Twice a year hundreds of menswear brands and thousands of well-dressed men descend on Florence. They are there for Pitti Uomo, a biannual trade fair which has become a showcase of the best of men’s clothing, footwear and accessories from around the world. It’s also become a place to see the latest of Italian styles as exhibitors, buyers, journalists, bloggers and photographers crowd into the halls and courtyards of the Fortezza da Basso, an old fort in the centre of the city, to see and be seen.
Peackocking at Pitti Uomo
While inevitably most of the brands are Italian, recent years have seen a growth in numbers of British brands exhibitors at Pitti Uomo. In June 2018 some 104 UK brands were present – in number second only to the Italians and beating the French into third place. This presence is significant because, large or small, it reflects the increasing demand for British-made products around the World.
There’s growing recognition of the UK’s place in the history of fashion and clothing manufacture. As the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, it was here that much of the machinery was developed that enabled this country to be in the first division of skills such as spinning, weaving, machine knitting and sewing, leather working to make shoes and bags, hatmaking and tailoring. This heritage, updated with modern machinery and techniques, is just what commercial buyers and high street consumers are looking for in high quality products. If you’ve been making things for decades, you are likely to make them well and with integrity.
Picking out individuals from the many British brands at Pitti is hard and it’s important to mention that not all manufacture here in the UK. Some manufacture everything here, others some or none of their products. Whether they do or not, all represent British skills of design and marketing.
The Olive Spencer Stand
David Keyte and Stephanie Porrit of Universal Works
Shoe companies were a strong presence and included Crockett & Jones, Loake, Alfred Sargent, Cheaney and Tricker’s. They make all or much of their production in the UK, others like Mulo Shoes make outside the UK but are still very much British skills to the design of their products.
Helen Plummer of Lamler
Bag and leather companies included Ettinger, who make high quality leather goods in Walsall bag, Croots, Brady, John Chapman and Whitehouse Cox. Hatters included Tom Smarte and Laird Hatters, sunglasses made in England by Kirk Originals, socks by Pantherella and Corgi, knitwear by John Smedley, Jamieson’s of Shetland and Pringle. Gloverall, Grenfell and Chrysalis making outerwear. General menswear brands included Universal Works, Simon Carter and Fred Perry. These represent a small fraction of the successful British companies at Pitti Uomo.
An exciting British brand for me was Johnstons of Elgin, who personify the international success of British design and manufacture. For years they have made for some of the most prestigious international fashion houses and they are somewhat coy about identifying these. But the very significant skills wielded on behalf of these international giants are now being used to create their own designer collections of men’s and women’s wear. Johnstons are a model for how the UK is forging a future for itself in the export of high quality products that will be sought after the world over.
With Andrew Loake on the Loake Shoes stand
A selection of British brands and products are available at www.britishwelove.com
Leather Goods and Belts from The British Belt Company
Cufflinks and Ties Benson & Clegg
Handmade Shirts from Frank Rostron
Selection of Men’s Shoes
Grey Fox Blog www.greyfoxblog.com