Pitti Immagine, Game of Thrones, and the Influence of Chinese Designers

Pitti Immagine knows how to put on a show. From the beginning (the early 50s), when the Italian aristocrat Giovanni Battista Giorgini first introduced Italian craftsmanship to a select group of influential American fashion retailers at their legendary Sala Bianca fashion shows held in the glorious Pitti Palace, to moving its headquarters to the fourteenth century (and very Game of Thrones-esque) Fortezza da Basso, Pitti Immagine has continued to evolve beyond the usual international fashion fairs and events.

“Pitti Immagine was developed with strategy and vision around a corporate entity,” says Pitti Immagine CEO, Raffaello Napoleone. “And then developed around different brands: Bimbo, Taste, Fabrics, Fragrances, Super, and Uomo.” Pitti Immagine’s most popular trade fair, Pitti Immagine Uomo is held twice a year in January and June and is perhaps Pitti Immagine’s most popular trade fair, with roughly 1,200 brands and over 30,000 menswear buyers, exhibitors, journalists, and visitors in attendance.

The 96th edition of Pitti Immagine Uomo takes place at Fortezza da Basso between June 11-14 and will play host to a series of unique events. “This year we will welcome the launch of the Marco De Vincenzo Men’s Collection, Givenchy will be the Guest Designer, A|X Armani Exchange will debut on this stage, and there will be a tribute to Karl Lagerfeld created by artist Endless,” Napoleone says. “Salvatore Ferragamo will also show in Piazza Della Signoria, among the many other interesting events. This is an organization promoting the fashion industry through the assets of a special city like Florence.”

“Pitti Immagine is not in competition with other fashion organizations because Florence is not a fashion capital, it is a soul city,” highlights Napoleone. And Pitti Immagine is the mirror of this multifaceted city that’s deeply immersed in heritage, art, and culture, as well as manufacturing and craftsmanship. “Pitti Immagine is not about the standard approved style or trend, it’s about scouting and enhancing uniqueness,” he adds. “Discontinuity is something we strive for all the time, the curiosity that takes us to discover talents, and brands, and the fact that we are not looking for external approval. Every single season we start again, analyzing what has worked and what has to be improved.”

“This year, the Fortezza da Basso location will present a special project focusing on a not-so-explored side of China’s passion for fashion, but its designers. At Pitti Immagine, we aim to always feature the best offer available in the market and interesting proposals from all over the world,” Napoleone says. “The objective is to keep the brands’ portfolio interesting and appealing.” Given this, the Pitti Immagine Discovery Foundation, who has developed special projects with the designer Raf Simons and the photographer Hedi Slimane, and Shanghai Fashion Week will co-present Guest Nation China, in which 10 Chinese fashion designers will present their collections with a showcase at the Fortezza da Basso and a series of events and special projects.

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Guest Nation China has been curated by Labelhood (a fashion incubator for young Asian designers and an independent showcasing platform under Shanghai Fashion Week), organized in collaboration with V/ Collective, and powered by Tmall.

“I started traveling to China in the ’80s,” shares Napoleone. “And in the past years, I noticed that the distribution system has been notably developed in a more structured way as well as the maturity of some Chinese designers. Visiting the Shanghai Fashion Week, I appreciated some very interesting design spaces and creative energy — very unique with a specific identity and the development of distinctiveness in their collections.”

The leading names of Guest Nation China are 8ON8, Danshan, Ffixxed Studios, Percy Lau, Private Policy, Pronounce, Samuel Guì Yang, the Flocks, Staff Only, and untitlab™. This exciting project will also see a fashion show by Pronounce, the designer brand established by Yushan Li and Jun Zhou, who will feature deconstructed Converse Jack Purcell shoes on the runway, and a photography exhibition by Leslie Zhang, one of the most acclaimed photographers of Chinese fashion, curated by Dan Cui.

Pitti Immagine continues to get its energy from its unique identity and DNA, its research and innovation, and its international mix of business and fashion culture. And the emergence of China as a key fashion luxury player is only adding to their very special recipe. “China is such a huge market, and its growth will allow Chinese brands to thrive inside China.” Napoleone says, “as well as Western ones.” How Pitti Immagine will manage this constantly growing and lucrative market remains to be seen, but with its history of transformation, it will surely be a key player.


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