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Pitti Uomo, Florence.
Pitti Uomo, Florence.

Fashion: A man’s world

A visit to the Pitti Uomo luxury fair in Florence reveals the new tides of modern-day dandyism

The mix of dim and bright lights inside the famous Palazzo Corsini in Florence, by the Arno river, was mood-altering. That the new face of Moschino, American pop star Katy Perry, cheered designer Jeremy Scott’s Spring/Summer 2016 men’s collection added to the evening’s anticipation. But only till the models walked out into the frescoed salons. After that, it was a man’s world with fluid boundaries—chunky royal jewellery, crowns worn with bikini bottoms in red, blue and white, trousers emblazoned with cartoon motifs, ripe melon-coloured garments, 18th century coiffures, stick-on black beauty spots, bright lips, sheer lace ensembles and little else. Madness, shirtlessness, brazenness. The collection assimilated influences from baroque to rococo, magnified interpretations of princely jewellery and European hairstyles to fabrics from professional cycling. Amid symbols of pop culture, non-conformism was writ all over.

This was the finale of Pitti Uomo’s 88th edition. Known as the world’s biggest platform for men’s clothing and accessories, Pitti Uomo, created in 1972, is held in Florence twice a year. Stories of Pitti’s peacocks or street-style dandies are fashion legend. Every season, Pitti’s poster boys trend as heroes of street style on Instagram and WhatsApp. But only when you arrive at this fair, where more than 1,500 global brands and designers set up pop-up stores and innovative displays, does the creative vastness of men’s fashion hit you.

A number of Indian stores shop at Pitti Uomo—Westside, Raymond, Shoppers Stop, Arvind, Indian Terrain, Pantaloons, as well as online stores such as Flipkart, Amazon.in, Myntra and Jabong. They aren’t just looking for products that suit their client profiles back home but also for ideas. As Rishi Vasudev, vice-president, fashion at Flipkart India Pvt. Ltd, says, “Pitti is an evolved market. This is where we find ideas to mentor our sellers to innovate and build businesses, to show them how to grow, to try different things." Vasudev says he was particularly impressed by the evolution in men’s shoes—the various treatments brought to leather and the number of brands available.

When you see men in fedoras or in silver shoes paired with tattered jeans; in mauve-dyed suede slip-ons paired with green skinny jeans; in tailored ankle-length suits worn with white sneakers; intelligently interpreting the nautical trend (blue and white stripes), their swagger intensified by reflector sunglasses, you realise this is a men’s fashion movement.

Dozens of influences are on the boil currently. There is crazy experimentation tinged with a fondness for old-world classics; love for colour as well as for delicate fabrics such as cashmere mixed with fine silk. These were too feminine in old constructs of masculinity. Dell’Erba says there is a shift away from classical dressing, which exists only among older men. “The rest want to be comfortable, smart and updated," he explains.

But this shift is peculiar to modern men; there is no such indifference to gender among women. The naked dress that leaves little to the imagination has been the biggest red-carpet trend for Western female celebrities recently. There is nothing androgynous about it.

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