Running what’s arguably the most important menswear trade show in the world isn’t a tiny task, but that doesn’t fluster Pitti Immagine CEO Raffaello Napoleone. He even took time to speak with us during the fair, which took place in Florence last week. We chatted about the history of Pitti, why he chose two Los Angeles-based designers to lead this season’s program, and where to go in Florence for a bit of peace and quiet.
Fashionista: What were you most excited about this season?
Raffaello Napoleone: This season the strong message is the strength of the international market. As you know, today you cannot really evaluate a trade show following the figures, it’s very difficult. But the reaction of the international market has been fantastic. We have more Japanese, we have more Americans, we have more Germans, we have more people arriving from Taiwan and Korea, from both emerging and well-known markets. Pitti Immagine is more and more a reference point for people that want to be successful in the menswear business. From another point of view, it’s extraordinary, the quality of this season. As you know, the spring/summer season is the weakest season in menswear. What we can see in the booths is a lot of offers, a lot of good design, good quality. It’s really fantastic.
This is Pitti 80, and for Pitti W it’s 8, so that’s a huge difference. How much effort do you put into the women’s side, and do you want it eventually to be the same size?
No, because we have a completely different array. In womenswear the big collections are ready at the end of June, the beginning of July. The big part of the collection is ready in September. We do not want to present to a big company. We are not enticed by that. We are interested in the small, good quality companies that want to be on the market at the very beginning of the season, to have the chance to be visible very early and to reach the first batches that are open. And if you go there you see good companies; not huge – you probably know better than me that the Guccis, the Ferragamos, the Pradas, the St. Laurents, the big companies, they start selling the collections in May and in November because they have to deliver to their own shops much earlier. So we decided to have a women’s pre-collection in Pitti Immagine, because we have many buyers in Florence, into certain menswear, but also into women’s. And we have more and more women’s in Pitti Uomo because in the sportswear area brands often offer both.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on Band of Outsiders and Rodarte, and why you chose them in particular to be this season’s guest designers. I think it’s very interesting that they both work in Los Angeles.
This part of the Pitti Immagine Strategy that we started more than 20 years ago, thanks to [the late] Marco Rivetti, the owner of GFT, which was at the moment the big company, the one that launched Armani, Valentino, all these labels. He left in 1988 to be chairman of Pitti Immagine and he changed the management and the strategy. Florence is not a fashion town anymore like it used to be, but it’s always been a fantastic district from a fashion point of view. All the big names, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, do work here. So it has a fantastic image for an outside point of view, but not it’s so much a fashion town anymore because art is much stronger. Everything moved. We have to use the image of Florence–of good taste, lifestyle and quality–to promote fashion. And so we started this at the very beginning with the big designers: Jean Paul Gaultier came here for the first time to launch new parts of the label, Donna Karan came here. A lot of Americans, English, French. We have a foundation, a vision, using the town for events like the Band [of Outsiders] and Rodarte. You have to have in a trade show these type of special events, special venues–things that are not easy to replicate or to do somewhere else. It’s quite impossible.
You’re so busy during this time of year. What is the best place in Florence for escaping the madness?
I’m very lucky, because I live in the center of the town in a very special house with seven different levels. At the top you have a tower and then a studio and then my daughter’s room, then a dining room, the kitchen. In fact, where I feel very comfortable in town is in my house, with all of the city and the roofs of the churches and the bells playing–I’m very happy. In fact, I’m very close to the river. And Florence is just a very special place. And you feel after the pressure you have, you arrive at home sagging and everywhere I’m walking I’m sagging and then here you feel very comfortable and then you can recover in a half hour.