Thoughts on Apparel Trade Shows

Pitti Uomo, the menswear trade show Pete recently wrote about, just ended last week. It happens to be one of the most publicly watched trade shows among menswear enthusiasts, but it’s hardly the only industry event. A number of “fashion shows” just ended in London and Milan, for example, and Bread and Butter is going on right now. After that, there’s Capsule, and then a few others. 

I actually went to apparel trade shows in the mid-1990s, when I worked in print media. At the time, we had streetwear brands as advertising clients, so we’d go to do business. We also needed to make contacts in order to organize fashion photoshoots. I’ve never been to Pitti, but I’ve gone to a number of Magic shows (one of the biggest apparel trade shows in the US) and ASR before they shut down. 

One of the things not captured by media coverage of these events is their size. Some of them are huge. At Magic, for example, you can almost walk continuously every day for the duration of the show (usually three days) and still not see every booth. Tons of brands are there, each with their own collections, and buyers from stores making their purchases. It’s kind of incredible to think of how much stuff is being produced, sold, and bought at these things. I mean, at the last Pitti Uomo alone, there were 30,000 attendees, 21,000 of which were buyers (21,000 buyers!). And after each round of shows, there’s another round in six months for the next season’s collections.

Anyway, it’s been about fifteen years since I’ve been to one of these events, but every time Pitti coverage comes up on my RSS feed, I’m reminded of an interview Move did with my old friend Jeff Ng, who’s a pioneer in the streetwear scene with his company Staple. On the issue of trade shows, he had this to say:

Fashion to me is a riddle. It’s this riddle I am always fighting with because, you know, you walk around a trade show like Bread & Butter and you see all these brands, and you’re just thinking to yourself, “how many jackets do people need? How many pants? How many jeans?” I feel kind of disgusted that I’m just adding more stuff into this world.

But I do realize that everyone sitting here is wearing clothes. Clothes are necessary, but what is the solution? Yes we do need multiple options, but do we need this many? […]

Fashion as you know works on calendars and seasons. You have to do a spring/ summer; you have to do a fall/ winter; you have to do a holiday. And as a designer and creative person, it’s like why? Let’s say I created a dope ass jacket in the spring. Why do I now have to make another one in the fall? Just because you have to make another collection? Maybe that one’s a great jacket and I don’t wanna make another jacket. But in fashion, no. “That was good, OK, but now do five more in thirteen different colors.” Like, really? Do we have to?

I’m certainly no saint, and I admit I like seeing new collections come out every season. I also enjoy purchasing new things, and the feeling of wearing them for the first time. But, every time Pitti coverage comes up on my RSS feed, I think about Jeff’s point. How does the cycle of seasonal collections and trade shows relate to clothing production, and how does that production relate to our consumeristic desires?

I don’t have answers to those questions (causality can run in either direction, or even both, I’m sure), but they’re food for thought.

(Image from Christian Boltanski’s installation No Man’s Land)

On the European Pilgrimage and How to Out-Italian the Italians While Abroad

Twice a year, the world’s #menswear “elite” (not trying to stroke any egos here, hence the quotes) pack three weeks worth of sprezz and head out on a European expedition that begins in Florence and ends in Paris, the “Hajj des Hommes,” if you will.  During this time—all the while Instagraming, Tumbling and Tweeting their way into their friends’ “Never Call This Doucher Again” books—said Illuminati find themselves subjected to hundreds of the most exorbitantly #wealthy brands on God’s green earth, from the hand-stitched shirting and natural shoulders of Pitti Uomo to the black leather and drape of Milan and Paris.

This is enough to drive even the steeziest of steezsters insane.  It’s just too much to take in over a mere 21-day period.  So, for your reading pleasure, we’ve come up with a ten-step guide on how to act as if you’ve been there before. 

  1. Sunglasses Are Your Friend - It’s tough to maintain a grimace that indicates you are too important to care about, and uniformly unimpressed with, anything and everyone that comes within your periphery (we call this the “Lapo May Care Glare”), so make sure you have the requisite eyewear to hide any indication of positive human emotion.
  2. Wear Navy, But Not THAT Navy - Navy should be a staple color in your Hajj rotation.  It is the most basic and versatile color to style, and no one will talk behind your back about your judgment.  However, add a little flavor here and there to ensure that discerning street style photographers notice that you’re different and more interesting than those around you.
  3. Purchase Life Insurance Before You Begin Smoking a Pack a Day At the Fortezza - Premiums are cheaper for non-smokers, and you’ll have a really, really difficult time proving a clean bill of health to Met Life if you walk in there a couple of days after your journey smelling like a Phillip Morris family member’s automobile after a road trip around the continental US.
  4. Outerwear Kills: Keep It Simple - Sure, you want to look fresh day in and day out, but outerwear just flat out destroys your luggage square footage.  Are you ready to devote an entire suitcase to a single Bastian top coat and Nigel parka?  Right, thought so.  So stick to the sleek stuff (moleskin, cashmere etc.) and travel with the hard body karate (read: super warm) shit on your back.  
  5. Spend One Day Wearing Something That Even the Italians Would FindSimultaneously Ostentatious, Strange and Crispy - Now, no one’s suggesting that you show up in a Rick Owens women’s veiled ski mask (GOD WE HOPE SOMEONE DOES THIS), but what we are suggesting is that you take some time to think outside the box and do something unconventional and decidedly American, we’re thinking double-breasteds and beanies.
  6. The Jawnz-Copping Budget - Set aside a definitive amount of cash (no, not credit, because everyone knows that credit is not real money, and by the time you get hit with the conversion rate and foreign transaction fees, you’ll be buying your gear at double-mark-up) as a reserve fund for copping extra gear while abroad in the event that a connecting flight loses your luggage or someone spills a coffee on your suede tassel loafers at a late night Gilli session.
  7. Don’t Worry About Windchill: Rent a Vespa - Just imagine the looks on their faces when you pull up to the Carrousel du Louvre in 18 degrees Fahrenheit, double park, toss your keys to Karl Lagerfeld and tell him “IF THE COPS COME, JUST MOVE IT DOWN THE BLOCK.  THANKS, BRO.”  
  8. Learn At Least One Thing About Everyone You Meet - And bring it up in conversation when you see said person in another city.  You’re going to be spending a lot of time with strangers and bumping into people in all sorts of different venues and cities, so, it’s good manners and karma to give off the impression that you care.  
  9. Dainite Soles - To the extent possible, go with Dainite (or a veritable substitute thereto).  Italian and French cobblestone has WREAKED HAVOC on many soles in years past, and you do not want to be a statistic.    
  10. Carbo-Load - We all know Italians love their pasta, so use this séjour as an opportunity to glutton-the-fuck-out—believe us, you’ll need the energy.  

Please check out my Pitti Uomo 85 Street Style slideshow for Details.com

There were more men than I’ve ever seen at Pitti. It’s only my third year but the internet has affected Pitti a lot. I wasn’t able to see much of the actual clothes that were being show inside the tradeshow as I focused on the many men outside. Definitely the land of peacocks. I tried to capture guys that were well-tailored, yet unique in the details. Nothing too crazy.

- Melodie

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