Pitti Uomo in Florence is fashion’s early riser. In the midst of January pre-collections, this first big show run of international menswear is already in high season. So hurry up, gentlemen, pull out your trench coat, tweeds, and snow shovel—it’s already 2014! In addition to this season’s guest designers—Paris’ Kitsuné, which will present its fledgling women’s collection, and Kenzo’s Humberto Leon and Carole Lim, who are previewing Kenzo menswear today—Pitti opened with new and emerging talents. Last summer, Erïk Bjerkesjö, the young Swedish designer with both his heart and his ateliers in Tuscany and the Veneto, won the “Who is on Next” prize for menswear. This season Pitti funded his first show as part of its “New Performers” series—a little bit like giving your 12-year-old nephew the keys to the Ferrari.
Bjerkesjö took over the Villa Favard, a whipped-cream and gilt palazzo on the Arno that is home to Polimoda, Florence’s fashion school, to present his fall/winter collection in pared-down black and white. The inspiration for Bjerkesjö’s collection? Ingmar Bergman’s 1963 film The Silence, a brooding tale of two estranged sisters with opposing characters on a trip to nowhere. Belgium’s master show-producer, Etienne Russo, projected silver static onto the palazzo’s domed ceilings, creating a shadow play featuring Bjerlesjö’s brother looking 10 feet tall as he solemnly pounded a drum behind a gilt framed glass wall. The young designer’s silky shirts with double plackets played with little tabs at the cuffs and waist, or wound around the body like an apron. Most were worn untucked, like tunics over uniform black pants. Bjerkesjö’s tailoring is minimally detailed, and is often as simple as a scoop-neck tunic in rough edged leather, or a jacket in thick wool with an extra, flapping layer for a windswept look. The clothes are the newest addition to Bjerkesjö’s footwear line, which is where he really shines. He has developed his slick finish meticulously with a team of old shoemakers in Tuscany. Perfectly polished lace-ups with a wet-look sheen in black played host to his trademark oversized punched-out holes, hand beveling, and 18-karat gold pins in the heels.
Andrea Pompilio is a past “Who is on Next” Pitti winner; he now has his footing, but is still a very new name. By showing his men’s with a bit of womenswear in Florence, he stands out from the crowd in Milan. Like the Italian menswear fanatics who crowd the aisles at Pitti, Pompilio is a believer in the shock and awe of color and pattern for modern men—all presented with tongue in cheek. Pompilio imagined a hot date, the clothes scattered over the bed, and a man in a ferocious hurry to get out the door. This set the pace for his calculatingly haphazard combos of polka dots and oversized windowpane checks, floppy handkerchiefs spilling out of breast pockets of casual jackets, baby pink and sunny yellow overcoats, fluffy lamb’s-coat cardigans, jean jackets backed with blanket stripes in wet paint strokes, and velvet slippers with fur poufs at the toes. The girls in colorblocked balloon pants with wide side stripes look positively tame next to this.