Pitti Uomo Is Planning For Men’s Fashion Month Under Coronavirus
COVID-19 has thrown the fashion industry into a state of chaotic uncertainty, creating enormous challenges to the usual events and forces that move it forward: international travel for Fashion Weeks where new ideas are presented, the flow of the global supply chain, and the act of shopping itself that keeps the whole thing moving. As the world measures the current and future impact of the virus, the menswear world has been locked in limbo regarding plans for its Spring 2021 shows, which usually take place in June and July in Europe. However they proceed, these shows will provide a blueprint for how other parts of the industry, from the women’s shows in September and October to the sales schedule and procedure for retailers, can move ahead.
On Monday, Pitti Uomo offered the first look at what a fashion season in the midst of the pandemic might look like. The trade show’s organizers circulated a message via email to press and fair attendees announcing their intention to move forward with their Florence-based fair in June, organized around a plan that is “physical and digital.” They wrote: “What we want to tell you loud and clear is that we are all working hard to open next June’s fairs on the dates announced. We have never stopped.” Pitti Uomo is a bustling trade show where hundreds of Italian brands sell their clothing for the next season, making its continued existence crucial to the survival of the garment industry in Italy, where fashion is a $100 billion-plus business. The fair’s guest designer program has also become a major directional force in the fashion industry: up-next and established brands like Telfar, Stefano Pilati’s Random Identities, and Jil Sander served as January’s guest designers, while other brands like Givenchy, under Clare Waight Keller, and Sterling Ruby have launched their men’s apparel there. (The organizers did not detail whether they would move ahead in some way with their guest designer program; we will update this story should the organization reply to GQ’s request for comment.)
In the statement, Pitti’s leaders offered a few details on those “physical and digital” efforts, including an “e-PITTI Connect” platform that will allow companies and buyers to connect outside of the fair. The Pitti team has apparently been developing this platform for some time, and June will see the launch of “a brand new and advanced version” that offers more opportunities for remote interaction and new functionality. Should COVID-19 continue to keep the world homebound come June, one can imagine that industry organizations in other fashion capitals might develop similar tools: showrooms were already relying on digital selling platforms at the end of Paris’s womenswear shows earlier this month.
“New scenarios will open up that will not always be predictable, we will work harder but, above all, better, drawing on both our as well as your creative skills,” Pitti wrote in its note. “We are certainly not alone and will never be so because over all these years, even before creating a successful commercial event, we have built a true community with you.” Fashion may feel frivolous when the world feels like it is falling apart, but its role first and foremost a business that provides the livelihood of countless craftspeople, artisans, and creatives feels more apparent, and more urgent, than ever.