Pitti Uomo Buyers Cheer High-End Men’s Looks

FLORENCE, Italy — Upscale men’s retailers at last week’s Pitti Uomo show here were upbeat about the footwear category, and vendors said they were confident about the year ahead.

“There is definitely a different climate,” said Fratelli Rossetti President Diego Rossetti. The executive said he expects a 20 percent sales rise in 2011, helped, in part, by the brand’s recent collaboration with George Esquivel, the Los Angeles-based designer who was tapped to spice up the image.

The fruit of that line, a bi-colored leather laceup, was on display, as well as the Brera, a modern bi-colored twist on the iconic Fratelli Rossetti tasseled moccasin.

Retailers were feeling bullish about the return of the high-end consumer.

“We’re optimistic about shoes. Confidence is back and bonuses are on the horizon,” said Eric Jennings, VP and men’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Buyers for the new high-end men’s shopping site Cladmen.com were looking for product for their August site launch. They were pleased to see classic wingtips, lug soles and contrasting leather on the fairgrounds.

Will Swillie, the site’s president, was upbeat about the company’s debut. “There’s a lot of business to be had online. Men shop online when they need something. It gets shipped for free and they avoid malls,” he said.

On the trend front, Santoni and Pantofola d’Oro both offered a dressy spin on the traditionally rugged hiking boot. Santoni’s laced boots combine flannel and leather or soft suede with embossed leather, while Pantofola d’Oro offered similar comfort, with worked calfskin and shearling.

“People don’t just want to wear brand names. They want value and quality,” said Giuseppe Santoni, son of the brand’s founder and now head of the company, which created an artisan workshop inside its stand.

In the pop-up section of the main pavilion, new lines such as Fin’s Drummond Evening Slipper were among the most popular.

Company representatives from Fin said they are trying to appeal to the consumer by keeping price points affordable, at around 200 pounds, or $313 at current exchange.

Pantofola d’Oro, which fêted its 125th anniversary at the fair, also said it is working to keep prices down, despite the enduring rise of raw materials such as wool and leather.

Overall, Pitti Uomo had more than 1,000 high-end brands showing within the 16th-century walls of Fortezza da Basso in Florence.

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