What It's Like To Be An American In Europe During Fashion Week

Photo: Adam Katz Sinding/Pitti Immagine Uomo.
There's nothing more glaring than an American on the streets of Europe, especially during Fashion Week. Being American myself, I can say this. Last week, the streets of Florence were filled with men dressed to the nines — nay, the tens — who'd all gathered in the city for Pitti Uomo. And boy, did I miss the street style memo.
Left and right, the world's best-dressed men stunted from dusk till dawn in looks that rivaled anything I could ever think of (or afford) — and I loved every second of it. Upon walking into the Fortezza da Basso each day, members of the press were greeted by photographers who were both calm and polite. "Excuse me, I'm from WWD," a tall, slender paparazzo would ask, "I really love your outfit. May I take your picture?" No name spelling required. Moments like that may be par for the course for the average influencer, but for a fashion writer who's used to their entire head being cut out of street style snaps, it felt pretty cool.
Beyond the check-in counters, a press office awaited editors who were actually covering the shows. At the top of a winding staircase of cobblestone steps was a lounge area that, in opposition to the rest of Europe, actually had free, working wifi, and a full bar replete with staff ready for your every water and espresso need. I mainly used this area to eavesdrop on conversations, respond to emails from New York, and find the hard copy invite to my next show because — le sigh — they're still required for European fashion shows.
While waiting in line for an event, it was common for Italian waiters in bowties to pass through the crowds handing out glasses of wine; they thanked editors for their patience and told them to enjoy the show. Once inside, venues were historic and Instagrammable — all with enough leg room to stretch out a bit and get comfortable. The shows at Pitti Uomo were impeccably streamlined, in fact, and I think I know why: We didn't have to wait on celebrities seated in the front row to start the show. Because for the most part, there weren't any. Finally, a fashion week that was actually about the clothes.
Once a day of shows wrapped, all of the editors and models put word through the grapevine on where everyone was meeting after their respective cocktail and dinner receptions. The hotspot for Pitti Uomo is Caffè Gilli, a bar that requires a drink ticket per every Aperol spritz. Like the morning crowds at the fashion fair, the night scene was just as chic, and for myself, who'd only brought a carry-on of wardrobe staples along for the ride, intimidating. Picture it: It's the year 2018, you're in Italy, men are dressed well — and behaving themselves — and you're just waiting to wake up from the dream.
But no, this is the reality of Pitti Uomo. Where fashion week formats are concerned, Italians take the cake (er, tiramisu). A central hub for buyers, editors, and stylists to convene and survey the current offerings of designers and retailers from all over the world, intercepted every few hours by a fuss-free fashion show held in a gothic church, and even a press-only cafeteria, made for one of the smoothest, and most successful, fashion weeks ever. And the numbers don't lie.
Despite the fact that designers played it safe when it came to their presentations, choosing to take a break from using fashion to comment on global politics and keep the focus on the art of it all, Pitti Uomo rehashed the conversation that's plagued the New York system for seasons: Will New York ever get its groove back? The flurry of designers defecting to Europe to show their collections isn't fake news, after all. And maybe, in a similar fashion to how the men in the slideshow ahead taught me what it means to dress the part, Americans could learn a thing or two from the Europeans about how to make it all work.
Disclosure: Travel and expenses for the author were provided by Pitti Immagine Uomo for the purpose of writing this story.

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