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American Designers on Pitti Uomo and the Interest in Made in USA

The next edition of Pitti Uomo will have an Americana flavor. The menswear show, in conjunction with U.S.-based Liberty Fairs, will showcase a juried selection of 22 U.S. brands in a dedicated ‘Born in the USA by Liberty Fairs’ space held in a previously unused section of Florence’s Fortezza da Basso.

The bi-annual event isn’t unfamiliar territory for American brands. However, Pitti Immagine CEO Raffaello Napoleone said U.S. labels have an opportunity to make a stronger statement with a united front.

As designer Billy Reid noted, American-made apparel is not a one-trick pony.

Reid said, “We are an American collection and I work out of Alabama and New York. I’ve believed in American manufacturing for nearly two decades of work, so it’s not a flavor of the month attempt. We really just be ourselves, tell our story and hope that folks want it.”

According to Napoleone, the storytelling aspect of American brands is part of the draw. He said, “Of course everyone is aware of price, but the added value of buying a real U.S.A.-made product, or a real Italian-made product is something consumers are looking into.” He added, “They want the good design and the quality materials. They also want the story behind the product and that is why products——be it from France or the U.S.——are popular. Those products possess the soul of the country.”

While costs remain an undeniable factor in people’s purchases and production plans, Napoleone sees a customer base returning to quality-made products.

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“Worldwide, more and more people are looking into where the products they purchase are from. A few years ago people would produce anywhere—they were just checking the cost. Wherever the lowest cost went, was the place to go. Not so much anymore, especially with costs going up in China, and that’s translating to consumers, too,” he explained.

In particular, Reid believes quality American-made denim resonates with a global audience. “[Denim], is above all, the iconic American piece of clothing. The history of American manufacturing diminishing and now beginning to rise again helps create an appeal that American made denim is the real deal,” he explained.

The January show is expecting to attract 22,000 buyers with 8,000 being from international markets. For Willy Chavarria, designer of the Dickies 1922 x Palmer Trading collaboration, exhibiting at Pitti Uomo is a chance to show the world that the U.S. has the creative chops to compete of a global stage.

Chavarria said, “I don’t like anything to feel old fashioned. Just because something is designed and manufactured in America doesn’t mean it has look like Little House On The Prairie. America is innovative and flourishing with creativity. I love to take the perception of a classic item and make it feel fresh and edgy. That’s what feels sexy.”

The Dickies 1922 x Palmer Trading line, which is made in the first Dickies workwear factory in Fort Worth, Texas, culls inspiration from the most classic Dickies styles, including the chore coat, lowrider chinos and vests. Retailers, like Merci in Paris, have picked up the line, and Chavarria said the group has an “expanding vision” for the label in the U.S.A. and Japan.

For Reid, who will be showcasing the MSL by Billy Reid label at Pitti, Asia has been the market that has shown the most interest for Made in U.S.A. product. Reid added, “There is a true appreciation and a curious customer who appreciates the authentic. We hope to meet some great people [at Pitti] who believe in the collection and can build with long term.”

In addition to Billy Reid and Dickies 1922 x Palmer Trading, the U.S. contingent of brands to present at Pitti Uomo include 3×1, American Trench, BKC/The Brooklyn Circus, Dehen 1920, Filson, Frank Clegg, Freenote, Imogene + Willie, Knickerbocker Manufacturing Company , Norman Russell, Oak Street Bootmakers, Quoddy, Red Wing, Save Khaki, Schott/Perfecto by Schott, Shinola, The Hillside and Upstate Stock.

Liberty Fairs founder and CEO Sam Ben-Avraham said, “In our eyes, Pitti has always been the ultimate worldwide menswear platform. We have an immense amount of respect for the organization and believe it is unmatched in the industry today. The partnership is an unbelievable opportunity to service American brands by giving them the chance to be a part of the Pitti experience under the Liberty umbrella.

Ben-Avraham noted that while Liberty is not focused on only Made in U.S.A., it makes sense for the American trade show to highlight U.S. product in Florence. He added, “We feel local manufacturing is beyond just a statement; it’s a state of mind. We hear the same kind of initiatives happening in local markets around the world. We want to be a part of the local manufacturing movement and we’re proud to present our local brands at Pitti.”