Buon Giorno, Everyone

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, there’s a men’s fashion trade show in Florence, Italy, every January where we show our wares to European customers.   I try to go.  I find it’s always good to get out of the U.S. and read the international press for an outside observer’s take on our country and an insider’s take on what’s going on in Europe or Asia.  (It was a tragically interesting time to be “over there” in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.)

I also always find it helpful to see how people are dressing and what shoes they’re wearing to the Show.  Here are a few notes from observations in and around “Pitti Immagine l’Uomo”, as the show is called.

-“Vintage American is big!”,  as the head of marketing from one global brand, who was sitting next to me on the plane to Florence, said. I saw countless shoes that are analogous to ours in the stores of Florence and in booths across the show. Styles of ours that seem particularly “in moda” are: Leeds/Jodox (I.e.wide plain toe bluchers), Dalton, First Avenue, Dundee (growing dress boot trend!) McAllister, the upcoming Lake Forest penny, the Fall 15 medallion toe shoe, and the new Warwick and the Mora 2.0 monkstraps.  Our iconic Strand still stands way tall!

– Shearling linings in boots is getting big. Dark brown pebble grain is another strong trend that we’re already on for 2015 (the Brunello Cucinelli booth was a mob scene the whole show and it was also the biggest booth there — they had brown pebble grain all over the place).

– Shoe finishes are more glazed everywhere now. That “Italian” highly buffed look that we examined internally at the beginning of the year is the well-established trend.

– Short suit coats and short, slim-fitting pants remain all the rage on guys who aren’t overweight.  Lapels are Beatlemania -thin now.  Lightweight down-filled-like vests and coats are everywhere.  Lots of full beards around, on at least half of the men at the show  (it looked like the Civil War era). Our whole dealer team from Scandinavia and all three of the 30-something buyers from our new multi-store British account were sporting Ulysses S Grant beards, for example.   Borsalino Fedora hats are clearly on the rise; tight stocking caps indoors not so much anymore.  Lightweight patterned scarves that are wrapped puffy around the neck are, um, hot … or maybe cool.

– Those who say that the patterning on window-pane sport coats is going more muted are zigging against the zag. Both on hangers in the booths and on the people in attendance, the sport coat and suit patterns are still quite pronounced and the colored lines of the pattern are well defined. I’d say there’s more “loud” patterning coming, not less. There were some guys walking around the show in clown clothes (not that our AE Man would follow that), so “muted” will have to wait a while longer.

–  We have great belts and business leathers!  Nobody had our selection of high quality leather, classic belts and leather duffels or briefcases. There were a lot of brightly colored belts of uncertain material (vinyl?) from some purveyors, but nobody was wearing them.  All-leather business goods were surprisingly hard to find or extremely expensive at the show.

– I met with the founder of SWIMS, who is thrilled with our business together.  I let him know that we wanted to try his unique summer beach/pool loafers this year.  They’re fun summer shoes.

As people who know me are aware, I always get inspired and super-attentive in Italy (although I also got food poisoning for the first time ever there, so anybody can have QC issues).   There’s always something amazing about Italian design.  In shoes today, this shows up the most in finishing touches. (Shoe fashion, to reiterate, is going away from the Italians now and toward vintage American.  I didn’t see a single man wearing that iconic Italian loafer the whole time I was there.) It’s all about product in our business, and it’s all about the littlest details when it comes to product.

In that vein, I leave you with one anecdote about the importance of the small details in design.  Tim Cronin, Rolf Walter and I stopped by a sculpture museum as the trade show wound down. In the museum were two sculptures side by side of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. One was by Michelangelo, who was able to portray Bacchus as a partying young man (maybe just turning 21). He’s obviously worse than tipsy, his balance looks as if he could stumble forward at any moment, his face has the grin of a college kid at a party about 11:00 on Friday night and his eyes look like the room is starting a dizzy spin.  The other Bacchus statue is by a not insignificant Renaissance artist whose name is not well known — and that’s the point.  The other Bacchus is an amazingly realistic rendition in stone of the human form – something very few people across all of human history have been able to accomplish — but there’s no further story about the sculpture to tell and the artist is definitely no Michelangelo.  The small details get you remembered.