Wool Surprises at Pitti Uomo

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Pitti Uomo 91 opened in an unusually cold Florence from January 10-13 – the ideal weather to set off the new season's cosy knitwear, the greatcoats, the  luxury suits and accessories. Luxury and high standards were emphasised in Italian, French, British and American collections of famous brands: Aquascutum, Tommy Hilfiger, Johnstons of Elgin, Barbour, Woolrich and Paul Smith.  High quality manufacture with perfect seams, expensive buttons and  bold colourings and textures made for top quality collections, all of which called on wool as a major player. 

There was little to challenge the leading position of wool in the offer for Winter 2017/18.  On the contrary: traditional heavy tweed coats, Donegals, checked shirts and large blanket checks for jackets, worn with knitted chunky wool or cashmere mix scarves, were bright and eye-catching. Printed wool shawls and large scarves came in floral designs and pastel colours unusual for menswear.  Hand knits and intarsias were part of the continuing artisan focus. 

It is clear that wool is now classed as a techno fibre in many collections, providing protection from the elements and regulating temperature and comfort. Athleisure has raised its profile, providing comfort for activity and casual wear with sporty styling.  Good stretch and recovery means worsted wool is used for travel collections. Wool's resilience was eloquently demonstrated by Paul Smith for PS, where ballet dancers showed just how much a wool suit can stretch to the utmost and still look good. 

There was much bonding of disparate fabrics for on-trend reversible jackets.  Quilted and padded wool jackets had windproof linings for climate control, or the reverse where the wind-cheater layers were outside and bright checked wool linings formed the inners – seen at Woolrich, Barbour and many other smart-casual labels. 

The focus on woolly knitwear included traditional Fairisles and thick, coarser fishermen's jumpers, and some were rubberised or painted. Fine Merino sweaters had easy-care properties like wash and tumble dry, explained to customers in point-of-sale booklets which signalled minimum upkeep and protection.   Z Zegna used the new Techno Merino TM in white futuristic designs like the set of a SciFi film, a visual reminder that wool is now in the forefront of the research and development of technical properties.   Many of these are exploiting innate properties such as shower resistance, personal climate control and thermo reactors as well as suits that can take the traveller from home to plane to meeting and dinner in a single 24 hours. This was a theme of the Florence Pitti Filati yarn show last year. Several designers developed this theme to exploit wool's well known recovery properties.

Bright colors accented dark suits and patterned shirts in black, grey or navy. Orange, yellow, red, and an emerging green spectrum livened up jackets in tweeds, scarves, ties, and accessories.  Checks and stripes and textured weaves often had bright points of colour too.  Paul Smith's flair with unexpected brio produced bright socks in wool, and accessories; colours brighter than any other palette, patterned with purple, pink, red, and yellow interpreted in stripes and oversize spots, with hats in bright lime green, pink and other brights and dramatic 1960s inspired knits; they put a smile on the face. 

– Janet Prescott

Images: PS By Paul Smith wool socks; Z Zegna's Techno Merino TM, image credits Woolmark/Vanni Bassetti; Pitti People image credit Vincenzo Grillo; Main image Pitti Uomo, credit AKAstudio-collective.

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