Eric Musgrave

Since 1980, menswear & fashion retail commentator, opinionated thought-leader,
event host & all-round top bloke. Contact me to discuss working together.

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Croots England. Made in Yorkshire. Seen at Pitti Uomo 91

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Foreign trade fairs, curiously enough, are a great place to catch up with old British friends and to discover new UK-based manufacturers. So it proved at Pitti Immagine Uomo this month when I made contact for the first time with Allistair Croot, director of Croots England.

The brand was created six years ago. It is based at a small factory in North Yorkshire that was set up in 1978 by the family of Allistair’s wife, Jackie. The old business concentrated on making bags and similar accessories for the hunting-shooting-fishing sector and while Croots England still is a market leader in the premium level of that category, in its new guise it has added a city line, aimed at stylish metropolitan consumers.

The collection comprises about 50-60 products ranging from a credit card holder at £60 to a full-leather overnight bag at about £750. Laptop and document cases at around £500-£600 are among the top sellers. Canvas bags are around £350-£400. Belts are about £80.

All the products are made in the production unit in Malton, North Yorkshire, which has 15 employees, many of them women. The raw materials are either Italian vegetable-tanned leathers or bridle leather that is waxed and finished in the UK.

Showing at Pitti Uomo for several seasons has given Croots a useful network of international stockists, but most of its business on the city line in the UK is done on its efficient ecommerce site. Croots England is well worth a look if you like premium UK-made goods.

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Christopher Raeburn for Save The Duck at Pitti Uomo 91

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Having finished his stint as creative director of Swiss-based Victorinox, British designer Christopher Raeburn has put in a shift with an Italian brand called Save The Duck. Based in Milan, the company avoids the use of feathers, fur, leather and hides, choosing instead synthetic materials and fillings. The autumn-winter 17 collection was presented at Pitti Uomo in an intriguing tableau featuring six models stationary on plinths. Changing images from nature were projected on to them, producing a simple but hypnotic effect.


Selections from the collection were available for examination – I liked this camo jacket and detachable inner lining.

And Christopher Raeburn was on hand, being his usual charming self.

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Z Zegna at Pitti Uomo 91

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

I am often perplexed about how fashion brands present their new collections to the press. Often we have to deal with just a few items, shown in unhelpful moody lighting, and too regularly placed where one cannot feel the fabric or examine the garments. No such complaints could be levelled at Z Zegna at Pitti Uomo.

The sporty casual line from the Ermenegildo Zegna stable was presented in its own large self-contained stand. We were able to walk among the many mannequins and get our hands on the clothes, which were designed by Alessandro Sartori, the group’s creative director.

There was a retro-ski vibe about the collection and this was echoed in some of the supporting visuals. 

As usual with Z Zegna (it’s pronounced Zee Zen-ya and appears not to have its own website), this was a luxurious and technical collection. Not a lot of it appealed to me personally, but I was very impressed by the entire presentation. Other fashion brands, please note.

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Johnstons of Elgin at Pitti Uomo 91

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Regular readers of this blog will know I am a long-time admirer of Johnstons of Elgin. At the Pitti Uomo show in Florence this month a new direction for the Scottish firm was revealed by design chief Alan Scott, who is in creative charge of the woven, knitted and ready-to-wear ranges. These autumn-winter 17 styles are an impressive way of helping celebrate the 220th anniversary of the business this year.

These tweeds are typical of Johnston’s look, and are very soft and luxurious, with an appropriately soft construction to the garments.

The cashmere knitwear is of typical high-quality, reflecting the investment the firm has made in new machinery in its plant in Hawick. I love the punchy orange shade of the cardigan.

The heavy-gauge chunky knitted scarves in cashmere and merino were eye-catching and will give consumers a way to buy into what will be a premium-priced range.

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PS by Paul Smith at Pitti Uomo 91

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Sir Paul Smith was, as usual, in much demand from his fans and admirers at the lively launch of his PS by Paul Smith sub-brand at Pitti Immagine Uomo 91 on 11 January. 

Bathed in peculiar but warming pink light, I took the chance to catch up with my lovely friend Maria Huntsig, features editor of Sportswear International, who has the dubious pleasure of editing my features for that fine publication. (See pages 64-67 and 78-79 in the digital version of SI 277 for my latest contributions)

Sir Paul promised that the presentation would be “very high energy” and he was as good as his word. Some very talented dancers and gymnasts showed off the “functional fabrics and intelligent design features” of the PS range in a series of sometimes incredible displays, none of which will I be trying at home.

On a historical note, Paul Smith was the first guest designer to be invited to make a presentation at Pitti Uomo, back in 1993. Such presentations are a regular part of the Pitti schedule these days.

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Pitti Uomo hits 91 not out

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

By a long way, my favourite menswear show is Pitti Immagine Uomo, which is held in Florence in January and June each year. The most recent four-day gathering was, incredibly enough, the 91st edition of this trade event that kicks off the buying season.

Pitti Uomo (to use its short form) is a unique forum for menswear folk from all over the world to come together to see some of the best premium brands.

The event, which involved 1,220 brands (540 of them non-Italian) this January, pulls in 24,00-plus buyers from more than 100 countries. It is a brilliant show. Even the odd dog turns up (although silly little “handbag” pooches are more usual than this fine-looking sheepdog outside the Woolrich stand).

For regular visitors like me, as well as seeing new collections, Pitti is a chance to catch up with friends like the ever-dapper Derek Rose, the king of pyjamas, who I spotted making a guest appearance on the stand even though the business is run by his son Sacha these days.

I was having a bit of a Drake’s day (the company always has a mobbed stand at Pitti) with a Drake’s shirt, tie and slipover on show, together with my old and cherished Polo Ralph Lauren cashmere overcoat, which was made in Italy a while back by Corneliani.

As well as older veterans like Derek, it is great to see younger veterans developing UK-based businesses, such James Eden, who champions British manufacturing with his Private White VC collection, made mainly in Manchester.

I am already looking forward to the next Pitti Uomo on 13-16 June.

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