The Pitti Immagine Uomo Fair in Florence may attract mostly European buyers, but recently increasing numbers of Americans are visiting and studying what the men’s show has to offer.
Fashion vendors are especially alert to the fabulous exposition, since the European mode is invariably first in trends, and among them is a strong move toward accessories for men. Usually referred to simply as Pitti, the show is on right now.
This is a forum to learn from and copy. Many retailers who have exclusively dealt in women’s accessories are seeing a real niche in men’s accessories, too…it’s an easy way to add a category and make new sales.
- YOU CAN ADD EXCITING MEN’S PRODUCTS TO YOUR BUSINESS: Consider some of the newest leather goods, such as small “handbags” or briefcases for paper and computer carrying. Add to that a touch of entertainment, with novelty neckties in many different themes. An especially attractive item is a civil war tie showing both confederate and union soldiers. The male love of the sea can also be harnessed with a tie showing yesterday’s tall ships.
Unlike the women’s fashion field, menswear has traditionally been more resilient to economic ups and downs. So far, sales here have not dropped significantly in this market and, in some ways, design appreciation has actually broadened out and expanded.
A strong indication of the general health of the men’s field is the luxury fashion company Furla’s entry into the market with a men’s accessory collection, now being introduced at Pitti, which it expects to grow to 15 percent of its sales within the next three years.
An interesting point is that the collection was previewed on the company’s e-commerce site and, according to CEO Paolo Fontanelli, “in four weeks, we registered brisk business with lots of women buying, too.”
- ATTRACT WOMEN WITH MEN’S PRODUCTS? Not only can you do that, but by setting up a small men’s accessories section in your present boutique, you can enhance general sales. Women are always looking for gifts for the men in their lives. For a fun item think about Louisiana suspenders, with illustrations of jazz bands and musical notes. Or, put wildlife on the suspenders.
- A complete men’s section would also do well to have a number of small, quick-purchase items to give as mementos, like key chains, bookmarks, and various lapel pins with male-oriented wording, such as “WINNER.” If you’re gifting good employees, try a “#1 IN SALES” pin, sure to delight the recipient.
Another company expanding its men’s offerings is the well known men’s footwear company, Church’s, which is coming into Pitti with a number of exciting new offerings, such as knitted and woven silk ties, small leather goods, belts, and silk and woven cashmere scarves.
The firm is also offering a collection of handsome weekender bags, leather gloves, and those terribly manly and aristocratic-looking British broilies, crook handled umbrellas in chestnut with silver collars. Church’s says it is looking to create a lifestyle brand with its British offerings.
Also look for some hip new products from Manuel Bozzi atu Pitti: belts with guitar-shaped buckles, and a collection of men’s rings with animal-shaped heads, including those of a panther. The rings are all done in sterling silver and handmade in Tuscany’s Pontedera region.
Men’s hats are coming into the market, too. Italia Independent and historic milliner Borsalino have teamed up on a reinterpretation of the well known Borsalino hat. Now done in three different styles, the new hats are aimed at a “more contemporary audience,” according to Lapo Elkann, Italia founder and Fiat heir.
—As he put it, “We want to transform an evergreen icon of elegance into a new cult object for the younger generation.”
Hot Selling Points
Overall, the Pitti accessories showings indicate several themes that are apparently big draws for the men’s market. Among them:
- Reasonable prices. For example, many of the small leather offerings are in the vicinity of $500, a high price for the average market, but reasonable from a luxury standpoint.
- Real Italian leather. Nothing here is made in low-cost production nations and designs all feature the finest Italian leather goods, taking strong advantage of this country’s inimitable recognition as one of the best fine leather producing centers of the world.
- Class consciousness. This is a touchy one, but it is right out there for all to see. A Fiat heir. A top luxury firm. A long-line aristocratic fashion purveyor. And the list goes on. The promise being made by the new accessories’ manufacturers: That all their products are in exquisitely fine taste, highly acceptable, remarkably well-bred. Wearers might expect some of the pedigrees to rub off on them, too!
- “Macho” themes. Some are work-oriented. Many involve travel, for work and with suggestions of safari life and 19th Century explorer experiences. Very manly!
(All we need now is Dr. Livingston, I presume.)