Pitti Prompts Fashion Theater in Florence

The festive air of the holiday season remained alive and kicking in Florence this week, as international fashion buyers and press descended upon the sprawling Fortezza di Basso for the Fall ’14 edition of Pitti Immagine, arguably the world’s foremost menswear tradeshow. A two-day crossover with the London menswear calendar posed little problem for Pitti’s broad market cross-section (from contemporary streetwear through to tailoring, denim, and emerging designers), and the fair’s organizers even flew international press direct to Florence from Burberry’s London show, just in time for ex-Phi designer Andreas Melbostad’s Fall 14 show for Diesel Black Gold.

In a jolting start to Pitti’s eclectic schedule, an electrifying light display transformed the concrete bunker of the Stazione Leopolda into an enormous, thumping equalizer with a backdrop of pulsing LED columns through which Diesel Black Gold’s army emerged single-file. Four distinct chapters unfolded in this sleek and provocative outing that opened with black leather and steel-cap boots to run through steely gray, optic white, and foiled-silver stories, each furthering the electro-punk futurism built on a super-slim silhouette. A graphic proposition of padded, athletic knitwear felt fresh amongst the otherwise predictable lineup of sharply tailored coats and bulked-up parkas, with denim taking a backseat to high-shine fabric treatments and a mosaic of intricate stud detailing. For his first-ever men’s collection, Melbostad showed he could deliver a lean, mean vision to match his rock-star heroine.

Like Diesel’s jumping boombox walls, the idea of inspired and contextual scenography has always been crucial to Pitti’s unique presentations and fashion shows. The young Italo-Haitian designer Stella Jean unveiled her own flamboyant solution: a vibrant salon festooned with decorated textiles, plush barstools, striped wallpaper, and a checkerboard floor. This off-kilter vision of Carribean grandeur was imbued throughout the collection’s zany cotton suiting, cut in Victorian-inspired suits from African waxprint cotton, the designer’s signature cloth and a constant presence in her popular women’s line. Amongst the hunting jackets and quilted robes (Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat was in there, surely) a sweater was screenprinted with graphics from the 1961 film Divorza Alla Italiana. Peeking out from beneath a fuzzy tweed blazer, it made the full circle back towards Stella’s Italian heritage, pacifying the collection’s loud, costumey overtones.

In a much quieter tableau vivant enacted within the Palazzo Portinari Salviati, Brazilian designer Barbara Casasola used her invitation as Pitti W’s guest to showcase a very first pre-fall collection, accompanied by a disjointed film series by ShowStudio featuring the American model and musician Jamie Bochert. Crafted from Italian silks and wools in Florence, Casasola’s “Menswear for Women” found a sensual balance of sculpted jackets and jumpsuits, and boxy retro jackets, which she paired with flat pointed Manolo Blahnik slippers. Throughout the presentation models lounged about the Palazzo’s fuchsia-painted cubist set while Bochert’s near-nude form writhed across twelve screens, her narration only audible through the black telephones set on plinths throughout the space. Pondering on the essence of the Barbara Casasola girl, Bochert philosophises that “there are three types of girls. Those with one expression, those with two, and those with three. Totally, tenderly, tragically.” A series of trapezoidal clutch purses lay behind glass nearby, signalling Casasola’s first handbag, the design inspired by Florentine coin purses and the folded geometries of Brazilian constructivist artist Lygia Clark. However abstract her poetry, Casasola’s presentation was a quiet triumph with lingering allure, extending her cocktail hour into welcome new territory.