Last week saw the 97th edition of Pitti Uomo at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, where the usual array of peacocks were on parade – standing out against the backdrop of the trade fair’s “show your flags” theme.
Earlier than usual – starting on 7 January this time round – and slightly quieter as a result, the show still never fails to deliver great new collections, inspiring stories and fresh capsule lines.
Here’s six of the best:
B by Ben Sherman
A new capsule collection for the button-down shirt specialist – targeting a younger customer with a more sporty look and feel, the ‘B’ from the Ben Sherman signature logo has been blown up and used on its own to differentiate it from the mainline. For its debut season for AW20 there’s 22 pieces and Ben Sherman’s senior vice president of brand management, Talbot Logan, says the brand is initially focusing on the European market with it. He comments: “It’s really intended to speak to that younger consumer who’s got a little bit more of a street fashion mentality. It’s the first time we’ve really formalised the single use of the ‘B’ as the logo treatment. We have a special hang tag and back neck label for the collection. It’s got a distinctive personality to it. It all ties back to what the brand heritage is all about, but it’s reinterpreting it. It can be merchandised with the overall collection, or it can merchandised as its own small capsule line, targeting retailers who are focused more on younger customers and are a little bit more ‘street’ and fashion forward.”
Key pieces include a tri-colour fleece hoody, a rugby shirt and a quilted nylon gilet, though the collection does still have a more traditional Ben Sherman button-down shirt in a collegiate stripe, using scaled down ‘B’ branding.
The British duffle coat brand was returning to show at Pitti for the first time in 20 years, with a fresh focus on wholesale. It’s been a direct to consumer business in most recent years. Nigel Calladine, who now heads up the brand’s production and wholesale division and who has an immense knowledge of the origins of the duffle coat, says: “Everyone is saying the future is online, but now we believe the future is a combination of online and fixed stores. We started wholesaling in Italy last year, and we now have 50 new accounts. Our target is 150, and we’ve just signed up with a very large Japanese distributor. We’re looking for distribution in other markets as well – including the UK. We want to be really competitive on the world market.”
The founding company, originally called The Ideal Clothing Company, supplied the Royal Navy with duffle coats back as far back as 1896, and it was also once owned by the Co-op. The name was changed some years ago in recognition of legendary British army officer field marshal Montgomery, who fought in both WWI and WWII.
The new collection features updated and more fashion forward duffle coats – shorter in length and with an injection of colour trims for a younger scooter riding customer, alongside the more traditional camel coloured recycled polyester and wool mix version – which retails at £350, and a higher end Mallalieus (of Delph, Saddleworth) fabric coat to retail at £495. There’s also a shorter 1950’s style duffle coat with a removable hood, a stand-out tweed top coat in an Abraham Moon & Sons fabric, and a short peacoat in the new product mix. All the coats are made in factories in London and Birmingham.
The traditional English Goodyear welted shoemaker has taken on an altogether more directional approach to design in recent years, under the stewardship of brand owner and creative director, Tim Little, while still keeping with the quality and style of its rich history. Even crafted leather, suede and nubuck sneakers have proved a hit in the past three years, and are now amongst the best sellers – with new additions for AW20 to build on the early momentum.
Also new for AW20 is a creeper-inspired shoe with an animal print upper on a lightweight black wedge sole, a tassel loafer with a lightweight Commando sole, and a toecap Derby shoe and boot based on a 1930’s archive shoe. ‘Brice’ is another good-looking new pull-up leather apron Derby shoe and boot on a black wedge sole, and there’s new variations to the extremely popular ‘Brady’ hiker-style boot. Sandals were introduced to the Grenson offer in 2019, and additional contemporary styles are available for the pending SS20 season.
Launching online during Pitti, and with its own section on the show stand, is the all-new Vegan collection, made from mixed microfibres formed from sea waste, featuring non-leather interpretations of Grenson’s best-selling key styles including its ‘Archie’ brogue and Sneaker 1. If you’ve not considered Grenson shoes for some time, then it’s best to take a fresh look.
With its own standalone stand in a prominent position at the show, in celebration of the brand’s 125th anniversary, Falke was clearly out to tell its brand history with some punch. Best known for its high-quality socks, the company actually has a long-standing background of making knitted apparel at its own factory in Germany, starting with women’s knitwear, including knitted dresses, in 1947.
Creative director Dina van Eupen, who also represents the fifth generation of the Falke brand’s family, says: “We actually had the license to make Armani knitwear early in the designer’s career, from 1976 to 1983. It was the first time we had done menswear. We later made knitwear under license for Hugo Boss – from 1984 to 2003, and we’ve also had license deals with Moschino, Joop! and Kenzo in the past. We launched our own brand of menswear in 1985. We have real knitting expertise. When you can knit socks, you can knit almost anything. We love to engineer products. We stopped doing collections under license in 2008, the same year we bought the Burlington socks brand, so we make those as well – still under the Burlington brand name – as well as Falke own-brand socks.”
Knitwear for AW20 has a ski-inspired theme, not only high-quality ski jumpers but high-tech knitted sports layering garments using technical fabrics. “We’ve always been about the balance between function and design,” adds van Eupen. “The best socks are the ones that you don’t feel at all, because they are that comfortable.” Having made socks since 1895, Falke certainly is an authority. “My great-great-grandfather was a roof engineer, but in the winter time he worked for a knitting company. He saw a gap in the market for warm socks!”
Known for its made in England outerwear and knitwear, of which the actor Tom Hardy is a fan, Peregrine seems to have significantly grown its menswear offer in recent seasons, with this the brand’s first autumn/winter showing at Pitti for AW20. Tom Glover, owner and managing director of Peregrine, and the 8th generation family member to take the helm of the brand, which was founded in England in 1796, says: “We’ve stuck to our roots, working with wool, and we’ve done a lot more with Moon tweed. We’ve introduced wool overshirts and wool blazers in plain Moon tweed and a black watch tartan version. We’ve also bonded a Moon tweed on to a British Millerain cotton for a mac and a zip-up jacket, which gives you a really solid tweed that holds its shape.” Another new addition is what Glover calls “the ultimate parka,” a two-way bonded cotton from British Millerain, with taped seams and a button-in bag. Glover explains: “As we’re trying to get rid of plastic, it’s a bag for life for shopping that buttons in to the back of the jacket.”
Another key piece is the military-inspired ‘Wilson’ jacket in navy wool with a shawl collar. On knitwear, ski-inspired jumpers have been added, which Glover calls the ‘Alpine’ collection – a retro 1970’s homage inspired by his love of James Bond, and chunky cable knits have been introduced in bolder colours such as yellow with a navy back. “All of our knits are made in Manchester, and all of our jackets are made in Birmingham,” adds Glover. “We’ve also now got a traceable Laxtons wool from a mill in Shipley that’s been brought back to life. The wool can be traced back to the Bluefaced Leicester sheep, which is the softest British wool you can get.
The nice thing about it is the sheep come 60 miles from the factory, so the whole global footprint is 60 miles from the wool to end product. We’ve done a contemporary crew neck jumper with a Guernsey hem in that wool, as well as boxy zip-through cardigan with a shirt-style collar.”
The makers of the famous G9 Harrington jacket, the British brand these days owned by Italian company WP Lavori, have clearly been busy working on widening the offer, and the new AW20 collection is testament to their efforts with some real stand-out outerwear. A printed tye-die rip-stop nylon parka, with a quilted lining, will no doubt prove a hit with the fashionistas, while more traditional men’s coats in British wool, which are neoprene lined to make them water-resistant, are on-trend and well executed, particularly the new ‘Smith’ coat in an over-sized check wool from Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd in Leeds (once again!).
The G9 Harrington itself has been made in a luxurious suede for the new season, with a mustard yellow one for the more adventurous. It has also been given more of an autumn/winter makeover coming in a jumbo wide whale cord in four colours – black, brown, olive and burgundy, which has a padded quilted lining for extra warmth. Other new additions include a fleece-lined field jacket, a technical wool long parka and fresh takes on the G10 mac, now also coming in a technical herringbone printed wool, with a Thermore lining for insulation against the cold. Topping the price points comes a new sheepskin lined heavyweight suede G9 Harrington, set to retail at an eye-watering €1,699.