Fellow globetrotters and fashionistos, your correspondent has travelled extensively over December and January to the far corners of the Earth to find new and exciting goods for Tolley Savile Row’s distinguished clients. Places visited included London, Austria, Italy and Kazakhstan.
My main focus of this report is the Pitti ‘fashion parade’ in Florence (it used to be a credible trade fair). I have been travelling to Florence for this fair since before the majority of Instagram-obsessed young lads posing in the vast freezing cold courtyard were born. And although Florence is a nice city, I would now only use Pitti as an excuse to go and eat the divine Tuscan cuisine, and that is what I ended up doing this trip.
I also enjoyed catching up with a Melbourne expat and bon vivant, Victor Caulfield. Sometime last year Denis Hagger (colourful and extremely talented chef and restaurateur) and I were reminiscing about the old days in the village of Melbourne and all the wonderful characters and Victor came up in the conversation as we all used to hunt with the Findon Harriers when it was the ‘it’ club for Melbourne’s most rakish gentlemen and fetching vixens.
Dennis asked, “Why not look him up when you are in Florence? He is still a real scally wag and taste of Florence society.”
So, feeling quite bored of tripping over squawking peacocks and long-faced merchants (as no-one goes there to actually buy anything any more) – and also not having an invitation to the perennially packed-with-beautiful-people-dressed-in-beige-and-camel at Brunello Cucinelli’s stand – I headed off through Florence and over to the Pitti Palace-side of the Ponte Vecchio to meet Victor again for the first time in 40 years!
Victor was not hard to spot as he had a Sherlock Holmes pipe, Harrier green Loden cape, fedora hat and still sports a white beard with mutton chops. It’s always strange meeting up with someone after so many years; I remember vividly a tall powerfully built man with rakish features and devil-may-care disposition.
After a short walk and small talk, we settled into a magnificent wine bar/shop, Enoteca Obsequium, at Borgo S. Jacopo 17. After a far-too-detailed question-and-answer session with the head wine tosser, we settled on one of the recommended bottles of Chianti. The wine was superb and we sat in the window reminiscing and catching up on news of mutual friends and associates.
Every few minutes someone walking past would recognise Victor and tap on the window with a smile and a greeting. I was fascinated as to how and why he settled in Florence and his answers were quite revealing.
He, like many of us in the rag trade, beat a path to Florence at least twice a year all his life, so it was a long love affair. I asked him if his Italian had improved since residing in Italy.
“Not a word of it,” was his response. “No need. Everyone speaks English and I don’t have the ear for it.”
He recounted stories of wonderful parties he held in his grand apartment in the Casa Guidi, obtained through a historical family connection. Victor whiles away his time going to the opera, theatre, travelling around Italy and is a favourite sitter for young artists in Florence.
An exhibition of more than 50 portraits of Victor will be exhibited in Florence very soon, then moving onto London and finally Australia. It is a unique exhibition as it is extremely rare for so many portraits to be done of one person. One of the portraits painted a long time ago by renowned Australian artist Paul Fitzgerald shows the changes over the years when compared to the latest works.
Now to the nitty gritty of Pitti. As I stated earlier, there was not much new to see – and even harder to interpret the market – as most sartorial exhibitors were showing the same thing as always. The colour pallet is still indigo/air force blue, and slashes of green and lashings of chocolate and rust colours in jackets, coats, trousers and suits. The ‘new blue’ mentioned has remained stronger for longer than anyone anticipated; it has probably become the fourth pillar of the menswear trade with black, navy and charcoal.
Hats are everywhere and everyone is wearing them, not just because it’s very cold, but because they are very comfortable and finish off an outfit beautifully. Dark purple, green and red were de rigueur in trilby and fedora styles.
Your correspondent chose a cashmere brown hounds tooth with blue over-check flat cap. I also purchased one more flat cap and a dark green and burgundy trilby. I wore the caps with jeans and tweed sports jacket on the weekend and the trilby with tailored cotton trousers during the week.
While on a reconnaissance mission with my great friend and author of the upcoming John Morgan & Co book David Dowsey Esq, I did fall in love with a dark grey homburg at my favourite hatters, Lock’s in St James. As I was leaving in a couple of days and with too much luggage, I left it until my next trip. I still think a formal hat when worn with a proper suit is the epitome of style and sophistication.
Shoes: Every second stand at Pitti had every unimaginable type of sneaker: a walk through Selfridges in London also confirmed this virus is out of control. Most were absolutely ghastly garish creations that would make an Asian rapper cringe. I suppose I am an old fuddy-duddy, as I was born in an era when the Dunlop Volley was the only sneaker a gent wore, and only on the tennis court. The odd thing is STDs (sneaker transmitted disease), as many people must have them, but you see no-one talking about them or wearing them, at least in polite company.
In the real world the monk shoe still reigns supreme with brown and cognac in every type of leather and suede. Crocodile and crock-print is also in vogue. Real crock is the one to have, but the exuberant prices and the dim view some customs officials take – who would think you have to remember to take your CITIES certificate when travelling – make it the choice of only the most daring and rakish of smugglers.
It is wonderful to see that the public at large are finally waking up to the benefits of investing in quality footwear when looking for classic shoes. With the cost of ordinary ‘cemented’ (glued) shoes with ordinary leather now becoming so expensive, the value shopper is investing a little more for a ‘proper shoe’, usually from a reputable English maker. The classic double monk Barker Fleet Mocha Calf we stock is an absolute corker. This shoe can be worn with any colour suit, casual trouser or jeans. These shoes are supremely comfortable and are good for your feet too.
Suits and coats: As stated before in previous musings (‘The Emperor's New Clothes’), the double breasted suit is now almost non-existent. This is sad, as everyone worked so hard on Instagram and in the media to promote it, and it was all for nothing. Men simply did not embrace it anywhere in the world, so every major sartorial house has all but abandoned it. So it’s still all single breasted with a longer coat and fuller trouser.
I had a brief chat to one of the staff on the Lardini stand at Pitti and inquired about my favourite range, the RVR reversible coat selection. Sadly, with their expansion of the new Sartorial line, this collection has been abandoned. A few reversible pieces are still in the main collection, but not many. I still have one last delivery – a sizeable one – of this amazing collection for this winter. While I was there, I asked the gent from Lardini where the Wooster + Lardini collection was, as I could not see it at their stand and Mr Wooster was only seen fleetingly with an entourage of one. Dashing about dressed very conservatively, and successfully flying under the radar, not even the plethora of photographers seemed to be at all interested in the previously overexposed ‘icon’. This proves that the leap from fashion buyer to designer is a bridge too far. The two collections I viewed were, in my opinion, absolutely ghastly and unsaleable, trying hard to be different for the sake of being different for no purpose.
I am in the process of writing my next article, ‘Bespoke and made to measure is everywhere!’, so stay tuned. Until then…
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