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Pitti boss Napoleone: 'PittiTimes' trade fair concept symbolises changes in the fashion industry

By Jule Scott


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Pitti boss Raffaello Napoleone Credits: Pitti Immagine

Under the motto "PittiTimes", Pitti Uomo is kicking off the fall/winter 2024 season this week and turning its Florentine home into the epicentre of fashion for a few days. At the start of the fair, Pitti boss Raffaello Napoleone explained why Florence is an essential location for the men's fashion fair and how the role of Pitti and its organiser Pitti Immagine has changed with the times.

The 105th Pitti Uomo is being held under the banner of 'PittiTimes'. How did this central theme come about?

After the events of the last four years, we firmly believe that now is the time to really make an effort to understand what is going on, to act and make decisions - that was the starting point for the motto.

Times have changed, fashion and fashion weeks have changed completely. Brands show in India, Cuba, Hong Kong or Shanghai on different dates and with different collections. We are dealing with a new concept here, and this raises not only the question of time, but also of timing. 'PittiTimes' was the best way to convey a message that cuts across the fashion system. It is also time for the fashion industry to rethink its distribution.

Times are changing, what are the biggest challenges in the industry at the moment?

The big problem is the change in the distribution system and e-commerce. Online sales are suffering and this is changing the distribution structure. No one is sure which channels to focus on now.

There are changes not only in e-commerce, but also in the trade fair landscape. While many trade fair concepts are currently being reconsidered or even discontinued, Pitti Uomo seems to be growing.

We have never thought about size, but about creating spaces where visitors can see the best of the collections. Now more than ever, shoppers are not looking for quantity, but for choice, quality and identity, and they don't want to waste time.

What makes Pitti Uomo and Florence so unique?

If you want to use a metaphor, you could use a Formula 1 racetrack. If you're in the Formula 1 business, you have to be on the right circuit, and there are only a few that are really relevant. Pitti is the right circuit, if you like. It's the Grand Prix Formula di Monza of fashion, where everyone goes because it's steeped in history. We have history. Pitti was born in 1951, we are the father and mother of Italian fashion.

Florence is also very small. Even if you leave the Fortezza [editor's note: Fortezza da Basso, the venue of Pitti Uomo], there is a 90 percent chance that you will meet someone over dinner, a drink or at the hotel who is interesting for you and your business and from whom you could benefit - be it in terms of distribution, manufacturing or suppliers. It's the only place where the menswear community can really meet and come together. You can't say that about New York, Paris, London or Milan. It's impossible.

Are there nevertheless changes that you are observing at Pitti Uomo and among the visitors?

In the past, the big department stores came to Pitti Uomo with a convoy of buyers, 10, 20 buyers at a time. Because that was also an opportunity to learn, to teach the staff and to understand what makes the market tick. Now they only come here with two people, the general merchandise manager and the menswear manager. So the scenario has completely changed because everyone has to cut costs, and yet they come to Pitti to compare and understand what drives menswear, and so we are very careful and precise with what we offer and the way we design the show.

How do you see your role as a trade fair organiser? To what extent can Pitti support buyers and visitors?

We are trade fair organisers, but I prefer to see us as exhibition organisers. If you look at the program of events, we are not a fashion week, we don't want to be a fashion week, but we want to find and highlight voices with a meaningful vision and present brands and designers that can really inspire. We try to have our antennas everywhere, in the US, Germany, Japan, Korea, China, and of course we follow the fashion weeks and the events worldwide. But above all, we try to understand what drives the industry.

So we are not just organisers of trade show booths. We offer much more than just a product. Fashion, especially in this day and age, obviously needs to provide information, connections, contacts and business opportunities, but you can't underestimate the importance of emotion. For those who buy and for those who sell, not to mention the people who produce. You need that kind of sensitivity, that kind of feeling. If you just look at fashion as a commodity, it gets boring very quickly.

Is there anything you are particularly curious or excited about at this edition of Pitti?

I am very excited about the number of participants this year, especially the international participants. As far as the offer is concerned, we already know where the journey is heading. We know exactly how many exhibitors we will have: 832, but as far as visitors are concerned, that remains to be seen. We know how many stores were closed last year, not only in Italy, but also in Germany, France, England and the US.

It is confirmed that the top buyers of the big department stores will come, not least because of our hospitality program, which we owe to the Italian Trade Commission, but whether the rest will come remains to be seen. I am very curious to understand the real retail economy, including the small retailers. The question is really whether they will participate, how many of them and which countries they come from. That is the big curiosity.

Pitti Immagine
Pitti Uomo
Trade show