Pitti Uomo is finally back in full force, and international buyers are expected to crowd the Fortezza da Basso fairgrounds over the next four days to discover the trade show’s usual mix of established names and up-and-coming designers.
From sustainability and gender-bending aesthetics to the celebration of their native country’s craft, emerging designers are spinning menswear trends. Here, WWD rounds up some of the international brands worth checking out this week.
Moses Turahirwa developed his passion for fashion during primary school watching women in his inner circle embroidering, knitting and sewing. A Rwandan native, the creative director of Moshions had few opportunities for a fashion education in the country and studied engineering, all the while taking sewing courses in his hometown.
“My whole environment, from my mum to my aunts, they were all knitters and embroiderers, which are some of the elements that I keep reflecting in my creations,” Turahirwa said.
He established the brand in 2015, gaining recognition among close friends, who encouraged him to take a chance on a fashion career. During the pandemic he enrolled in a Polimoda master’s course in collection design, which he said provided him with the skills, knowhow and confidence he was perhaps previously lacking.
Much of Moshions’ visibility so far has been on a regional scale, with Rwandan celebrities and notables, namely the country’s President Paul Kagame, donning tailored looks from the designer. That is, until fellow countryman Ncuti Gatwa, best known for his role as Eric in hit Netflix series “Sex Education,” offered a good chunk of international exposure by sporting a look at the 2020 BAFTAs, paying homage to his native country.
For Turahirwa, celebrating his roots via fashion is part of the brand’s ethos.
“Moshions is about slowness of fashion. I started designing and harnessing the idea of pure creativity.…My expression as a designer is telegraphing my feelings toward what I create. I want to communicate the slowness of fashion and bring it back to the people,” he said.
To wit, he often embeds the work of local artisans and traditional techniques such as draping, crochet and embroideries in his creations. After his Polimoda experience, new ties with Italian ateliers offered him the opportunity to leverage Made in Italy prowess in sartorial wear (Neapolitan tailors in particular caught his attention) and leather goods.
“Time has come for fashion to celebrate its makers…every single step from design to the final product is really for the people who work with me,” he said.
The spring 2023 collection embeds all of Moshions’ credentials – from its sustainable bent in the use of organic cottons, silk twill and wool and hemp blends and eco-friendly pigments, namely cochineal-derived magenta and indigo blue, to the nongendered aesthetics and Turahirwa’s penchant for tailoring and celebration of his roots.
Sartorial styles are revisited in an ode to Rwanda’s traditional Umushana drapes, in that they boast fitted waists and pristine collars and cuffs contrasted by the fluidity of pants and drapes sprouting from blazers. The designer describes it as a very gender-neutral proposition.
“I picked the silhouette of drapes and fused it with Italian or Western sartorial wear to achieve fashion that speaks of fluidity because in the ’50s in Rwanda, all men and women wore the same drape on the body, and I’m trying to create a contemporary version,” he explained.
Although the brand’s footprint is currently limited to Rwanda and Eastern and Western Africa, he sees Pitti Uomo as a strong opportunity to develop international visibility. The designer is so drawn and personally attached to Florence that he didn’t rule out setting up operations in the city, further leveraging Italian manufacturing and sourcing prowess. — Martino Carrera
For Indian designers Ranjit Yadav and Saurabh Maurya, this year’s fair marks a couple of firsts: it’s the first time they will showcase their brand Margn at Pitti Uomo, and it’s also the first time that they’ve traveled to an international destination.
“We are keen to experience the world around us and to gain as much exposure and knowledge from it. This would help diversify our vision, not just for our brand, but for ourselves too,” said Yadav.
Growing up in rural India, “where fashion is merely a word,” the designers witnessed disparate hand-made crafts, ranging from the making of Sikki grass baskets and pottery on manual wheels to quilting using old fabrics. “The lack of resources compelled us to maximize usage of what was available, and to reuse almost everything, from plastic bags and containers to clothes. The simplicity of our people and their living conditions left a deep-rooted impression and later translated into our design thinking,” noted Maurya.
Both graduated in 2019 from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Bengaluru, India, and the designers’ stylistic penchant veered toward knitwear ever since a university project got them to work with an all-women’s team for hand-knits — forging a tie that is still visible today.
Margn was launched as a menswear label last year and debuted a capsule collection on the London Fashion Week digital platform before touching down in Florence. With wholesale price points between 65 euros and 200 euros, the brand is available at the NoBorders concept store in Mumbai and CrepDog Crew in New Delhi, as well as at the Centreville store in Rouen, France. It is also one of the brands showcased by the American platform Doors, which is dedicated to emerging designers. The company also has its own e-commerce.
The brand’s aesthetic “speaks directly about our ‘humble and disciplined’ childhood,” said Maurya. “Each piece carries a reference to the functional garments worn by farmers and the uniforms which we ourselves wore at school. Through this we invite our community to consider the various ways in which a wearer makes a uniform unique, to question the concepts of masculinity and identity, and dissect predefined social norms.”
In addition to these themes, a sense of humanity permeates the brand’s whole philosophy. It is expressed not only through the hand work and the involvement of small communities, but also through stylistically translated argyle patterns and a recurrent oblong symbol that evoke interconnectedness on knitwear and tailoring with a twist.
In the collection to be presented at Pitti Uomo, these graphic motifs are added to traditional hand-crafted techniques like Sujani in functional outerwear and bolder silhouettes, including backless overshirts and skirts with loops that bring a nuance of rebellion to the lineup. Upcycled parachutes and deadstock fabrics and yarns are also employed in the collection, even though they represented a challenge for the designers.
“The primary hindrance we have faced ever since our inception is the sourcing of conscious fabric, may it be organic or upcycled, like deadstock and parachute. As a young brand still in the midst of establishing its foothold, our production requirements are much smaller than the minimum quantity suppliers are willing to sell,” noted Yadav. “But this has never compelled us to compromise on what we believe in. While we continue to find ways to work through such challenges, an opportunity like showcasing at Pitti Uomo couldn’t have come to us at a better time.”
The designers said they “look forward to presenting our work to the people who we have personally looked up to” in Florence and connecting with buyers and visitors to share “our perspective of the world and how we can create a future together.” — Sandra Salibian
According to Mworks cofounder and creative director Martin Liesnard, there are more opportunities in the sustainable fashion space than one might think.
“Even if many would say that it’s still difficult to do a full-fledged sustainable fashion brand, I would counterpoint that in fact in Europe when you survey what’s in the market, you can find a lot of solutions. It’s just a matter of knowing the companies that are working sustainably and putting them together to create new products,” he said.
That assumption pretty much sums up Mworks’ ethos. The brand was launched in 2019 by Liesnard, a former marketing and communication specialist with stints at Christian Louboutin and Ami Paris, along with Mansour Martin, who recently left the company.
Liesnard said the original intent was to develop creative fashion done sustainably at a time when the sustainability scene was blooming. It took one-and-a-half years of research for Mworks to find the right partners and solutions across Europe, but the company has lined up 30 firms, including the Spanish company Seaqual, which turns sea waste into recycled polyester, and Paris-based atelier Whole, which specializes in bio- and plant-based dyeing techniques.
“Month after month, as we grew more confident with the way we were working with these partners, we’ve also improved the context,” Liesnard said. He said in addition to Italian textile makers that are highly specialized in sustainable fabrics, the company is working with a lot of eco-minded start-ups that are active in the 3D and digital space in Northern Europe, especially in The Netherlands.
Now in charge of creative direction, Liesnard said he will unveil Mworks’ most colorful collection to date at Pitti Uomo for spring 2023, largely following his instinct. The workwear-inflected lineup is rich in eco-friendly solutions, from the organic cotton gabardine sourced in the U.K. for outerwear, to the upcycled textiles coming from Belgium and France. “Every new garment in the collection has some sustainable component,” Liesnard said.
As part of the lineup, Mworks will introduce a new collaboration, with fashion-favorite florist Pierre Banchereau of Debeaulieu, who created a floral arrangement exclusively for the collaboration. It was turned into images and printed on organic poplin shorts and shirts by a Dutch company using water-saving fabric printing, with no use of harmful chemicals. “The colors of this prints are very strong and electric,” Liesnard said.
The tie-up is part of a broader Mworks initiative, whereby artists, photographers and dancers are invited to borrow clothing from the brand and turn them into whatever art form they can think of. Liesnard dreams of being able to open a store/art gallery to showcase fashion and art, including Debeaulieu’s flower artwork.
The brand is carried at a handful of retailers, including Printemps’ e-commerce site, luxury department store La Samaritaine in Paris, as well as Germany’s The Waste Hour. Liesnard has high hopes for his Pitti Uomo display, hoping to get more retailers on board and expand the visibility and attractiveness of the brand. — M.C.