy footwear collection that carries the name of the leading basketball gear manufacturer.

EXCESS NIGHTS
Some special events also animated the post-fair Florentine social life. Celebrating the rich creativity and fundamental importance of the ’80s for Italian and international fashion panorama is "The Age of Excess: Fashion and Underground in the ’80s," an exhibition at the Stazione Leopolda that runs through February 8. Charismatic pop star Malcom McClaren, who founded of the Sex Pistols and is generally considered to be a "father" of punk, was on hand at the exhibition’s opening party. He presented one of his latest discoveries, Wild Strawberries, a Chinese all-girl rock band.

Other events were held at equally unique locations. Belgian designer VERONIQUE BRANQUINHO, for instance, presented her menswear collection during a special event-performance inside the small Teatro Goldoni. Very different, but just as interesting, was US designer MARC ECKO’s presentation of his men’s ECKO at the San Lorenzo central market.

Ecko, publicist Coltrane Curtis and other celebrities were also spotted at a party given by CLOSED.

Other VIPs made this Pitti edition especially lively. The British duo Chemical Brothers participated in a night event for KILLER LOOP and PLAYLIFE. Rumors say flew that they earned 160,000 euro to appear. No official confirmation was available but consider this: they were picked in London by a private jet from the BENETTON Group, they played until five in the morning, and left Florence immediately after 6:00 am.

—Maria Cristina Pavarini, Features Editor