By Suzy Menkes
As it is around the world, so it is in fashion: China, increasingly, is calling the shots. The power of the Chinese market, the country’s demand for fine menswear and its cashmere exports make the nation a powerful presence at the Pitti Uomo fair.
There was a historic feel to stone walls that housed Boss Selection . But the new upscale menswear line from Hugo Boss is resolutely modern and aimed at China, which Claus-Dietrich Lahrs, Boss’s chief executive, predicts will provide 25 percent of the brand’s global sales by 2015. New is the focus on tailored suits, with a made-to-measure line; fine fabrics, including for sportswear; and artisanal touches to create classy details.
When Princess Diana’s sapphire ring on Kate Middleton’s hand laid on Prince William’s cashmere sweater, it was a fitting honor for the knitwear’s maker: Brunello Cucinelli . He has spent 25 years traveling China and Mongolia for cashmere. The philosopher-designer, part of Italy’s cashmere royalty, likes to see his country’s relationship with China as a cultural exchange. His subtle meld of textured sportswear had a fresh tint of colors: pond green, taupe, gray lightening to blue and brown to russet.
The title “A-Tech” sums up the vision of Allegri , as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. But maybe only an Italian brand could present technology and functionality so stylishly. Alongside the super-light nylon jackets are ergonomic extras for classic wool jackets: waterproofed treatments and interior down vests so soft they do not pad out the taut tailoring. Allegri will bring its collection to Lincoln Center during New York Fashion Week next month.
Aitor Throup, the architect of Umbro , designs a body map for a brand that clothes British soccer players — hence the focus in his Archive Research Project on inserts of strengthening stretch fabric and thermal pieces. Neutral shades of gray brought a contemporary elegance to a collection engineered for sport performance but with a wider resonance.
“Architecture to wear” is the proposal of Andrea Incontri, a designer awarded by Pitti Uomo and one to watch for his simple-but-subtle bags in textured buffalo hide or lacquered calfskin. Against a video backdrop of Milan as a throbbing, vibrant city, punctuated by a series of images of people waiting, resigned or impatient, the “AI” collection had the appeal of enhanced reality, and that included the clothes, also based on architecture and texture.
Rough and tough
Steve McQueen, stretched on his back over his motorcycle with a jacket as worn and rugged as other heritage examples, was the message from Barbour , the British band that is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a McQueen-inspired collection.
Barneys New York engineered Adam Kimmel for Carhartt , linking the designer to the Michigan-based blue collar brand of tough, functional workwear. Mr. Kimmel softened stiff denim, cut jackets closer to the body and added form to function in a denim blazer.
A single focus but with a backbone of heritage was the message from Arrow shirts, an icon of American menswear brought to Europe for the first time by Phillips-Van Heusen. Displayed beside the tailored shirts were the advertising campaigns that reflected decades of American life, including the offbeat 1970s.
The knit jacket
Puffa jackets and ski-look casual wear were all over Pitti. But it was Marina Yachting , part of the same umbrella company as the down champions Moncler, which suggested a trend back to the blazer jacket as part of its nautical image.
The knitted jacket is emblematic of Cruciani , where flexible “Cru” jackets, all woolen but with different weights and textures, are the definition of casual wear that is smart in cut but pliable, even when knit is incorporated with leather and shearling.
Mixes of plaids and checks from Piombo , along with bright velvet or mohair evening jackets inspired by Cecil Beaton and David Hockney, gave just the right tint of the exotic. More accent colors included blue, purple and lime green for scarves.
For Liberty of London , the store’s early influences from Arabia brought desert, rust and olive-drab colors and exotic hats to a historic library