Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shopping Florence, Or Firenze If You’re Bourgeois

Right, right, so nothing has really happened on here in what most people on and off the Internet would consider "a long ass time". I've got no excuses other than I have been equal parts busy and lazy. How's that for some truth? I try to keep things honest over here at the very least. If you haven't already figured it out, my daily blogging has migrated over to Tumblr for the most part. The insights aren't long form by any stretch of the imagination, but if you're one of the three or so people not my mother crying over the death of LAS at least you can soak those tears up with some cashmere socks or whatever. So what can you find on my Tumblr? Crazy awesome fan mail from 81 year old guys in New Mexico who read about me in The New York Times who also have serious bones to pick! Crispy McBacons in Florence! Finding an original Polo RL Snow Beach pullover at this week's (capsule) NY! Oh man, I've got kinda maybe sorta interesting shit like that for days yo. On to the matter at hand. I was in Florence for Pitti Uomo 81 and it was off the chain. Here is a blog post about shopping:

Obviously we couldn’t get to everything, but we did make our rounds. Some spots were highly recommended, others legendary and some merely stumbled into thanks to some intrepid exploring. There are a ton of price points represented here so if you find yourself lucky enough to be strolling around Florence you may or may not want to consult this list.

Keep in mind the following prices were converted from Euro to USD and many were sales. The thing about shopping in Italy, and really Europe for that matter, is that if you are lucky to be traveling towards the end of the season everywhere you go has blowout sales ranging from 30% - 70% off. It’s WAY more prominent than here in America.

Frasi ($$$$) - Formerly known as Tie Your Tie, Frasi is the legendary Florentine shop owned by the equally legendary Simone Righi. As the four dollar signs indicate, this shop is for the wealthy - when we first walked in two extremely stylish Japanese men were in the middle of possibly the most expensive personal shopping appointment I have ever witnessed complete with their own Italian translator. As far as the vibe and style goes, imagine the most incredible Italian menswear pictures we’ve all salivate over on Tumblr and multiply that by around, I don’t know, 100. The place is very intimate (a plus) and Simone, who doesn’t speak any English (thankfully he his assistant does), is the definition of polite and accommodating whether you are shopping or merely browsing.

Milord ($$$) - Milord was recommended to us by a good friend in the clothing business who has pretty stellar taste so it should come as no surprise that it was solid from front to back. And we could actually afford some shit! They stock lots of great brands, some of which are available in The States, but usually in very small runs or not at all - think Boglioli, LBM 1911, Roda, Rota, PT-01, Santoni, etc. The in house brand is nothing to scoff at either. The private label sportcoats were pretty obviously manufactured by Lubiam, but they did feature exclusive fabrics. I ended up grabbing a Roda blousan that was on sale for just over $300 USD as it was not available in the US as far as I know. For those keeping score at home, I allotted myself one “big” purchase while in Florence.

Boggi ($$) -“It’s the Brooks Brothers of Italy”, our buddy said and it made perfect sense - an entire brand of classic menswear with reasonable pricing. Of course classic Italian menswear couldn’t be any more different from classic American menswear so that’s about where the comparison ends. Anyhow, the entire selection was wearable with highlights in outerwear, footwear and shirting. For those of you who love slimmer fitting sport pants (5 pocket cords, washed denim, etc.) look no further. I should also mention that Boggi is not specific for Florence. They have stores all over Italy, Greece and the Middle East so be on the lookout depending on where you’re traveling abroad.

 Gutteridge ($) - We stumbled into this spot on the very first day we were in Florence and were completely blown away. Similar to Boggi, Gutteridge was packed to the brim with solid menswear. I thought the quality wasn’t exactly on par with Boggi, but the aesthetics were just as on point. Then again, when you start getting into these lower pricepoints the dip in quality is to be expected. The best deals were cutaway collar shirts for $30 dollars and the perfect casual cotton sportcoat (patch pockets, 2 buttons, high gorge, side vents, working cuffs) in a full range of colors for $140.

Peluso ($) - You already know I saved the best for last. Peluso is a men’s and women’s shoe brand who also manufacturers made in Italy shoes for some high end brands/shops. Anyhow, here is what you need to know - made in Italy shoes in classic menswear styles for dirt cheap. I’m talking chocolate suede penny loafers for $49 USD (boom, snagged), blue suede Chelsea boots for $70 USD (boom x 2, snagged) and calfskin shortwings for $91. Peluso’s soles do leave a little to be desired however. While there are full leather soles, most shoes are on some type of rubber (knock-off Dainite, faux crepe, etc.) or rubber and leather mixture (probably the best of the bunch and definitely the most comfortable. The uppers, on the other hand, actually surpass the pricepoint, which is something that I am still trying to wrap my head around. Do they have own their own tannery? Secret Illuminati connections? Mafia shit ala Gomorrah? To be honest, I really don’t care when the customer is benefiting this much.  There are a bunch of Peluso shops around Florence, many only selling women’s shoes or a small selection of men’s so you want to hit up the main Peluso store on Via del Corso. "Too good to be true" is an understatement.

Final thoughts - My friend JD was once talking about Pitti and made the statement, and I’m paraphrasing here, “The great thing about Florence and Italy in general, is that you can get the entire 'look' at EVERY pricepoint”. After shopping the city for about a week I couldn’t agree more and we only saw around 40% of the menswear stores you’d want to shop at. The taste level here in the US is light years behind many countries abroad and it’s a shame. We, the customers, are the ones that suffer. We’re forced to lust after amazing clothes that we either can’t get or can’t afford. That’s not the case in Europe, especially not in Italy. So what can we do to rectify this? We need to educate ourselves and push our boundaries, both stylistically and otherwise. By doing something about this taste gap we can begin to close it.

I should also mention that we checked out a few other stores on our trip. Shops like Happy Jack, WP Lavori, Massimo Dutti, Luisa Via Roma and more. They all had something special or unique to offer, but I didn’t feel like I spent enough time there or made a purchase that warranted a comment. Hopefully I can get back here soon to expand this “guide”.