An Ephemeral “Museum” of Fashion may be entering the rankings of the city’s “must-see” attractions, but Florence’s position as a fifth fashion capital is anything but transitory.
In an age that has championed consumer immediacy above all other attributes, it takes little scratching beneath the surface to uncover the visible cracks forming in fashion’s “see-now-buy-now” template.
A once-impervious structure devised to match skyrocketing demand with instant supply—an invariable by-product of social media stimuli—the designers who embraced this high-end take on disposable fast fashion were divided into three categories. The first collective, comprising the Tom Fords of this world, flirted with their fresh-off-the-runway system for a mere season before scrambling back to more traditional schedules. The second grouping, represented most conspicuously by Thakoon, entirely modified their brand anatomy to slot in with this neophyte concept, before being quickly forced to press “pause” on their operations altogether. The final category, from Vivienne Westwood to Christopher Kane, are too soon into their direct-to-consumer trials to prove whether it is in any way viable for their respective design labels. Nevertheless, if one thing is certain, it is that a growing backlash against the industry’s excessive velocity is giving quality-driven craftsmanship new layers of significance.
What better city to spearhead this movement than the Tuscan capital itself? Amidst such thinly veiled turmoil in the consumer market, Florence is proving invaluable in re-igniting the concept of luxury, having seamlessly stepped into its dual role of industry anchor and tireless innovator. This could not be better evidenced than in Pitti Uomo’s latest incarnation, “Boom! Pitti Blooms”—the teaser visuals for which fuse an atmospheric Florentine palace with digital flora straight from the emoji-sphere. The impending events calendar features a kaleidoscope of established designers and rising talents, with highlights from the former category including JW Anderson (and his inaugural Italian showcase), Paul Smith and Christian Louboutin. The emerging creative forces are celebrated in equal stead, with six recipients of the Tokyo Fashion Award 2017, one of Pitti’s many offshoots into incubator-style programmes, set to showcase their collections in a space aptly titled “Unconventional”. This balancing art of spotlighting fashion-design veterans and industry newcomers has been effortlessly achieved by Pitti each season, a feat on direct parallels with Florence’s inherent fusion of abundant heritage and forward-thinking creativity.
With the defining characteristic of Pitti spectators being their penchant for sprezzatura, summarised as faux nonchalance, it is fitting to note that this term originated in the Renaissance city. First penned in 1528, in Baldassarre Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, his suggestions for becoming enigmatic scene-stealers live on in the attitudes of Pitti’s most photographed gentlemen. Rather than remain rooted in archaic mannerisms, however, these “Pitti peacocks” are broken up by an ever-expanding set of male archetypes, influenced by the athleisure-meets-avant-garde wares of Demna Gvasalia. With the menswear industry in near-constant flux, Pitti Uomo remains at the top of its game by perfectly capturing the zeitgeist. Unafraid of ripping up the sartorial rulebook, suits lose their rigid formality and become desirable streetwear, whilst promoting the impeccable craftsmanship present in the work of the city’s inventive tailors.
The most striking symbol of Florence’s creative essence does not manifest in any one catwalk show, but in the impending launch of the Museo Effimero della Moda (Ephemeral Museum of Fashion). Staged in the evocative surroundings of Palazzo Pitti—residing, to be exact, in the former Galleria del Costume’s lavish rooms—its inception on Pitti Uomo’s opening day will reveal 18 individually themed rooms. Its prized contents encompass nearly a century’s worth of collections, many of which have spent the last decades locked away in museum archives. A temporary exhibition curated by Olivier Saillard, it marks the second edition in a three-year program conceived by Fondazione Pitti Immagine Discovery, Gallerie degli Uffizi and Palais Galliera, a Parisian epicentre of costume history directed by Saillard. Carefully restored pieces from ateliers of the mid-19th century are juxtaposed with modern-day offerings from the likes of Gucci and Rick Owens, celebrating master craftsmanship from past and present under the one fresco-adorned roof. As a city that has displayed its historic ties to creativity as proudly as its contemporary innovations, the exhibition’s premise ties in directly and refreshingly with this field of thought. Claiming residency in the Pitti Palace until October 22, thus purposefully reflecting the transience of fashion, it also marks the first chapter of the Palazzo’s Museo della Moda, which will continue to display Florence’s position at the key intersections of international fashion.
Florence could have been forgiven for getting so caught up in its inherently rich history and by solely trading on its longstanding landmarks and centuries-old accolades. Instead, it has harnessed this heritage to spearhead new paths and groundbreaking ideals for the international fashion sector. With choppy waters still left to navigate before this industry employs a more sustainable formula, Pitti Uomo’s boundless imagination makes for a stabilising force.