The Autumn/Winter 2023 edition of Pitti Uomo was the usual blend of stylish outfits, shameless peacocking and absurdly over-stuffed schedules.
The city of Florence was once again teeming with the great and good of the menswear world, all of whom were energised by the paired prospects of days spent exploring the offering of one of Europe’s most important fashion festivals and a nights spent reconnecting with lost friends in the bars and eateries of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
As long, and eventually hazy, as those nights were, daytimes at Pitti 103 in the Fortezza da Basso were worth fighting through the fatigue.
Some of the most exciting brands in menswear presented some wonderful collections, and the well-dressed masses who descended upon the complex on each of the three days were treated to some exceptional pieces, primed to hit the shelves later this year.
Here are the highlights, to allow you to plan your future wardrobe…
Probably the biggest and most impressive stand on the floor was that of Italian super-luxe powerhouse Brunello Cucinelli. As well as being known for dressing some of the most stylish people Hollywood has to offer, Cucinelli has cultivated a reputation for using the finest fabrics around to create garments which are the zenith of ready-to-wear.
Its latest collection cements that reputation even further, not least through the use for suiting of cashmere corduroy which really has to be touched to be believed.
The aim here is to be a brand which covers all aspects of luxury lifestyle – everything from ski goggles to cigar cutters were on display – but most eye-catching was the tailoring, all relaxed elegance and refined nonchalance.
Black-tie evening wear in opulent coloured velvets stood alongside classic camel coats and that stunning ivory corduroy, showing those who managed to fight through the swarming crowds to be given their guided tour that Brunello Cucinelli intends to retain his place at the summit of luxury menswear for quite some time yet.
In 2019, I was utterly captivated by an image, from the movie Vox Lux, of Jude Law wearing an incredible grey suede bomber jacket.
As it turned out that jacket was by Milanese label Valstar and, despite never getting my hands on one of my own, was the catalyst for an appreciation of its work which grows with every passing year.
Its AW23 collection contains not only more beautiful suede but a magnificent array of sumptuous shearling.
From classic beige coats through chocolate and navy bombers, the sheepskin here will keep out the harshest of winter winds with consummate style.
The feel under your hand is exquisite, and each piece is versatile enough to sit atop casual denim or tailored wool trousers. More and more labels are returning to sheepskin for their winter styles, and so they should. Valstar’s editions rank among the best.
Every good outfit is built from the feet up, and quality footwear is rarely more important than during a London winter.
Edward Green has been catering for that climate for well over 100 years now, and its Jermyn Street base is a fantastic place to go to discover and discuss top quality cordwaining. As well as classic oxfords which are perfect for a city office, they presented a fine range of boots to withstand the cold and damp of the season, as sturdy as they are comfortable and as stylish as they are rugged.
The elegant profiles of the Kentmere and Galway editions prove that boots need not sacrifice elegance for functionality.
The combination of flamboyant check patterns and casual, partially unlined construction which has become a trademark of Stile Latino has an extremely Italian look and feel to it.
The lightness of the jackets and coats which form its AW23 collection belie the warmth they will provide, and the drape and flow of each cut makes them possibly the most comfortable garments you will ever own.
The colour pairings may not seem to be for the faint-hearted, but a break from navy and grey is exactly what we all need in winter. A bit of colour and life in your wardrobe can help to send the spirit up while the temperature plummets; depressing dark skies can be countered by warming, joyful clothes.
The Attolini tailoring dynasty, whose second and third generations helm this wonderful brand, aim to provide us exactly that with daring purple overchecks and a dazzling expanded houndstooth coat.
Baudoin & Lange
2023 is shaping up to be a momentous year for young London brand Baudoin & Lange. Having set out to bring the comfort and elegance of bespoke to the ready to wear market, and raised the bar for the construction of stylish, everyday loafers, it has now set its sights on revamping some other classic shoe styles.
Last year saw the release of its Chelsea boot, the Rover: cut lower on the ankle to interact more naturally with the trousers and featuring its trademark natural rubber sole. New colourways of these, the accompanying Grand – a more traditional take on the Chelsea boot – and its original Sagan loafers were all on view for AW23, but the big reveal was its first collection of sneakers.
Named Beat, they have been designed with the aim of creating a sneaker which really can be worn with suiting. All this in addition to the recent opening of a second boutique – this time a much larger property on King’s Road – should make Baudoin & Lange the brand to watch in 2023.
Johnstons of Elgin
With colder weather naturally comes cosy knitwear, and few places do this better than Scotland. Johnstons of Elgin recently celebrated its 225th anniversary, so must be doing something right to have lasted this long.
Its stand was full of the soft and luxurious cashmere you would expect of them, but presented in modern cuts and vibrant, youthful colourways. A wonderful burgundy shawl collar cardigan, which could serve as a top layer on crisp autumn mornings, was a particular highlight, along with a beige crew-neck jumper which, while in a classic biscuit-beige tone, caught the eye with a stunning lattice pattern on the back to go with the intricate cabling on the front.
Begg x Co
While younger than its counterparts up in Elgin, Begg x Co has still been around a fair while, and still maintains its original factory in the seaside town of Ayr. Its knitwear is bold and fun, mixing the necessity of solid, warm clothing for the winter with a firm knowledge that this need not come at the cost of enjoying the garments themselves. Bright greens, eclectic Donegal patterns and confident, oversized shapes are cut from fabric of the highest quality
These are pieces which can be worn just as easily with jeans at the weekend as they can under tailoring and overcoats when a touch more formality is required; their versatility and durability will have you coming back to them year after year.
This year will also be an important one in the history of Sanders, as the brand celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Its stand featured all the classic offerings one would expect from a shoemaker with such heritage, as well as a few more contemporary twists.
Of them all, most eye-catching was undoubtedly a pair of Derbies with contrasting green laces and a wonderful toecap in Russian calf leather. The distinctive grain of this material gives the shoes an individuality which will set your feet out from the competition.
Waste Yarn Project
Even colder than the Scottish winter is the Norwegian one, and it is from those bitter climes that Waste Yarn Project brings its unique approach to creating one-of-a-kind knitwear.
These are knits for the adventurous, but also the eco-conscious – each piece is created using yarn left over from luxury fashion houses and knitted together in a pattern derived completely by chance.
The first few collections chose the combinations by spinning a wheel, but new for AW23 are patterns dreamt up by dice. Bold stripes and very bright colours are the trademark, and slouchy fits suited to work-from-home or weekend wear are to be expected. What should also be expected is quality, comfort and a lot of fun – these are definitely clothes to brighten up your winter.
One of the most spectacular presentations of the festival was that of Scarosso, who eschewed a traditional booth in favour of throwing a jazz and negroni-fuelled bash at the swanky Helvetia and Bristol Hotel.
Among the products on display were selections from its recent collaboration with American menswear guru Nick Wooster (himself in attendance) and its usual contemporary take on staples such as the Chelsea boot and tassel loafer.
Scarosso is another brand favoured by celebrities, with Dwayne Johnson and James Marsden regularly seen wearing them, and Daniel Craig sporting a pair throughout his performance in Glass Onion. If it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for us.
It’s high time the hat made a comeback, and not just in the form of a half-baked Peaky Blinders tribute.
A finely-crafted trilby or fedora can be the perfect way to finish an outfit, as well as being enormously practical for keeping body heat in throughout the winter.
The collection on show from Christys’ was not, I confess, something I had expected to see at Pitti but was a very welcome surprise. While the construction and style are very true to the bygone era with which such hats are usually associated, the fabrics have been updated – so as to be more practical and waterproof, as well as easier to store – and the colours contemporised.
Traditional black and navy options are still in abundance, but more daring purples and greens are gaining popularity, and all will add an extra panache to your outfit.
The biannual Pitti Uomo festivals are always notable for the diversity of the crowd, and of the brands on offer. One thing linked the thousands attending Pitti 103, and has linked a great many more at previous editions: a love of men’s style. However they decide to dress themselves, there is a respect and appreciation for the choices made by all others alongside them, and it is this atmosphere which makes Pitti so much fun to attend. I already can’t wait to return in June.