One of the things I love about Pitti Uomo, the menswear trade show held in Florence twice a year, is the exceptional quality from brands you’ve never heard of. I almost wish I had a shop to sell all these brands, but, disappointingly, you need a very tasteful and trusting customer to make it work, because many consumers are hooked on known brands.
It’s comforting to know that high-quality still exists and is to be found in small and, often, new companies.
Left - The Silk Shirt Company - White Luxury Silk Shirt - £800
One such company is The Silk Shirt Company. Doing exactly what it says on the label, it was incorporated in January 2016 in London ‘with the intention to produce the finest luxury silk shirts and to establish itself as a top tier luxury clothing brand’.
Left - Feel like a casino owner - Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino
You’ll probably already know about my obsession with silk shirts ATM - Read Trend The Return of 'The Sexy Shirt’ and these really do look the business.
Established by Ajay Valecha, of Indian decent and born and raised in Accra, Ghana, who moved to London in April 2014. The Silk Shirt Company’s shirts are made in Italy with the finest silk from Como.
There range is currently mostly block colours with a few patterned varieties. They had some beautiful baby blue and pink shorted sleeved shirts for the new SS19 season which are giving me pure Sam Rothstein, Robert De Niro’s character in Casino. They are expensive, but they look it.
Right - The Silk Shirt Company - Luxury Silk Shirt - £800
I’m not sure whether I’m early or late writing this. One of the highlights of Pitti Uomo 93 in January, and the entire menswear season, was the AW18 Undercover show. I wanted to write something about it at the time, but I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.
Far Left - A still from the film, Left - Undercover AW18
The Leopolda Station in Florence was transformed into an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a timeless inspiration for pretty much everybody, but I’d never seen it done this literally before.
The scene in which the astronauts wear their coloured suits was the finale of the collection and looked as though they had just stepped out of the film.
The 1968 science fiction film, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, is now 50 years old and is still a masterpiece of sci-fi cinema.
I hadn’t seen an Undercover show before and I didn’t know that much about the label. Founded in 1993 by Jun Takahashi, it began showing in Paris in 2002. For this season, it was a guest of Pitti Uomo in Florence.
Left - Both Undercover AW18
That naughty computer HAL 9000 was up to his tricks and played a prominent part in the collection in the form of bags and accessorises. There were full fleece suits, a simple idea, but not seen before, and something I will mention again later in the season. Stills from the film covered outerwear, but it is the final group of figures, in full, colour-coordinating outfits, that you should emulate.
So, when shopping for you next cold weather outfit, buy everything in the same primary colour. From parka to padded trousers to matching hat and gloves.
Z Zegna, the sporty side of Zegna, did something similar and it’s easy to find Space Odyssey inspiration in interiors and architecture. Happy birthday, Space Odyssey.
Left - Z Zegna AW18
Below - Achille Salvagni - Spider White Chandelier
When I started in this business summer shoe options consisted of cheap flimsy flip-flops or jelly-sandals for those pebbled British beaches. There was little or no choice and there certainly wasn’t any style - even though jelly sandals are kind of bad cool ATM FYI!
Anyway, let me introduce ‘CASABLANCA 1942’ who are making some of the nicest and most beautifully crafted hot weather shoes I’ve seen. Started in May 2014 by Gabriela Ligenza, and inspired by the classic film and the year it was released, the shtick is raffia.
Left - Cesare
The uppers are made from breathable natural raffia woven in Mogador, Morocco, and then construction takes place in Italy using the finest sustainable leather from French and Italian tanneries.
Right - The raffia comes from the raffia palm tree in Madagascar
The raffia fiber is obtained from the raffia palm tree, commonly found in Madagascar. The leaves of this little tree are cut into parallel lines resulting in the long fibers used in the weaving of the shoes. Unlike straw, raffia is stronger, hard-wearing and will mould to the feet when worn.
Polish-born Gabriela trained as an architect and interior designer at Fine Art Academy in Warsaw. She also designed hats before this venture. Based between London and her design studio south of Florence, Italy, she travels extensively for her inspirations and research. Gabriela has collaborated for the last 20 years with leading accessories and shoe designers for global brands like Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Martin Margiela, Missoni, Paul Smith and Stella McCartney to develop hand woven raffia shoes produced using entirely traditional hand weaving techniques, but combining the craft with Italian know how and quality materials.
The idea for Casablanca 1942 was conceived whilst sitting on a beach under the stars watching the film, Casablanca, with the background sound of the Atlantic and thinking “what would Rick wear in this intense and sweltering city?”
Each pair takes at least a day to make so the shoes are made in limited editions. After all, "true luxury should be not about the price, but in the uniqueness of the product," she says.
Left - Lace Up Trainers £260
Gabriela believes that helping local cooperatives to incorporate external developments and training improves the marketability of the local skills and products, respecting its identity, distinctiveness and preserving sustainability on a grass roots level.
Gabriela says the shoe styles are inspired by “trying to design the perfect summer shoe for my husband so he can get inspired to go on holidays more!”
There are a few thing to know to get the best out of your pair. You may find that the shoes are a bit tight when you wear them the first time, but they will soon give as they moulds to your feet. You might want to wear them with socks for the first time for your own comfort, but they are designed to be worn bare foot in very hot weather.
Right - Woven Loafers - £228
If you feel that it rubs a bit too much on a certain area, it is recommended that you apply a wet cloth on this part of the shoe while it is on your foot, in order for the raffia to mould to your foot more quickly.
Raffia, being a natural fiber, will feel very comfortable without socks as the fiber will keep your feet fresh and naturally ventilated. As they become yours, “they are even more special even when they start wearing in and fraying a bit,” says Gabriela.
These are really elegant and artisanal summer shoes and I don't think the photographs do them enough justice after seeing them in person at the recent Pitti Uomo show in Florence.
Available at Harrods in the UK
Fashion doesn’t happen in isolation. Large corporations can influence fashion and push their aesthetic through with the help of wads of cash. This, sometimes, makes the companies bigger and more money and so the cycle continues. But, a shift can often beach the whale and sportswear has thrown the preppy baby out with the bath water. Apologises.
I’ve written about the troubles with preppy before, Read more here, usually focussing on Ralph Lauren as the flag bearer, quite literally, of the look and its reluctance to change or evolve to suit the current taste in comfort and dress down.
Left - Brooks Brothers' 200th Anniversary Show at Pitti Uomo 93
That was a while ago, and with people soon to get bored of looking like a charity shop reject or a retro sportsperson, it’s inevitable that it will return.
So, we move to Florence for the 93rd edition of Pitti Uomo. Brooks Brothers is one of the chosen brands to show and they are celebrating their 200th year. Which, for any retailer, let alone an American one, is something to be very proud of.
Under the painted ceiling of the Palazzo Vecchio, a deep presidential blue curtain pulled back to reveal an orchestra playing ‘Empire State Of Mind’. So far, so good. Out came the models in various guises of preppy, yet it had been styled to mute their greatest hits. Cable knits over jackets and suit jackets tucked into trousers, it looked like a collection embarrassed to brushed with the preppy magic.
Brooks Brothers can lay claim to dressing presidents and charting the evolution of American style over the last 200 years. This should have been preppy so good that you’d bounce out of the show and be googling ‘John F Kennedy Jnr’ before you hit the cobbles of Florence’s Piazza della Signoria.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. This should have been a celebration of America’s 20th century power and the handsome, dashing evolution of that dressed style into preppy and the history of American fashion.
Brands like Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren need to push in order to return to fashion favour. There’s no point in sitting back and waiting for the tide to come back in on your style. Push preppy, push suiting, push people looking like they give a shit. There was was no fight here.
Preppy isn’t fully dead, it just needs to be really good. There are new American brands like Rowing Blazers, and British brand, Drake’s, is a perfect example. They manage to make preppy feel artistic, creative and beautiful. It’s the colours, the prints and the detail that makes you want to explore the fun and exaggerated side of preppy and, shock horror, put a tie on! Maybe.
Straight off the back of London’s LFWM and a look around Florence’s Pitti Uomo, the smarter jacket shape for AW18 is what I’m calling the ‘Slouchy Norfolk’.
It’s a longer jacket with a distinctive waist, and rather than the rigid and thick tweed of the Edwardians, this is more relaxed, unstructured and modern.
Oliver Spencer showed his with matching trousers in a handsome micro checked fabric, while Danish brand, Hansen Garments, featured the Norfolk’s signature waist belt and multiple pockets in a soft flecked material.
You’ll be able to wear this as a light coat and, also, instead of a smarter jacket during autumn and early winter.
Far Left - Oliver Spencer AW18
Left - Denmark’s Hansen Garments
Below - Classic Hunting Norfolk Jackets
This is so ChicGeek. I saw this shirt at Pitti Uomo in January. While it was a little bit nippy for silk in Florence, it didn’t get above zero, this dreamy Ossie Clark style shirt stood out on the Pretty Green stand. Women have for so long enjoyed Celia Birtwell’s - Ossie’s former wife - prints on his vintage dresses and this printed shirt is pure 70s Ossie Clark, especially in silk.
This is romantic menswear. The menswear of front men, rock stars and part of the new decorated trend in menswear. Crafted from smooth silk, it’s not going to be cheap, and patterned with hand painted florals, it is cut in a slim fit and detailed with lustrous mother-of-pearl buttons. This is definitely an open-neck-letting-it-all-hang-out-type shirt.
It’s yet to hit Pretty Green online and in-store. I’m waiting with bated breath.
News just in, it's a bargain £130.
It was with serendipity, just as the first AW17 shows were coming through, that I walked past the The Cords & Co. stand at Pitti Uomo in January last. I won’t bore with the fashion clichés of corduroy being the cloth of kings or geography teachers, but what you do need to know is that it’s everywhere and the main trend story for AW17.
Left - The Cords & Co aiming to be “the world’s first corduroy brand”
Giving themselves the title of “the world’s first corduroy brand”, this new Swedish brand is hoping to be to corduroy what Levi’s is to denim and you wonder why nobody has tried this before. They probably have, but not within the last couple of decades in my memory.
The Cords & Co is going big, planning to open 6 flagship stores in New York, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Stockholm, - doesn’t say where the sixth one is?! - as well as a global online shop and plus wholesale partners.
Right - The Cords & Co - Cut Poppy Red - £180
“The Cords & Co is created by a passionate group of people united by a shared love of corduroy. By exploring new ways to work with corduroy in our Stockholm design Studio, highlighting its long but little known history, and working closely with a carefully curated group of collaborative partners and cultural tastemakers in each of our flagship city locations around the world, we’re excited to share our unique story of a fabric everyone has a connection to, yet no other brand has dedicated themselves entirely to it,” says Omar Varts, CEO.
It’s about time corduroy got some love. A practical yet smart material, it’s an easy option especially in the simple styles The Cords & Co. are offering. The best look is matching you jacket to your trousers to give you a 70s casual jean-suit feel.
The brand's images are a bit disappointing for a launch, keeping it too simple and I just hope they give the stores more life and branding as corduroy is ripe for personality and Scooby Doo adventures.
Below - The Cords & Co - Trousers - £125
The word of the season is 'oversized'. The bigger the better. It just means getting dressed just got easier: one item covers all, well nearly.
We've been a fan of this AW16 collection since we saw it at Pitti Uomo at the beginning of the year. Handmade in Hackney by knitwear designers Anna Wilkinson and Lindsay McKean, Cats Brothers is known for its quirky crochet and colourful knits. Putting the craft into fashion, their pieces are ingrained with humour and style and feel more art-piece than yet another fashion item with a creature or icon.
Credits - Red Monkey Jumper, Oversized Black & White Jumper, Tiger Bag - Cats Brothers, Tracksuit Bottoms - Lyle & Scott, Velvet Trainers - Russell & Bromley
Shot by Robin Forster on OlympusPEN
More images & video below