Nature of Trends and the trend of Nature
Pitti Uomo 94
The irony was not lost as the heavens opened on Pitti 94. I, being British and harbouring a keen interest in the weather, took advance warning of the impending rain. Armed with an umbrella, I splashed across the Fortezza de Basso towards the new ‘I Go Out’ exhibition on nature and the great outdoors. Meanwhile the many sartorial Pitti peacocks – whose plumes were not waterproof – sheltered from the impending storm. En route, I stopped in at luxury lifestyle performance brand Sease, (of Loro Piana family heritage,) where they explained that the canopy holding back the rain, was in fact “the fabric we use on our coats”; We were all dry as a bone standing underneath it.
It was clear this Pitti that a movement and appreciation for genuine technical performance-wear with an eco-conscious message, is slowly edging out affectatious, polished, sartorialism. Sportswear has been ruling the runways and retailers for some seasons now; Pitti and Milan this season are more ‘active’ than ever, and even Fendi out-sold all other performance brands this year for one particular online retailer, their head of buying told me. But this season, as fashion brands have moved even further into this arena, and performance brands are introducing ready-to-wear items, the grey area in the middle has suddenly become very colourful.
Established luxury brand, Z Zegna, whose concept and design philosophy sit exactly at the intersection of fashion and sport, put on a smashing tennis display, designed with their Techmerinotm fabric in an array of styles for both on and off the court. So important have the elements of comfort and performance become, that it’s these brands who are pushing the boundaries in terms of fabric development, functionality and design, so that we can wear garments designed to survive a long run or gruelling cycle but also display timeless, quiet luxury features.
But of greater impact is the question of social responsibility, sustainability and nature’s preservation for the sake of fashion. When I spoke to Aeance founder, Nadine-Isabelle Baier, she told me of their inspiration to create the highest quality functional ready-to-wear garments and activewear apparel whilst ensuring minimal damage to the environment. “We source our fabrics from eco-sustainable mills in Switzerland, New Zealand and Italy, and produce all our garments in Portugal. We use 100% recycled fabric and PFC-free coating for example… Also, we want to encourage a move away from consumerism and create garments that will last a long time.”
This notion of durability and longevity seems at odds with the fashion world, which thrives on the nature of trends and it would seem the trend of nature. MCM and Roberto Cavalli by Paul Surridge both put on shows this season (another jarring element for Pitti Uomo) and gone were the snakeskins of the latter’s past identity – instead we saw three-dimensional rubber in its place which worked better on their fashionable take on sportswear. MCM too, went some lengths with a dance performance and fashion show in the rain with lightweight technical flowing raincoats aplenty, in case we were unsure of the urban street-sports message.
It was therefore important to see designers such as Christopher Raeburn taking such a strong stance and sense of responsibility on what he calls “a creative call to arms on climate change” with his collection of remade, recycled or reduced menswear. And to his credit, he didn’t display his collection as a Milan-style show, but rather in my favourite hangout of the season, the Sala della Ronda planet-conscious corner alongside other genius outdoors brands and designers who are more than worthy of a necessary mention here.
Canadian outdoors experts Arc’teryx presented their minimalist Valence collection designed for the urban environment but with a focus on movement, material innovation and absolute performance.
Serac, too reminded me just how hard it is to combine subtle Scandinavian design – another welcome style cue at Pitti – with a genuine need for technical performance details. Action-back trench coats with recycled materials all designed to withstand and look good in a Norwegian winter, another outstanding brand.
It’s easy to get caught up in our fashion and retail-driven worlds, communicating on brands and techniques like a modern-day Marco Polo. And so when after having posted to social media a picture of what I thought was a perfect example of a hybrid design in a walking-boot-inspired trainer by Portland iconic bootmaker, Danner, I was promptly and happily reminded by a follower “Danner boots: been wearing them in warzones for 15 years”. What superb reminder of the true purpose and roots of technical, functional performance and design.
article by Sarah Ann Murray