The new groove in menswear: casual suit meets Gorpcore?

FLORENCE— “A blend of comfort and casual elegance”: That’s how Jian DeLeon, director of menswear at Nordstrom, described the dominant menswear trends as seen at Pitti Uomo this week.

The June 2023 edition of the bi-annual Florence show brought together menswear insiders, from buyers to street style aficionados, alongside well-known luxury houses like Brunello Cucinelli and technical outdoor brands such as Snow Peak and Goldwin.

The rally was the first time since the pandemic that brands, shoppers and press from major Asian markets could travel thanks to the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions earlier this year: Buying teams from coveted retailers like United Arrows and Beams of Japan were there in droves. Meanwhile, China’s reopening made a significant impression: 58 companies and 163 attendees from the country attended last week, compared to just a handful of attendees last summer, Pitti chief executive Raffaello Napoleone said. to BoF.

Seeking to take advantage of the increase in attendance from international buyers, 825 brands exhibited their new collections, compared to 680 last summer. Brands and buyers also came to take the temperature of a changing men’s market.

While the menswear market is expected to remain on fire, growing 5.8% to $548 billion a year over the next four years according to Euromonitor, trends in the key category are changing rapidly. The decline of brand logomania and tribalism has seen many streetwear brands lose heat – and sales – while a return to higher sartorial styles is seeing a resurgence as tailoring and streetwear companies ceremony for men are modernizing their offer.

Suits are always in style at Pitti – previously the place for “#menswear” and a magnet for Instagram dandies. But this year saw renewed energy around the category as brands offered a more contemporary approach, filled with laid-back ‘soft’ suits, often paired with relaxed t-shirts and shoes, or more relaxed shirts and expressive.

“I think in menswear we’re seeing a blurring of categories, which is evident here at Pitti,” Napoleone said. “It’s no longer about suits, casualwear and sportswear for separate consumers – we’re now in a world where men can wear all three at the same time.”

The blurring between formal and casual wear was exemplified at the Fendi show on Thursday night, which championed tailoring with a contemporary twist. Held as the sun set at the brand’s new production facility in the Tuscan countryside, the models paraded down the aisles of machines in loose workwear-inspired shapes rendered in luxe suiting fabrics paired with “Crocs” style sneakers and clogs. Instead of artistic director Silvia Venturini Fendi appearing to wave after the finale, staff working on the machines joined the models on the runway to rapturous applause.

Later in the evening, Eli Russell Linnetz, Pitti’s guest designer, continued the relaxed tailoring theme, but this time adapted for euphoric party wear. At his first-ever IRL show, the Los Angeles-based designer sent surfer models in rhinestone-embellished silver pants, silky sheer shirts and sleeveless jackets.

Pitti buyers said brands are responding to changing perceptions about the role of suiting and tailoring in men’s everyday wardrobes.

“Customers realize they can buy clothes they really want to wear, rather than feeling pressured to,” Nordstrom’s DeLeon said. “It’s encouraged people to be a bit more expressive with their wardrobes and opt for clothes that complement their personal style, which is increasingly leaning towards a mix of comfort and casual elegance.”

Sewing reinvented

As the pandemic has receded, demand for casual suits has soared, even among buyers of ultra-luxury bespoke suits, as affluent consumers seek to elevate their wardrobes while projecting a cooler image and clinging to post-pandemic standards of comfort.

Famous Florentine tailor Liverano and Liverano debuted at the show to great enthusiasm among shoppers, signaling a shift from traditional brands catering to more casual consumers.

AMC's second collection, shot on the streets of Tokyo.  The brand is led by former Valentino designer Aldo Maria Camillo and United Arrows co-founder Hirofumi Kurino.

Former Valentino and Zegna designer Aldo Maria Camillo presented his eponymous brand’s second collection at Pitti this year, and said he was surprised by the demand he had already received for the suit jackets wide-shouldered, double-breasted and baggy eddies of her brand. tailored pants, the models of which are combined with a simple vest underneath. The brand, run in partnership with United Arrows co-founder Hirofumi Kurino and based between Paris and Tokyo, is already stocked by more than 15 retailers, including Dover Street Market Ginza and United Arrows in Tokyo, and last week had conversations with buyers from Selfridges and Bergdorf Goodman. as it seeks to expand into Western markets, Camillo told BoF.

Some big suit brands, such as Italian formal wear maker Kiton, are also seeing their sales soar. The Neapolitan company was present at Pitti last week to promote its lifestyle sub-brand KTN, which mixes sports-inspired clothing with formal wear. After seeing unprecedented demand over the past year and a half for its suits and casual wear, spurred by the viral aesthetic of quiet luxury, the company expects to generate revenues of 200 million euros (218 .9 million dollars) this year, against 160 €. million in 2022.

“2022 has been a banner year for us,” said chief executive Antonio De Matteis. “Men are much more intentional now in how they dress and that has led to new opportunities for growth.”

Kiton has seen sales soar as menswear consumers mix suits with pieces from their casualwear brand, KTN.

One of the show’s biggest draws was Bruno Cucinelli’s “Bohemian Evolution” collection for Spring/Summer 2024. The brand covered its bases, leaning into the formal wear boom with silk tuxedos and removing almost entirely sneakers to focus on derby shoes, loafers and brogues. But the collection also included 1970s-inspired travel wear, such as tracksuits and shell sweaters once worn by tennis pros. The brand’s daytime suits have taken on a more relaxed look this season, with cropped shirts and tees paired with wide, baggy trousers. Finally, there was a luxury athleisure capsule dedicated to racquet sports.

Shoppers agree that Italian formal wear brands like Cucinelli are well positioned to capitalize on the craze for “understated luxury” clothing – a narrative fueled by TikTok that celebrated ultra-luxe fashion but without logo.

“Cucinelli is a really key brand for us,” said Browns menswear buyer Thom Scherdel. “The vibe of the Italian lifestyle translates very well to that ambitious European, English or American consumer who really wants to buy that elevated aesthetic.”

Gorpcore grows

Even outdoor brands – which have enjoyed a surge of popularity with streetwear fans in recent years for their technical garments covered in zippers, multiple pockets and logos – are adapting their product offerings to keep up with the new normal of male fashion.

Japanese outerwear brand Goldwin, for example, is enjoying growing popularity in its lifestyle category for newly introduced products such as its minimalist, puffy sets made from ultra-lightweight wool and bamboo fiber. Rather than the typical loud gorpcore fair shoppers that have come to expect in recent years, the rest of the brand’s collection is intentionally minimal and mostly features muted colorways like charcoal gray and navy blue. The idea was to design technical gear that consumers could mix and match with more formal pieces, such as shirts and loafers, said Tayuki Kinami, the brand’s general manager.

“We can expect to see a lot more soft tailoring from outdoor brands that can bring some really interesting products through the use of technical fabrics,” said Chris Fisher, menswear buying manager at Browns.

Another Japanese gorpcore favorite, Snow Peak, caught the eye of shoppers for its equally minimalist collection, as did Italian tech streetwear start-up Off Grid.

“The streetwear consumer is not necessarily up to Zegna. It’s sort of a throwback to the days when items like work pants and oxfords were the preferred flex,” DeLeon said. “Streetwear has always had a symbiotic relationship with the rest of the fashion world, and the more low-key offerings on the market reflect that.”

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