Retailer Reactions Mixed on Return to In-Person Pitti Show

When Pitti Uomo returns to Florence on June 30 with its first in-person show since the start of the pandemic, there will be some familiar faces as well as some major absentees.

Retailers from around the world are still navigating the ever-changing restrictions from their individual states and countries on travel while also juggling the requirements put in place by Pitti’s organizers for them to attend the show.

Pitti Immagine Uomo, the parent company of the men’s fair, said retailers need to register in advance and be prepared to have their necessary documents and certifications on hand in order to enter the show without delays. All attendees will be required to show the results of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of attempting entry, have their temperature checked and wear a mask when walking the show.

The show is working with the Italian Red Cross for testing at a number of rapid-testing hubs around the city. So while some retailers are still not ready to make the trek, the ones who plan to be on site say they feel comfortable that they’ll be able to visit Florence and attend the show safely.

Here is what key retailers had to say about the next edition of Pitti Uomo starting today.

Bruce Pask, men’s fashion director for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman:

Are you planning to attend the in-person Pitti show?

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I’m going to be attending Pitti Uomo along with Neiman Marcus general merchandise manager Russ Patrick. We both thoughtfully discussed the possibility and found that we agreed that the trip will offer an important opportunity to support Pitti Uomo and the men’s wear industry in general and will also allow us to reconnect personally with many of our vendors, designers, and industry colleagues — valuable and important partners of both Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. We have greatly missed being in showrooms and on physical appointments seeing, feeling, and touching clothing, having face-to-face conversations that flow a bit more organically than those in the virtual realm, leading to important directions, ideas, and opportunities.

Did you participate virtually in the past and did you find that useful? Did you buy anything or find any new brands?

I did participate in each previous Pitti Connect and found the format incredibly well done, approximating as best as possible the flow of the actual physical show at the Fortezza, re-creating virtual areas organized by category and theme. I also found the specially curated areas, one in specific was organized around sustainability, well presented and useful. We did visit vendors that are represented in our matrix and purchases were indeed made from them and I did scout a few brands that I am continuing to follow and look forward to seeing in person.

The organizers have instituted several safety protocols for attendees. Do you feel comfortable attending and are you able to travel freely to Italy or are there restrictions?

Yes, I’m comfortable traveling to Italy and feel safe attending the show in person. The vaccinations have certainly opened up much more opportunity for travel and for gathering in groups more safely. At the same time, I am incredibly mindful and adhere to all international travel guidelines as well as the protocols required by the organizers of Pitti.

What will you be looking for at the show? Is there anything you’re especially eager to see?

We are always scouting for brands and items that catch our eye, that are refreshing, luxurious, and that we think will be compelling and desirable to our customers. The Pitti Uomo marketplace is filled with vendors, manufacturers, and designers that are a great match for the luxurious quality, style, and high level of craftsmanship our customers enjoy from us. I am very much looking forward to seeing guest designer Thebe Magugu’s collection which I have followed virtually and am excited to see in person. I must also say that I am thrilled to be returning to Florence, an incredibly beautiful, inspiring city like no other; one that we are fortunate to have on our seasonal men’s wear travel schedule and one I have greatly missed.

 

Louis DiGiacomo, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s wear, Saks Fifth Avenue:

Are you planning to attend the in-person Pitti show?

Unfortunately we are not planning to attend the show in-person this year, but hope to be back in Europe sometime this fall season.

Did you participate virtually in the past and did you find that useful? Did you buy anything or find any new brands?

Yes, we participated virtually these past two seasons and absolutely found it useful. The Pitti Connect platform was well-organized, easy to navigate, and kept the momentum going for the fair in the digital world. What I love about the fair, whether virtual or in-person, is how it helps us discover new brands and develop an understanding of the season’s top trends and categories. However, it’s difficult to shop a trade fair virtually versus being able to walk around and explore every single booth on your own time. When you’re physically present at the fair, you’re not focused on anything else. When you’re browsing virtually, it’s challenging to sit down and dedicate the same amount of time and focus. I miss the natural fluidity and energy of walking through the fair, plus the incredible people watching.

What will you be looking for at the show? Is there anything you’re especially eager to see?

I’m interested to see how brands, big and small, approach “return to work” attire and if there will be a dramatic shift in workwear post-pandemic. I’m also eager to see what’s going on in men’s swimwear —  if there are any new brands, silhouettes or classifications. The category has quickly emerged as a big stand-alone business this season, and I’m excited to see if it takes center stage at Pitti.

 

Riccardo Tortato, head of buying departments, Tsum Moscow and DLT St. Petersburg; men’s fashion director, Tsum Moscow and DLT St Petersburg and fashion director e-commerce, Tsum.ru:

Are you planning to attend the in-person Pitti show?

Yes, I will attend to support the fair.

Did you participate virtually in the past and did you find that useful? Did you buy anything or find any new brands?

I did an activation with Pitti where I was a special guest. To be honest, I did not use their virtual tool. I feel it limits the possibility to select the right product and understand the product. We have never stopped buying physical. We’ve been traveling as much as we could respecting protocol. All of the major brands allowed us into their showrooms to buy in person. The team bought digitally, but the process of buying digitally is really limiting when it applies to the highest part of the business.

The organizers have instituted several safety protocols for attendees. Do you feel comfortable attending and are you able to travel freely to Italy or are there restrictions?

The important thing to say is that Italy since the beginning allowed any foreigner in for a business trip for five days so there was a possibility to go there and do the work in person. But not so many people did this and most likely it was a really good idea to not do it. When spring and summer started, the cases and restrictions decreased, but we’re in a totally different situation now because of the vaccinations. I feel 100 percent comfortable. I had COVID-19 in December and was vaccinated three months ago and I feel comfortable going back to normal life.

What will you be looking for at the show? Is there anything you’re especially eager to see?

First of all, I want to support Pitti. I want to be sure that the brands that exhibit there know there are important buyers and department stores visiting. Most likely, I will visit Brunello Cucinelli and I will be curious to look around for some novelty and excellent product. I will like to invite all of my colleagues to come back to Florence, Milan and Italy in general. It’s time to go back to normal work. Italian product has such a high standard in quality so it’s important to have a physical contact with the product, and digital is not enough anymore. As much as I pushed to do physical [appointments], there were several brands that allow access to their showroom. There is a big difference between luxury brands and fashion brands in that with luxury brands, you need to research the fabrics and artisanal cutting and shape and tailoring — and it’s much more important to see the product. You can buy a hoodie and a T-shirt, but it’s difficult to buy a really nice suit where you can’t see the fabric and exact color.

 

Dean Cook, head of men’s wear buying, Browns Fashion:

Are you planning to attend the in-person Pitti show?

We are thrilled to be returning to Pitti this season as it’s such a significant trade show. We are also excited to feel everyone’s collective optimism as we start to see a move toward physical shows and presentations.

Did you participate virtually in the past and did you find that useful? Did you buy anything or find any new brands?

We did participate virtually over the past few seasons, which initially presented some difficulties. However, after many online appointments with brands, we all learned new skills, got into the rhythm of buying digitally and are very excited to bring in a host of great new brands. It was especially great to see Thebe Magugu as guest designer, presenting his first men’s wear collection.

The organizers have instituted several safety protocols for attendees. Do you feel comfortable attending and are you able to travel freely from your country to Italy or are there restrictions?

I feel comfortable attending and will be taking every precaution. I’m ready for the seasonal calendar to return to live shows and to be a part of the creativity as well as reconnect with our international fashion community. There are restrictions that come with traveling from London to Italy; however, since Browns provides the option of flexible working, quarantining upon my return is not as much of an issue.

What will you be looking for at the show? Is there anything you’re especially eager to see?

I’m looking forward to seeing a refreshing take on tailoring and more updates to the category we saw at Paris fashion week, with many brands designing full suiting in one color, for example, pastel pink at Dior. Our customers are buying into more relaxed tailoring that is multifunctional and can take them from day to night, compared to full suiting which is what we’re seeing from brands such as Tom Ford, Canali and Z Zegna. With our newly launched made-to-measure service, I’m excited to bring on more tailored options.

 

Federica Montelli, head of fashion, Rinascente:

Are you planning to attend the in-person Pitti show?

Yes, the full men’s buying team will also participate, so Pitti will be the first physical trade show we will attend since the pandemic year.

Did you participate virtually in the past and did you find that useful? Did you buy anything or find any new brands?

We did participate virtually and found the digital organization well organized and useful. In the past two seasons we concentrated on our existing brand partners. We did scout new brands, but it is always harder to place a first order virtually, so we hope to finally be able to see live some of the smaller and newer brands that really need the show to stand out.

The organizers have instituted several safety protocols for attendees. Do you feel comfortable attending and are you able to travel freely around Italy?

Italy is currently in a positive phase with respect to the pandemic, and Pitti’s organization has really made the effort to make sure there are proper safety protocols also for us traveling from within the country.

What will you be looking for at the show? Is there anything you’re especially eager to see?

I will be looking forward to the typical Pitti energetic vibe, the celebration of its “100th” edition, those special events like Thebe Magugu. I hope the brands showing at Pitti will expand on the trends seen in Milan and Paris, especially the vacation-colorful-laid back luxe vibe that we’ve seen in fashion week. Rinascente will also be present at the trade show with a booth, and will be part of Pitti’s initiatives within the city, with an exclusive spring/summer ’22 preview in store by some of the brands participating at Fortezza da Basso. Overall, we hope this Pitti 100 edition will bring back the right energy to the city of Florence.

 

Chris Kyvetos, buying director of men’s wear, Mytheresa:

Are you planning to attend the in-person Pitti show?

We attended Milan Fashion Week in person this season and therefore thought about attending Pitti. However in the end we decided not to and instead we will wait until January when things ease up further and things are more back to normal.

Did you participate virtually in the past and did you find that useful? Did you buy anything or find any new brands?

We have not attended Pitti virtually in the past. We have tended, as a business, not to shop so much for new brands to add to our men’s wear category, and instead focus more on our curated edit of brands which we continue to sell. Our overall men’s wear strategy has always been more about having a selective luxury edit in comparison to others.

The organizers have instituted several safety protocols for attendees. Do you feel comfortable attending and are you able to travel freely from your country to Italy or are there restrictions?

Safety has not been a major concern of ours, however traveling does come with many different protocols from paperwork, PPE, restrictions to quarantine measures. I think we do feel safer now than before but there are still difficulties which make things less comfortable in general.

What will you be looking for at the show? Is there anything you’re especially eager to see?

In general, we’re very happy with where we’re at in terms of the brands that we carry so we’re not looking for new ones to add. Our growth continues to be healthy, albeit exceptional, as we continue to focus on our high-quality customers. In terms of shows and markets, our priority is on expanding our current brand partnerships in more interesting ways in the future.

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