At Men’s Wear Fair, Slogan Wear and Goofball Places


FLORENCE, Italy — Sometimes it can seem as if Pitti Uomo is an art fair with a trade problem. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Each January and June, more than 30,000 visitors, two-thirds of them buyers, descend on an ancient fortress, ostensibly searching out the latest trends in men’s clothes and next season’s goods.

The fair itself is sprawling and organized according to themes that often seem lost in translation, with discrete sections titled Future Male, Hi Beauty and Touch! That it’s so easy to get lost in the maze of pavilions has certain unexpected advantages.

Make a wrong turn at Urban Panorama, and you might bumble into Unconventional and find yourself chatting with a first-time exhibitor like Ben Wayenberg, a hedge fund trader from Belgium who impulsively threw over finance for fashion.

Mr. Wayenberg prefers to be known as Ben Spleen and calls his fledgling label Spleen Unconventional. Together with his wife, Marine van Outryve — whose Instagram profile describes her as “a fashion model always running half naked” — Mr. Spleen produces what you could call novelty knitwear, most notably a sweater with the words “I hate models” woven into the front in capital letters.

“Of course, no one hates models,” Mr. Spleen said. “That’s the fun of it.”

Mr. Spleen and Ms. Van Outryve also brought to Pitti Uomo a collection of ball caps, scarves and shawls bearing references to drugs with assorted recreational uses and that invoked a utopian pharmaceutical destination called “Ketaminnesota.” You might ask for directions if you’ve never been.

At Pitti Uomo, Marine van Outryve and Ben Spleen at the booth for their label, Spleen Unconventional. Clara Vannucci for The New York Times

Goofball geographies of all kinds are evoked at Pitti Uomo. Take, for instance, Catteland, the fanciful point of origin for commercial goods the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan now turns out, having forsaken the production of art with a capital “A.” As part of his subversive “art for all” campaign, Mr. Cattelan partnered in recent years with the manufacturer Seletti to produce accessible art products bearing the label “Made in Catteland.”

Source: The New York Times