3 Days in Florence

Chris Campbell

Italy’s very best haberdashers flock to Florence twice a year to present their latest luxuries at Pitti Immagine Uomo. Christopher Campbell reports.

January 10, 2007

Pitti Immagine Uomo is an experience in sensory overload—thousands of dandies from around the world scouring the medieval Fortezza da Basso for the greatest in Italian luxury goods, from cashmere to crocodile.

I headed first to Kiton, the Neapolitan line that has quickly become a gold standard in menswear. It is the only luxury company in the world still producing every garment by hand in one facility—jacket shoulder linings are still molded over the tailor’s knee. Kiton presented a fall/winter collection that blended a precise fit with an earthy palette of chocolate brown and gray with accents of teal and navy blue. But the real story here is a new 13.5-micron merino wool. Translation: A micron is about one thousandth of a millimeter; a human hair is about 80 microns. These ultrafine fibers weave so tightly that they make even the thinnest Super 150s feel as heavy as a bulletproof vest. Kiton will be the first to introduce a wool this fine in off-the-rack suiting come September.

Some people say Pitti is about tradition and that Milan, which happens the following week, is about trends. Maybe they’re right. The talk in Milan is more likely to be of Donatella and the sea urchin spaghetti at Da Giacomo, while at Pitti, micron fibers were at the heart of a wool war brewing within the walls of the fortress. In its stockpiles Ermenegildo Zegna has 11.1-micron wool so scarce that it’s only offered to bespoke clients. (Zegna actually gives an award each year to the Australian or Kiwi merino producer of the finest fleece.) If the numbers seemed a bit technical, the clothes were far more exciting, particu- larly the waterproof coated-cotton BT-iJacket. This "intelligent garment" has pockets for your cell phone and iPod and features Bluetooth technology, allowing you to work both devices from a microphone built into the collar and a control pad on the sleeve.

It’s hard to think of the future without mentioning ISAIA. Celebrating its 50th an-niversary and now under the leadership of Gianluca Isaia, the third-generation heir to this Naples-based company, the line merges a quintessentially Neapolitan style with a modern edge. Among the collection’s highlights are a dress shirt with detachable collars and a cool version of a navy duffle coat made from the company’s latest innovation—the water-and-stain-resistant AquaCashmere.

There are many anniversaries this season. Borrelli, the official tailor to the Italian royal family, is ringing in a half century and, to commemorate, is pressing its shirts with a vetiver solution before packaging, as the house did in its earliest days. Marking 150 years, Borsalino, the Italian hat company, is producing a range of limited editions, among them a hare fur-and-silk fedora that rolls up nicely for travel.

I ended the day at Canali, where the clothes were easy and wearable, emphasizing a dark palette with bold accents of ruby red and emerald green, two colors that worked their way into most collections this season.

January 11, 2007

Starting my morning off at Brunello Cucinelli, the busiest stall at the show, was better than a double espresso. I was immediately surrounded by a sea of Italian prepsters done up in the label’s signature color palette of navy, beige, and gray. There was plenty to see—cashmere blazers and trim pant suits in heather gray with rugby cable-knit sweaters used as underpinnings, a navy coat with a Bemberg satin lining, and a double-breasted corduroy jacket that seemed as fitting for an all-American bookish type like Wes Anderson as for an Italian film star weekending in Como. Corduroy was a buzzword at the fair. At Incotex, the pants-only label, the main attraction was a new "baby cord" trouser crafted with the lightest such fabric ever produced. Corneliani was also on point when it came to casual luxe. The com-pany showed an overcoat made from a chinchilla-cashmere blend, a mink-and- cashmere blazer, and a pure alpaca steamer coat. But it was the basic Jazz ID-Jacket that caught my attention most—a black ID car coat featuring a zip-out vest, with a separate zipper that creates a layered look without the bulk.

The day ended with Salvatore Ferragamo’s runway show at the majestic Palazzo Borghese. While the label may be primarily associated with great shoes, this time around it was all about the clothes. Menswear designer Massimiliano Giornetti sent out a score of well-suited young aristocrats in a sophisticated color palette, in-cluding accents of avocado and teal, and a deep burgundy velvet suit that seemed as though it had just popped out of a painting by Elizabeth Peyton, whom Giornetti referenced as his muse.

January 12, 2007

I decided to devote the day to the Brits, who, for the first time, were all invited to show at Pitti. In fact, in honor of the Savile Row tailors who transplanted their showrooms south of the English Channel, there was a black- tie kickoff party earlier in the week and an exhibit at the Palazzo Pitti that chronicled the famous street ad-dress and the impact these venerable tailors have had on fashion for more than two centuries.

Strolling through the hallways of the Villa Vittoria, where tailors such as An- derson & Sheppard, Gieves & Hawkes, Richard James, and Spencer Hart had set up shop for the week, I was amazed by the tailoring (some of the sharpest I have ever seen). If there is a men’s version of couture, this is surely it.

Also showing at Pitti was Ballantyne, the Scottish cashmere line, whose collection offered quite a few gems: A purple velvet jacket was coupled with a pair of brown moleskin trousers, which stood their ground against a wide selection of sweaters with intarsia designs that mimicked a pattern from an old blanket found in the company archives.

Dunhill’s new Bespoke double-breasted and Mayfair single-breasted superslim styles evoked the skinny silhouette prevailing at Pitti this season. The Mayfair was especially effective in a three-piece version and was complemented by a Dunhill medallion-patterned tie in the style this British company has perfected.