Pitti Predicts:
Edition 102
Pitti Predicts is your connection to Instagram archivist Samutaro who’s here to talk you through Pitti 102’s main themes and the future trends you need on your radar.

Pitti Immagine Uomo’s bi-annual fair has long been heralded as the one of the best men’s trade shows in the world. Each season the exclusive fashion event transforms Florence into an all-city runway for contemporary menswear style, as canny enthusiasts descend upon the city to make deals and soak up the latest inspirations.

Naturally, the event attracts some of the best dressed men from around the world, but that is not to say that it's limited to gents only. In fact, sartorial inspiration can strike anywhere at any time, and often from the source you least expect. Despite the abundance of elegantly dressed dudes, there are plenty of sartorially savvy women who steal the show and prove that Pitti is far from just a playground for men.

“Ultimately, it was clear that the women at Pitti were far from merely arm candy,” The Rake wrote of the female presence at Pitti Uomo’s 95 edition. “They were there of their own accord, with an unmistakable air of confidence, undoubtedly aware of their influence on the future buying trends and wardrobes of their male and female counterparts.”
Pitti Immagine Uomo 102 edition this June honors the show's dedication to inclusivity with two influential female guest designers recognised for their contributions to the conversations about masculinity. Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester, who was initially rostered for the event’s 101st edition, is selected as Guest of Honor and will curate a presentation celebrating her extraordinary work from the past 40 years. The visionary has dealt with androgyny for decades, decoding garments with her romantic and fluid notions of gender that has helped the industry embrace a level of gender nonconformity.

Demeulemeester is also joined by Grace Wales Bonner, a designer who has been leading the charge for a new wave of British fashion talent. The 2016 LVMH prize winner, is lauded for expanding the notions of gender, sexuality, and Black identity, infusing European heritage with an Afro Atlantic spirit drawn from her Jamaican heritage. Her work was also spotlit for the recent fashion exhibition Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear at the V&A in London.
Following in the footsteps of former Pitti alumni including Thebe Magugu, Telfar Clemens and Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver, Wales Bonner will broadcast her own specific vision of masculinity, one that puts marginalized voices at the forefront of luxury fashion. Her namesake brand was formed “in reaction to a lack of representation, especially in terms of black male representation within fashion”, she told the Financial Times. “I’m connecting to a lineage and a history where there are many examples of the very elegant, sophisticated characters that were part of a [historical] narrative that just weren’t being included.”
Although diversity and inclusion have become buzzwords in the fashion industry today, the terms were not fairly represented when she first started studying in London. Models tended to be white, young and, if female, a size zero, and there was little to no racial diversity at the helm of European luxury houses. So when Wales Bonner presented her graduate collection on models that were predominantly black or biracial, it sent a clear signal to the industry. “I have a really specific image of what masculine beauty is,” she revealed.
After Priya Ahluwalia’s first runway show in London, the designer said she was shaking: “It was one of the best things ever! I can’t really believe it!” The rapturous response to her first full womenswear edit wasn’t the only thing that made her giddy. “I feel like there’s definitely a change,” Ahluwalia, who is of Nigerian and Indian descent, told Vogue’s Anders Christian Madsen of how the whole vibe of fashion week has shifted since the pandemic: “When I was interning it was a very Euro-centric environment. Now, I feel safe talking to people about my culture.”
Nowhere has this been more prevalent than in the work of the late visionary designer, Virgil Abloh, who dedicated his career to advancing equity and inclusivity in the fashion industry. Using his status to open doors for others, rather than closing them, is the watchword of a man who fundamentally believed in the power of difference. “Diversity isn’t just a question of gender and ethnicity,” he told Numero. “It’s a question of experience. It brings new ideas to the table. And it would be good if the fashion industry actually listened and took them on board.”
For Abloh, who showed at Pitti Uomo’s 92 edition in 2017, fashion was inherently political; a means of furthering the fight against racism. His collections at both Off-White and Louis Vuitton celebrated stories around his African-American identity as well as his Ghanian roots to show the world who he was. His take on diversity was less about being radical and more about being honest. “Honest with respect to the history of the world as it really is and not as we’ve been told it is all these years. It’s a holistic approach. I don’t think of diversity as a simple added extra mixed in with my work but as an essential component. That can clearly be seen in the stories I tell, the images I create and the people I hire.”

Beyond showcasing greater representation on the catwalk, Abloh’s real impact was making real systemic change. To ensure inclusivity in all sectors of the industry, he launched the Post-Modern Fund in partnership with Evian, Farfetch, Louis Vuitton and the Fashion Scholarship Fund, which allowed him to raise $1 million in scholarship grants for Black students in fashion. “I’ve always been passionate about giving the next generation of students the same foundation for success that was given to me,” he explains on the Fashion Scholarship Fund website.
It’s long term initiatives like this that Pitti Uomo is using to achieve greater equity and inclusion in the fashion industry. Over the past few seasons the Fondazione Pitti Discovery has been setting aside a special area for the rising stars on the world’s economic and creative stage with the Guest Nation project. The platform aims to elevate the voices and creative visions of talented youth from underrepresented backgrounds including countries as diverse as Nigeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Brazil, Portugal, South Korea, China, Scandinavia and Turkey.
For Pitti Uomo 99, the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI) launched the collections of four of the most interesting talents from the African creative scene. JIAMINI, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Margaux Wong, and WUMAN were selected among hundreds of applicants from all over the continent to take part in the first edition of its Accelerator Programme.

After receiving mentoring and business support from a panel of experts, including United Arrows’ Hirofumi Kurino, Ethical Fashion Initiative’s Susi Billingsley and activist and actress Dakore Egbuson-Akande, the four brands debuted at the fair with a special digital presentation on Pitti Connect, culminating with the online release of their fashion shows.
At Pitti Uomo 102 in June, the show will host a number of brands that place inclusivity at their core. Giulio Sapio and Avant Toi are two Italian designers who are looking to the gender fluid appeal of knitwear to create timeless garments that aren’t bound by traditional gender codes. Instead, each brand focuses on undefined shapes in soft and harmonious fabrics that can fit work for anybody and everybody. Another promising label to look out for is Hannes Roether, a German brand who is looking to further the conversation around age-inclusivity. The German designers' laid-back designs combine rough natural fibers such as cotton, linen and silk in dark and subdued colours on unusual silhouettes that are ageless in their appeal.
So, as we approach the S/S 23 season and physical presentations begin to return in each fashion capital, will this be the turning point that finally sets the industry on the path towards an open and inclusive future? Although fashion weeks and trade shows are certainly great platforms for designers to engage with social issues, and should accordingly reflect this “desire for change”, they aren’t necessarily an accurate depiction of the practice of diversity or inclusion on any level.
More importantly, the industry needs to focus on what happens behind the scenes on a day-to-day basis, not just twice a year on the runway, so that we see long-term sustainable change. Inclusive hiring policies, the diversification of corporate teams and the addition of specific roles, such as a chief inclusion officer or a chief diversity officer, are essential to instigating that shift and ensuring change is happening at the very core and overall company culture.

Words Samutaro
Pictures Julien Tell
Featured brands on Pitti Connect: