The dust has finally settled. The grand tour of European fashion weeks—starting in London before moving to Florence, Milan, and Paris—wrapped up this past weekend. Which means, naturally, that it’s time for a little reflection. Because while we’ve still got NYFW on the horizon, folks across the pond are officially looking forward to next year’s festivities. The question is what those events will look like.
That’s a particularly interesting inquiry when it comes to Florence. Unlike the other fashion capitals, the city doesn’t host a fashion week in the proper sense. Instead, it’s the home of Pitti Uomo, the long-running tradeshow that morphed into a street-style extravaganza back in the late 2000s. It started off with interestingly appointed Italian men going about the business of buying and selling clothing, shoes, and accessories. Then the cameras came out. By the early-to-mid 2010s, it was a hotbed of outlandishly dressed folks in crazy suits, colorful hats, and about a million accessories at once—Pitti Peacocks, as they came to be known.
“Peacocks had certainly a role some seasons ago, at the beginning of the social media exposure,” says Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti Immagine, which runs Pitti Uomo along with other industry fairs. “It was a trend at that time, which I think has been strongly decreasing along the last seasons. I think the attitude has changed—there is more and more of a personal approach in dressing among the community attending Pitti Uomo, less and less showing off and more of a curated mix and match of styles, mostly related to athleisure and new functional urban lifestyles.”
But while the spectacle is on the downturn, business is up. “The Italian textile fashion industry has reported a growth rate of 2.4 percent in 2017,” Napoleone explains, “with a turnover that rose to 54.1 billion euro, for a more than 1.2 billion euro gain over the closing figures for 2016.” To put those numbers in context: Italy was hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis, especially the fashion industry. Growth is a relatively new—and very welcome—development.
“We have a growth of employment, direct employment, direct employees. After years of dropping, now it's starting again, because there is a very strong reshoring movement,” says Napoleone. Aside from the good news, it makes sense that he’s happy to talk numbers. Pitti is, after all, a business venture. And though it’s impossible to say how much money it generates worldwide—“exhibitors are not asked to communicate the volume of the orders that they place”—Napoleone and the Pitti Immagine team estimate the economic impact on Florence itself at around 400 million euro annually. (They came at this figure along with the Univesity of Bocconi in Milan.)
Remember, though: This is fashion. Numbers only take you so far. And though it is indeed a trade show at its heart, Pitti Uomo has been pushing into the more theatrical space of fully produced fashion shows and events. This year played host to a reborn iteration of Roberto Cavalli’s menswear at a pallazo outside the city, hotly tipped British designer Craig Green’s latest collection at the (ridiculously) lush Boboli Gardens, an installation tracing the connection between fashion and football (that is, soccer), and a host of other shows and events. It’s all about tapping into passion and personality, according to Napoleone: “This is why fashion is so extraordinary. Because you have somebody driving all the process, from the very beginning and with a very strong identity.”
For Pitti Uomo itself, that identity is bound up with Florence—and the special something that comes with being rooted in Italy. “It's savoir faire,” says Napoleone. “It's why Ferrari is Ferrari.” He mentions the way some aspects of the fashion world have flattened, with shows looking similar even half a world apart. Pitti, he says, won’t be flattening out. “We never moved it abroad,” he notes. “Because we have a foundation that works in the culture. Because we say that we feel it, and I think that what you have here—the mood, sensation, emotion—is not replicable in [infamously sterile New York event space] Jacob Javits. No. It would die.”
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.