What a Pitti! The 64th Pitti Immagine Bimbo Exhibition in Florence, Italy

In January, I traveled to Florence, Italy, for the 64th edition of Pitti Immagine Bimbo (19-21 January 2007). I suppose "trade show" is the correct definition for this exhibition, but Pitti is to trade shows what a high school musical is to Cirque de Soleil.

Pitti is a much anticipated, fully conceived event. Its scale and professionalism is a reflection of the importance and maturity of the children's market in Europe. 374 manufacturers worldwide, including the U.S. (see "Americans at Pitti" in the manufacturers' story), throughout Europe, Asia and, of course, Italy exhibited with a total of 510 brands represented.

On site art displays were erected around the grounds; the photography exhibitions and booth designs were as much theater as they were clothing presentations. Adding to the sense of drama were the crowds of retailers, manufacturers, press and child models roaming the grounds. Many of their outfits were as flamboyant as anything seen in the booths.

The show is spread out over Fortezza da Basso - a complex of old buildings and new. The eight fashion shows, which rivaled anything under the tents during Fashion Week in New York, were held in older rotundas (see "Hitting the Runway" parts I-IV).


Walking up to Fortezza da Basso.

Entering the grounds.

Pitti from above.

The walk.



Clothing was presented in five different areas or, as in the case of well-established, ultra-luxury-end collections, in individual buildings.


The Layout:

-Pitti Bimbo - Big brands with recognizable names in a mix of styles from traditional to contemporary. Collections such as Patrizia Pepe and Ferrari held exhibits in the private buildings.

-Sport Generation - Activewear companies as well as number of offbeat, smaller sportswear manufacturers showed under this heading. Companies such as American Outfitters, Chevignon Kids and Essentiel Girls debuted their lines on two floors of a modern building, not unlike the Piers in New York City.

-New View - Independent brands with smaller labels. Usually sportswear. Anne Willi, Collette Dinnigan and American companies such as Tea Collection and Egg & Avocado were among the designers in this section.

-Kids' Design - Similar collections and space as New View.

-SuperStreet - A mix of established collections such as Calvin Klein and Guess Kids and more esoteric sportswear lines like Save the Queen Circus. The area's title refers to the influence of street fashions on the collections' designers.




To create a sense of drama, larger established manufacturers displayed their collections in little buildings - or whole floors of buildings - on the Pitti property. The presentations were as carefully crafted to show off the clothing, as well as the mostly invite-only attendees who could have been guests at any A-list Hollywood party. I've included pictures whenever possible. Many manufacturers were camera shy and turned pale at the sight of my digital camera.

To reach the I Pinco Pallino exhibition, one walked beneath a brick archway to a stone building hidden behind the main exhibition grounds. Once inside, the setting was more art event than clothing display. Carefully outfitted forms were set up throughout the huge room like a convention of headless - albeit stunningly dressed - children. With the dramatic lighting, the press and retailers milling about, eyeing this magnificent collection was an event.

Mystery at I Pinco Pallino.

The Harry Potter collection at I Pinco Pallino.


Ferrari, the legendary car company, debuted its first children's collection produced by the Italian manufacturer Jam Session. The Junior collection was viewed in a "stand" designed by architect Massimo Iosa Ghini that possessed all the fluid lines one associates with this brand. The theme was racing, and car logos and other automotive motifs hung about the room. Champagne, wine and freshly squeezed juices were served.

Ferrari puts kids' clothing in gear.


It's a good thing I started hitting the treadmill before I came to Pitti or I'd be gasping for breath like the other attendees who braved the "alla Scherma piano superiore," the incredibly long, steep, stone steps that led to the upper floor of a building that housed the Patrizia Pepe collection. Inside the all white space, Pepe's gorgeous collection hung on a few simple white racks spread out among the huge room. Retailers sipped juice and ogled the luscious lilac and olive garments and the most beautiful coats at the show.

The people at Robert Cavelli took the motto "delivering the goods" literally. In the rotunda that housed the collection, they created enormous white storks that hovered near the ceiling. From the birds' talons hung swings draped with the company's white cashmere and leather infantwear. Along the perimeter of the room were food displays, so gorgeous they nearly upstaged the clothing. Huge topiaries made of strawberries sat beside trays of green apples nestled among white leaves. Waiters served drinks and hors de oeuvres. It was all very chic - and delicious.

Shake a Snow Globe and everything inside it becomes sparkly and magical. That was the feeling at Laura Biagiotti's on site installation, "Dolls."

Behind a white scrim was this glittering fantasy that included an enormous white sleigh filled with professional young models. The children, who posed and played, wore the company's white cashmere sportswear that glittered with clear crystals.

The theme for Oilily's fall/winter collection is "Dreams of a Midnight Garden." Outside the company's booth, was a woodland scene with appropriate gold deer, mushrooms and fairies. "These glowing gardens might appear mysteriously within the thick and shadowy world of a darkened forest," states Oilily's press materials.

Oilily's "Midnight Garden."



I can't write a story about a trip without talking about the food, and of course, I can't write about Italy without discussing meals there - it just wouldn't be Italian!

Manufacturers and retailers had their own self service "Ristorante" or fueled up at the many sandwich and espresso bars that were scattered throughout each of the exhibition halls. I certainly saw crowds downing the coffee (one cup of that espresso can give a jolt to the most jet-lagged attendee) and munching on panini, the pressed sandwiches.

Unlike trade shows in the U.S. where there's a small room with snacks for the press, or the media can dine with everyone else, at Pitti a large, glass enclosed space was erected for journalists. We were welcomed at the door and could sit at the tables of our choice unless it was marked "Riservato." Specially designated tables were held for the media elite (I'm assuming that the crowd of chatty diners gathered at one of the reserved tables represented Vogue Bambini). An editor at our table remarked, "Even at a trade show there's right and wrong tables."

In the center of the round tables were bottles of water and wine waiting to be poured. Food was served buffet style with trays of light, savory lasagna that bared no similarity to the Americanized version, dishes of fabulous cheeses, chewy bread, beautiful, simple salads, sliced salami and roasted meats. Each day there were a few excellent tarts - usually a simple "torta della nonna," with a mild egg custard filling, maybe a "tiramisu," or a slightly tart ricotta cheesecake. After tasting the luscious gelato served at every meal, one editor said, "this is the best in Italy." I sampled the cream and espresso flavors and I had to concur.



I arrived in New York after spending 14 hours on three different planes. My husband and daughter wanted all the details. All I had the energy to say was, "There was so much talent there."


Originally published February 25, 2007


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