It’s Fall 2019, which means fashion folks are ready to start thinking about Fall 2020. Today, Pitti Uomo announced that Telfar, the New York-based brand run by Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens, will show a special project at the Florence tradeshow during its January fair, which serves as a part of menswear’s Fall 2020 collections.
The show is presumably part of what the designer, in a September interview with WWD, called “Telfar Global,” adding that he and his team are “taking the collection on a tour.” Telfar moved his show from New York to Paris in September, putting on a multidisciplinary presentation written with playwright Jeremy O. Harris. The designer has developed a reputation for its designs and spectacular shows, the community of queer people of color it has included in both, and also for its faux leather tote bags that are priced from $140-$240. Those bags have helped move the brand’s yearly sales from $100,000 to $1.6 million over the past two years, the Wall Street Journal reported this year. But the two ideas are yoked together: “When it comes to inclusivity, Telfar isn’t a brand paying lip service,” Dazed wrote of the bag’s popularity. “The clothes are created from and speak directly to ideas of identity, primarily being young, a POC, and queer in America,” with the bag serving as a symbol of that message. Details on what the Pitti project will entail were not yet available, but, as the designer told WWD, “Nothing belongs to one person; every city is getting a piece of the tour.”
The Telfar announcement comes on the heels of the news that the brand Jil Sander will also be at Pitti, serving as the show’s guest designer. Luke and Lucie Meiers—a Supreme alum and Dior veteran, respectively—have brought a mystic luxury spirit to the cool essentialist sportswear brand. Jil Sander is based in Milan, but Luke, who also designs OAMC, cut his teeth at an American brand. (Luke was born in Canada, and Lucie was born in Switzerland.)
While American brands are often seen as less innovative or intriguing than their fancy European counterparts, the country’s design talent is demanding more global attention and currency. Supreme, of course, is now a globally respected powerhouse of fashion capable of producing top-line designers, and Telfar’s blend of clothing and social politics is the sort of thing young American designers have perfected and European designers struggle with. There is no equivalent in Europe’s fashion capitals to what Telfar, Pyer Moss, Hood By Air, or Supreme have done. All clothing carries a kind of politics, but not even Balenciaga, which staged its last show in a recreation of the United Nations assembly room, has an agenda.
(The other big news for the season is also Italy-based: Gucci is breaking off its menswear into it’s own show on the Milan schedule, which comes immediately after Pitti Uomo. Since 2017, Gucci has shown the men’s and women’s collections together; as designer Alessandro Michele put it in a press release at the time, “It seems only natural to me to present my men’s and women’s collections together. It's the way I see the world today.” But Michele’s Gucci revolution started with menswear, and a number of designers are finding that menswear’s big boom warrants separate shows rather than coed efforts. Whether Gucci’s Milan show will kick start another revolution in gendered dressing is a question for January.)
While it’s only a small part of the trade show, Pitti Uomo’s guest designer program is increasingly becoming a significant part of the men’s fashion schedule. The fair has always had high-profile guest designers, like Raf Simons and Hood By Air, but it now has a reputation for showing major boundary-pushing menswear projects. In June, Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller staged her first standalone menswear collection there, and Sterling Ruby debuted his much-anticipated clothing line. As Lapo Cianchi, Pitti’s director of communication, special events and international relations, told me in an interview this past summer, Pitti wants to “alternate special events with big brands and big groups like Givenchy and events with a small company like Craig Green,” who showed in 2018, with the overall goal being to highlight new projects that “open a new language in men's fashion.”
This story has been updated to correct Luke and Lucie Meiers’ places of birth.
Originally Appeared on GQ