The fashion world's elite have descended on Florence for menswear festival Pitti Uomo, where Australia's hottest fashion buyers hope to bring home the next big trends.
Whether they sink or swim depends on if they've done their homework; and the small contingent of Australian buyers present are not the type to be drowned by the sartorial wave.
Nick and Chris Schaerf of premium Melbourne shoe store had a busy week checking out the latest styles, placing orders and reaffirming relationships with quality suppliers; mainly small-scale, family-run heritage labels from Italy and the UK.
Once the sun went down on the imposing walls of the Fortezza da Basso, the Schaerf brothers made time to attend Pitti's famous cocktail parties to rub shoulders and down martinis with leading names in the fashion business.
Highs and lows
Speaking to the Schaerfs inside the central Pitti pavilion – imagine the menswear department of your dreams – it is clear the brothers possess a strong instinct for how the many styles on display will translate to the fashion scene back home.
"Pitti is a bit of a tough indication, because there are so many guys who are at the forefront," Chris says.
So what are the looks are headed our way? Expect , statement accessories – such as hats, pocket squares, and good quality shoes – as well as more experimental dressing.
"The contrast of tailored [clothes] and more casual is something that we will see a lot more of, especially as guys become more confident with their dressing," Nick says.
"Chris was wearing a suit and under that, a thin puffer jacket [at Pitti]. You will also see chaps will often wear a suit whether summer or winter, and ."
Bucking the trends
Also at Pitti was Tim Cecil, CEO of gentlemen's outfitters , who certainly knows his way around the place. He quickly finds us a quiet spot to enjoy an espresso away from .
"Florence is such a beautiful city and you can get swept away a little bit in the moment," explains Cecil. "We do have to be very careful how it translates to the Australian consumer back home, who is in comparison quite conservative."
Cecil has attended nearly every edition of Pitti over the past decade, and continues a family tradition that saw his uncle making the pilgrimage back when the festival was held at the city's Pitti Palace – hence the name Pitti Uomo (or Pitti Man).
Henry Bucks' association with Pitti notably includes their introduction of prestige labels Zegna and Canali to Australia back in the 1970s.
These days, major brands such as Zegna, Canali, Hugo Boss and Hackett have moved on to the big fashion weeks in London, Milan and Paris.
It means Cecil now spends most of his time in Florence buying up shoes and accessories including ties, pocket squares, cufflinks and small leather goods.
"Now you have a greater concentration of small and medium-sized businesses," Cecil says.
"This is great for specialty stores like us; it means we're dealing with the producers, not so much the big fashion machine."
While only a fraction of the labels on display at Pitti are currently available in Australian stores, Pitti CEO Raffaello Napoleone says there is a growing need to sell into new markets as Italians are spending less of their money on their own backs. Hopefully, Australia is one of them.
Jeremy Loadman travelled to Florence as a guest of Pitti Uomo and the Italian Trade Commission.