Firenze – or Florence, with a kind of magic, as the gentle breezes borne by the lapping river Arno, is the capital of Tuscany. The patronage of luminaries, from Da Vinci, Michelangelo to Botticelli, unleashed the Western Renaissance to the world from this marvelous “Citta” city. Why does this city still so significant? It is considered the birthplace of the Italian renaissance, which influenced everything from science, philosophy, and sculpture to exploration. History is in the very corner. The cathedral and innumerable churches, ancient monuments recall the pervasive influence of bygone days. Today Florence has artfully blended the past and present into perfect harmony.
“The Renaissance,” was a cultural revitalization that lasted from the 14th to the 17th centuries, first noticed in Italy, then spreading throughout the Western peninsula, even reaching East Asia. The French word renaissance is equivalent is “Rinascimento,” in Italian, both mean “rebirth.” During this era, an interest in art and educational studies had been lost during the so-called Dark Ages of feudal wars, and Church repression was renewed with enthusiasm. The term “rebirth” was used by authors of the era, like the 16th-century painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari. The rebirth was nurtured as the wealthy Florentine elites financially supported the impressive thinkers, artists, philosophers, scientists, historians to modernize the cultural excellence of Florence.
The most fascinating aspect of the Italian Renaissance is the length of how far it spread, not only geographically and across all disciplines, art, science, commerce, and much more. As the voyagers not only restored long-disrupted connections to the rest of the continent, they also discovered for themselves distant continents and peoples.
The contributions to the world were made by those talents of the Italian peninsula. Especially, city-states like Florence have had a great impact on several fields, from cultural to culinary. However, it is best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Florence as a city has an extremely important role in both Italian and global history. There is also a tremendous role of the Medici family, a banking and later the ducal ruling house influenced and contributed greatly to the development of the arts in Florence.
It is through arts that the Florentine merchants paved the path to capture something special – “The Pitti Immagine Uomo” fair. A Florentine businessman named Giovanni Battista Giorgini held a fashion show in Florence in 1951 with determination to aid post-WWII economic recovery and to establish Italy in the modern world of design.
Originally called the “First Italian High Fashion Show”, Giorgini set up the show at his house in Florence called Villa Torrigiani. Designers were invited from around the world to view the latest Italian fashions. The name eventually changed to Pitti Uomo, and the venue of the event changed twice. The first time in 1972 to Florence’s Grand Hotel and finally in 1982 to the Fortezza da Basso (Fortress of Saint John the Baptist), where it continues to be held to this day. Florence has become a trademark of the international menswear industry, bringing buyers, exhibitors, journalists, and spectators, biannually, in January and June.
The Tuscan capital becomes a showcase to the world during this time, showing the latest menswear, contributing to the economical welfare of the Medici capital on the Arno.
My contribution continues for more than two decades to achieve fame and new business cycles in the apparel industry. It was to perceive the global opportunity and promotion of Italian craftsmanship in my business of shirt making. I still remember, as a young entrepreneur watching all the gray-haired “godfathers “ of the industry, stopping and shaking hands and greeting young ladies with pride and dignity. They were the real “patrons“ of the Italian clothing industry, who harvested worldwide reputation. Their contributions to men’s wardrobes have been priceless. They would turn a boy into a charismatic gentleman. They were proud to represent the true Italian heritage. These families had a bond and a mission. It is the Sprezzatura.
Florence presented unpretentious access to everyone who wanted to drink and dance during these glorious days in summer and winter. It is a never-ending movie. The narrowest streets presented the finest dining experiences, a Tuscany culinary experience, the famous “Bistecca alle Florentine“ Florentine steak, or the Bolitho, a white bean soup. The men dressed immaculately to fit the evening and later settle to enjoy a digestive in one of those cozy local pubs. Furthermore, there were cocktail parties given by various entrepreneurs to honor the significance of Made in Italy.
The gentleman will be dressed in crispy white linen, white straw hats in summer, and in winter with heavy fur coats and boots. They will be walking from the Santa Maria Novella railway station, showcasing their prestigious wardrobes to spectators and photographers, photographing the best of the best. I was clueless, about how to get the attention of this jury, until an old veteran, said, there were old tricks. I had to learn the hard way to reach fame, which I have reached today.
The doors are wide open to old and new friends at “Fortezza Da Basso“ to celebrate the new season’s collections, from classic to sport, contemporary to streetwear. Exhibitors and buyers will be signing contracts and initialing the order books with a toast for success until the next exhibition. It will be also challenging to convince new buyers and clients, who expect Pitti to be the ultimate temple of fashion. It is not. It is a trade show. There is serious business to be done, but many visitors come just to enjoy the glamour and the atmosphere of this event. I still remember having a pen and paper to take notes and write important impressions.
Those days are gone. Now, there is a new generation of gentlemen who would gladly call themselves “influencer” or “brand ambassador” parading with their electronic devices. I often ask myself, who are they influencing? Indeed they have managed to impress and influence the new generation of men, from Mumbai to Rio, to Hongkong to New York. My international travels testify to the power of this phenomenon. Young men will stop me and ask me if I was “dandy” because they have seen images in all kinds of media. I could not have imagined this type of exposure two or more decades ago. Ultimately, in the course of our conversation, they would recognize the pictures sent throughout the world from Pitti Uomo and the capital of Tuscany. So there is no doubt just for recognizing these men as influencers!
In a nutshell, what we know in the modern world today is partly because of Florence, the birthplace of the renaissance. The city on the Arno has an extremely important role. Both in Italian and global history when it comes to displaying the finest. There, one still finds the resplendent Duomo and, of course, the magical “Pitti Uomo”.