Now whosoever of them did eat the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus,
had no more wish to bring tidings nor to come back,
but there he chose to abide with the lotus-eating men,
ever feeding on the lotus and forgetful of his homeward way.
Via Faenza, Florence. It is early. 8:30 AM. The sun is out. I am standing on a terrace. It is hot. There are no mimosas. I did not sleep much. I considered not coming, considered sleeping in, considered letting David handle this mess. I’m lying to myself. How could I not come? How could I not bathe in the regal glow of the Florentine fashion illuminati? How could I not come to experience the Wooster?
Today is the day. The day you - the general “you,” not necessarily you, or me, or anyone I know - have been waiting for. The day Wooster X Lardini is revealed. The clothes are displayed on mannequins. The crowd is subdued, almost reverent. They have been eating the flowers for a long time, now, and I think that for some of them this has become a reality. This production, this life of sunlit terraces and small pastries and gregarious air-kisses. I imagine that it is easy to get used to; easy to let yourself slip away into the current and never bother to come up for air. They will never leave the island. I wonder how many more we’ll lose today, now, during this one-and-a-half-hour period of masturbatory theater. I stare, unabashedly. I wonder if David is waiting for me downstairs. I asked him where we were supposed to be going this morning and he made some smart ass comment, but really he saved me from going somewhere completely different by accident. Now I’ve gone inside, up to the terrace, surrounded by the beautiful people and the clicking shutters and the Wooster, without waiting for him. That makes me feel sort of bad. I hope he makes his way up here, because this is a very silly scene. The silliest scene I’ve seen so far. There are a lot of pictures being taken. Of clothing. Of people. Mostly of Nick Wooster. I am not sure how developed the collective sense of humor is, here. It seems variable.
Faust, representing the Zeitgeist, is here. He takes pictures, too. I wonder what he has to do with Wooster. Seems like a betrayal of his oaths, no? Perhaps not. We're all oathbreakers here. I tell him it doesn't quite strike me as his usual scene. He agrees, but we both kind of like the same washed grey jacket. No reason we shouldn’t; it’s like #menswear (#nickwear? #woostwear?) Paul Harnden. Three jackets and a lot of pants, most of which are rolled up very high so that you can show off your leg tattoos if you have them. Later, someone in the audience asks what he thinks men with hairy, ugly legs are supposed to do. It’s a funny comment, but in retrospect says a lot about the industry. David and I accidentally photobomb a couple of pictures of people who look nicer than us, and we chicken out when we talk about doing it on purpose. Well, I say photobomb, but really we’re just in the background of some pictures, looking confused. David's glad we're in the second row. I guess I am too, but maybe we should have chosen the first row for increased bloggability - people might have thought we were important. They would have been right.
The collection is introduced by the Lardini family, and then Wooster takes the stage. He says he vowed never to wear pleated pants again, and that he vowed never to design a collection. We are defined by the promises we break, I think. Regardless of his choice in pants, he has very much designed a collection (or at least lent his name to one), and his face is carved upon it. With needles. And thread. He doesn't quite say that he was inspired by Paul Harnden, but that's sort of what it sounds like. The jackets are...pretty nice, I suppose. The button backings are felt, which I think is a deal-breaker.
Wooster says he thinks he's a retailer first. Six days of work went into the whole collection, which sounds like no time but that's what Schneider said Lang used to do, so whatever. I don’t know how any of this works.
He walks us through the clothes, through the process, through the style. ”No one SHOULD look like this,” he says, which I appreciate. I like him. I don’t think there’s one way that all men should dress. The sun is really hot. I feel sweatier. Great. The conference dissolves into applause. For the clothes, for the Lardinis, for the Wooster. For ourselves, really; congratulations to us, we are amazing. David tries the moves on a woman he thinks he recognizes but she tells him he's mistaken. I wish I had recorded the conversation.
I do work. My job, I guess. I take some photos with my camera held at an angle - action shots. His face really is embroidered on one of the jackets. I need to shave. We eat some more pastries and then we leave when it becomes apparent that we do not belong to any of the cliques that have formed on the sunlit Florentine terrace. And so, acting as poised as we possibly can, we descend back into the land of the living.
Walking through Pitti is - this is going to sound stupid - much more difficult than it was last time. Nothing is particularly exciting. Nothing is particularly interesting. There’s no reason I should feel so jaded, but somehow, the idea of seeing another season of unstructured, easy-to-wear knit and woven blazers doesn’t make me salivate the way it once might have. So instead David and I head to the central pavilion, and we talk to La Portegna. For like an hour. About nothing. Simon from Permanent Style shows up with his photographer. Introductions are made, shit is talked. I take photos so that I can tell myself I’m working. They’re terrible. All my photos are terrible. I don’t know how to un-fuck the miserable colors that the harsh, direct, and absurdly yellow Pitti lighting creates. But I dutifully twiddle the knobs on my camera, make frowny faces at the lights, and flip through my photos as though I’m actually fooling anyone. I don’t think I am. I’m not even fooling myself.
After making plans to watch Spain play Chile, we detach ourselves from José and Leticia (“That got real,” says David) and walk around the bottom floor, looking at suits, Begg scarves (Their cashmere - wow), and the ridiculously huge (and ridiculously packed) Cucinelli booth. Who knows what they’re doing in there.
David brings me to the cold buffet at Isaia, where I’m not supposed to be, but that sly dog can charm anyone. Sarrah, who works for Isaia and wears #menswear better than 99% of the #men here, remembers my name, even though I’m not sure we actually met in January. Regardless, it makes me feel really cool. Like, you know, maybe I’m cool enough to be here. Probably not, though. The lunch sucks. We drink prosecco and then leave, heading towards the Eidos booth, where Antonio (@NickPollica) and Quentin show us their stuff.
Okay, look. I’m not really into suits. My girlfriend tells me she likes it when I wear one (well, really, what she said was “You seem different in a suit,” and I’ve chosen to interpret that as a positive), but otherwise, I have no reason to own more than one. Someday, maybe, that will change, but I hope it doesn’t. The point is that Eidos makes suits that I, a guy who does not care about suits, kind of want to wear. They hang off the body really nicely. There’s a lot of movement in them - as Antonio and Quentin demonstrate, because they never seem to stop moving - but they’re slim, sleek, and they look very comfortable. There’s some stuff I don’t like, of course; sort of Italian see-the-islands-by-yacht resort wear, but there’s also what is probably the coolest jacket I see the entire time I’m at Pitti. A picture is below.
I’d wear that.
I have this idea that I should talk to Antonio, you know, interview him for Styleforum and ask him why he, also a young guy, is so heavily invested in this whole..thing. I’m going to spoil it for you, though: the interview never happens. That’s okay. David already talked to him, so maybe next time I will too.
Unsatisfied with the large amounts of olive oil we ingested at Isaia, we go to the press lunch, which is packed. People are learning. I just feel like everything is terrible and there’s no way to win, whether you’re in swinger shorts or a blazer with a sweater thrown over the shoulders. In 80-degree weather.
The Fortezza stinks of #menswear and cigarettes. There are a lot of double-breasted suits this season. Can I say that’s a trend? Can I be a trend predictor? Don’t bother to buy one, though - you’ll be too late and we’ll probably have moved on to triple-breasted by the time you get one. Ignoring the show outside, there’s a little bit of the circus in everything here. In the colors, in the hats, in the striped blazers - most of the tailored brands seem to want you to dress like a ringmaster.
David and I separate for a while, and meet up when it’s time to interview Wooster. David leads by thanking Nick for following him on Twitter. I’m not sure it was a strategically robust way to open. I tell him we write for Styleforum, and he says that he remembers Styleforum, specifically, as being the first place where people were really mean to him on the internet. We’re off to a great start.
It gets better, though. I like him. I think it’s cool that he sort of just does what he does. I think he sees the irony in everything, too. Or at least he’s aware of it; aware that it’s a real production and aware that he’s now become an intrinsic part of it. He has to be, right? I mean, his face is embroidered on the clothing. I think that, by the end, he doesn’t hate us.
That more or less sums up the interesting parts of the day, except for when David tells me that I have no ass, which is also something my girlfriend says to me. I wander around some more, talk and take pictures, and then leave for the hotel and, shortly after, dinner.
Someone has taken a shit in the street.
My feet and head hurt, and I immediately regret the fact that I didn’t take an Advil. I watch the Dutch score on the way to dinner. There is a relentless, steadily building pressure behind my eyes. I pass cafes packed full of people trying very hard to look nonchalant, trying very hard to socialize in a way that communicates both style and professionalism. There is a particular look they give each other; an arching of the brows, a slight bending of the neck, a calculated draping of the arm across an empty chair. I know that stare. I've stared that stare.
I left early so I wouldn't get lost, which was smart because I takes me all the extra time to find the restaurant. But then I'm there before everyone anyway. It's a lose-lose system. But I've never gotten the knack for being fashionably late - I'm either early, on time, or lost for fucking hours. There are a ton of foreigners here. I am one, I guess, and I don't even feel that superior. No reason I should, though. I did shake Wooster’s hand, so maybe that puts me at sort of Hercules-level demi-goddery.
Dinner is with David, Greg, @Dirnelli, and Paul. The latter two write for Parisian Gentleman, and they are dressed very nicely, but despite this they are quite friendly. They both know a lot about tailored clothing, which I know nothing about. Paul knows a lot about denim, too, which I also know nothing about. I’m not sure I am a particularly fine example of the Streetwear set.
Sadly, the conversation devolves into retail discussion at several points. I can't follow any of it. They're talking about these famous Italian people who I’ve never met, and how the PG guys hired a photographer to follow them around. Styleforum should do that next time.
I focus on spaghetti with prosciutto and cream. It’s very good. Not too salty, not too much sauce; just nice, even proportions. I love the feeling of really being able to bite into a noodle, you know? Really sink your teeth into it. I can’t get this at home. It makes the trip seem worth it. The food seems more real than the clothing does, like it has more heft, more substance; and it’s nice to fill up after feeling as though you’ve been completely sucked dry by the heat and the cameras. Maybe there’s something to the soul-stealing myth - not that I’m really in many (any?) photos or anything, but perhaps a little sliver of my being is stolen every time I’m incorporated into street-style bokeh. Maybe I can get Fok to send me back here, just to write about noodles.
David, Greg and I share a bistecca between the three of us, which, after the richness of the pasta, almost ends me. Sadly, my beer is gone, and I have to make do with water. I’m making healthy choices, today - cutting down on liquor so that I can stuff myself with ham, cream, and charred, bloody steak.
Greg, David, Paul and Mr. Dirnelli continue to talk about minutiae that would send the eyeballs of any normal human being rolling back into their head. I tell them they're dorks but they don't seem to mind. Pitti’s like that - in the Land of the Lotus Eaters, the Real becomes shimmery. We are, you could say, among friends, all of us - that our shared interest in Fashion, in Clothing, in Style, however you choose to define it, is enough of a common denominator that we’re all sort of unified into a tribe of brightly-colored…No, hold on, here’s a better metaphor - a flock of ludicrous birds with heavy, unwieldy plumage that will inevitably lead not to increased chances of locating a mate, but to extinction.
It’s nice while it lasts, though - life is good, even in the shadow of Vesuvius; even knowing that the Island isn’t real, that some day we’ll have to go back to Ithaca. For now, we talk about the legend of tcwalter07, and a CM poster who shall not be named. It is hilarious, and all of my existential concerns are allayed due to the sheer nerdiness of the conversation.
Unfortunately, I’m so tired I'm dizzy. Mr. Dirnelli was kind enough to give me an Advil before dinner (stand-up guy, truly; who is aware enough to offer painkillers to strangers?), which does help. I almost choke on it, though, because I can’t be bothered to wait for a drink to take with it. We talk about what Mr. Kamoshita was wearing. Liverano, it turns out. No one asks me about my jacket. It's probably not bespoke enough. It's not bespoke at all. I'm the only guy at the table not in a tie. That’s okay.
Greg in his NMWA Solaro
We’ve missed the first half of the game, which sucks, because by the time we get to the bar where Simon, Luke, Jose and Leticia are watching, Spain is already losing 2-0. The bar is, Jose informs us, full of “Fascist Chilean women.” He’s wearing his Furia Roja tee, and is more than a little distressed by the game and by the crowd of screaming South Americans.
“I can't be losing with these Chilean fascist women here!” he says. David helpfully tells us that the incoming queen of Spain once had an abortion. Jose seems very upset. Not about the queen. “South American women,” says Greg, and makes one of his inimitably French shrugging motions, “Very passionate and stuff.” David is focused on the Spaniards. One Spaniard, if you get my drift. I feel like I have Deja Vu, but perhaps Pitti, and everything in it, simply repeats itself every six months, unchanging, and the only alteration is our perception. I am informed that Greg bought my beer, which is very nice of him.
Leticia suggests dancing. “She’s gonna dance,” says David. “You can't take that away from her.” Then he begins telling her about verbs and clauses, and Italian grammar. She must be very patient. Luke gives Jose and me camera lessons. I don’t really pay attention. Greg, Mr. Dirnelli and Paul have ditched us (on the other side of the table) for a business and suiting discussion. They say "enfin" a lot. The bar is filling with fourteen year olds. Simon pulls out a pair of bespoke shoes, just sort of sets them down on the table, and we look at them. Everyone makes envious, appreciative noises. They look like shoes, to me.
It now appears there are multiple parties interested in Spain. In one Spaniard in particular. If you know what I mean. Watching the back an forth is fascinating. I wonder if people know that I just sit here taking notes and watching. Always watching. I wonder if people find it rude, or off-putting. I probably would, but my memory, due to many things, is not what it was last week. I have no choice. The conversation turns to Fidel Castro, communism, baseball and cigars, which is once again lost on me because I really have to pee. In the way that makes waiting in line for the toilet painful, when you start singing little songs to yourself in order not to imagine your bladder bursting out through your abdomen like a Ridley Scott monster full of urine. Jose brings limoncello, which is awfully nice of him. We are bullshitting with gusto now. Well, the others are. José has a conspiracy theory about racism. I think about recording it, but the idea of transcribing a recording is crushing. Of course, I immediately realize that I should have recorded it anyway, because the only part I can remember is Jose describing Spanish Imperialism as “We're horny, so we'll take South America.” I wonder if Styleforum would tolerate an article about lust, masculinity, and colonialism. “Enrique Iglesias is my hero,” José adds. “That guy, chapeau.”
The battle over the Spaniard continues. Tomaso, who is an unfairly handsome and stately Italian man who also works for the company that made Simon’s shoes, bows to people. He bows to everyone, in fact. He fucking bows, and he makes it work. Kind of lowers his head, while maintaining eye contact. We are insects. We are nothing before his greatness. I am surprised he is willing to associate with us.
The more I think about the evening, the weirder it seems in retrospect. Perhaps it’s too difficult to describe the fleeting but boisterous camaraderie that Pitti seems to inspire in the hordes. Perhaps it’s too difficult to describe just how and why the constant noise and sun and cigarettes and booths and booths and booths of clothing drain you of the will to move. And, perhaps - just perhaps - that’s why some never stop eating the lotus-flowers; perhaps it becomes too difficult to drag yourself away from the current, and an interest faked gradually becomes an all-consuming passion. Perhaps it becomes impossible to face yourself after too long away from home - and if there is no Penelope to return to, no kingdom to save, then perhaps there is no reason to try.