The Pitti Uomo 93 Diaries: Finnish Design, the International Woolmark Prize and Be Still My Gucci Beating Heart

On the first official day of the 93rd edition of Pitti Uomo, and my second day on the ground in Florence, I found quite a lot of inspiration coming from Guest Nation Finland, the International Woolmark prize with its multicultural designers and the wonderful universe that has been created by Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci. I mean, any man confident enough to wear a golden tiara is A-alright in my book. Even I am weary of those things and find it difficult to incorporate them into my daily wardrobe, so I can’t even begin to imagine how he managed. The conversation alone with himself in the mirror, that I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for! Alessandro Michele is my fashion idol.

In the morning, we were privy to the opening ceremony of Pitti Uomo 93, kicking off the Fall/Winter 2018-19 season in a brand new setting. Held inside the newly restructured building of the Florentine Chamber of Commerce, the press conference included the participation of the city’s Mayor, Dario Nardella, Andrea Cavicchi, the Chairman of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana, Leonardo Bassilichi, the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Claudio Marenzi, the Chairman of Pitti Immagine and, last but not least Carlo Calenda, the Italian Minister of Economic Development.

The opening ceremony of Pitti Uomo 93 - the speakers holding the giveaway scarf featuring the Museum of Costume and Fashion a
The opening ceremony of Pitti Uomo 93 - the speakers holding the giveaway scarf featuring the Museum of Costume and Fashion at Pitti Palace logo

Andrea Cavicchi talked about the significance of the opening dinner having taken place in the Sala Bianca, which he called “the birthplace of Italian fashion,” and pointed to the willingness of all bodies, from Italian cultural associations to financial agencies, to find synergy among themselves, to create a fashion powerhouse with its epicenter in the city of Florence.

Mayor Dario Nardella also pointed to the “great team spirit” between companies, financial institutions and cultural entities which has made for a “turning point for the city of Florence.” He used the word a “dream” when talking about this achievement.

Actually, I have to agree. It is quite special to find agreement about anything these days, and what is going on in Florence, causing the growth of Pitti Uomo year after year, season after season, feels a lot like a wondrous Utopia.

The famous last words of the opening ceremony belonged to the witty Ministro Carlo Calenda, who pointed out that Italians should remember that “luxury is not a bad word in any other developed country, but here it seems to be,” which is a perfect explanation of what has been keeping the country back, in the last twenty years. Italian brands appear to have forgotten their importance in the world arena, and that their image should remain synonymous with craftsmanship and great vision. Never to be sacrificed for the sake of a lower price tag.

The designers of Guest Nation Finland
The designers of Guest Nation Finland

After a morning spent in the company of Italians, the afternoon belonged to Finland, the Guest Nation at this edition of Pitti Uomo. With a no-nonsense approach to fashion, Finnish designers create interest with a combination of color, textures and oversized silhouettes that immediately draw the eye to their garments.

As Janne Taalas, the Ambassador of Finland said during the kicking-off ceremony for the Finnish showroom inside the Fortezza da Basso, “not everyone knows Finnish fashion design but all know Finnish design,” pointing to the nation’s industrial, interior and technological vision.

The Finnish space, and the inclusion of its eight designers was curated by Tuomas Laitinen and Chris Vidal Tenomaa of SSAW magazine and I’m still working out whose creations are my personal favorites.

Later in the afternoon, inside the Stazione Leopolda, a standing crowd was treated to the presentation of the International Woolmark Prize, which is a yearly prize awarded by The Woolmark Company, a subsidiary of Australian Wool Innovation, to young fashion designers who fulfill their vision best.

This year’s winners were Matthew Miller from the UK for the Menswear 2017/2018 International Woolmark Prize, Bodice from India for the womenswear 2017/2018 International Woolmark Prize and Dyne from the US for this year’s inaugural Innovation Award. Among the judges were designer Phillip Lim, model and actress Liya Kebede and Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Emanuele Farneti and the winners received a cash prize but also the opportunity to showcase their collections at the British Fashion Council's London showrooms at TRANOÏ WEEK in Paris, January 18-23, at the VNH Gallery.

I asked Farneti, who is the exciting new head honcho at Vogue Italia, how does the International Woolmark Prize help in making the world a better place? Because that’s always an important ideal for me, fashion and film as a way to use our power of one. His reply was divine:

“The International Woolmark Prize in all these years has given support and visibility to many international designers strengthening the concept that nowadays cultural clash is fundamental, meaning that bridging cultures brings much more creativity and expands the fashion vision. There are more often couples in a brand which come from different countries and the result in their collections is always very stimulating. Woolmark Prize gives not just the chance to be known as a designer but also gives a sight of what is happening around the world. Supporting the new generation and giving them the chance to be seen and grow makes the world a better place.” — Emanuele Farneti

The afternoon ended with a grand event, the inauguration of the Gucci Garden concept store inside the brand’s Museum in Piazza della Signoria. The setting is of course magnificent, with its windows overlooking the theatrical square, but what happened inside the Gucci Garden was simply magical. Hosted by Gucci creative mastermind Alessandro Michele, the one-of-a-kind clothing store, slash stationary emporium, slash gourmet restaurant proposed a one-stop-shop for luxury and a couture experience for the eyes, mouth and soul.

I felt a little like the younger girl who visited the locked door Voyage store in the early 2000s, allowed into a world of exclusivity and style. Although while Voyage as a brand thrived on eliteness, Michele’s Gucci has allowed his larger than life thrift store couture vision to trickle down to everyone who wishes to own it.

The Gucci Garden giveaway...
The Gucci Garden giveaway...

It was a dream come true to be a part of this fashionably historic moment and to be able to rub elbows with the great Alessandro Michele himself, not to mention all the celebrity guests dressed in head to toe Gucci. It was a wondrous night, for sure, and when I walked out of the party, holding the Gucci Garden pink giveaway bag (with those perfect foldable spectacles wrapped so deliciously inside) I felt like I glided back to my hotel, wings on my feet, fairy dust in my fashionista heart.

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