I visit Florence at least once a year and usually in the height of summer, to attend ‘Pitti’ but this year got off to a great start when I was fortunate enough to attend the Spring/Summer 2014 show, which is in the height of winter! Remember, in the fashion business we work at least 1 year ahead.


Getting out of the UK proved challenging, we were all knee deep in snow and flights and airports were all on shutdown, but the knitwear gods were smiling on me and I arrived in glorious sunshine with only the  slightest nip in the air. Sunglasses and oversized beanies were the dress code of all well-dressed Italians (and myself of course.)


I have to admit, I do get a little giddy at the prospect of handling swatches, gawping at colour cards and generally being privileged to witness the pushing of boundaries with yarns and the realisation of innovation. Perhaps this sounds a little strange, but I am sure any professional knitwear designer will agree with me that it all starts with the yarn. So, this is the place to be.


florenceSo, on with the show... I usually head straight to the trend area , which is always very esoteric and open to multiple interpretations. What would be the fun if they just told us exactly what to design?


The hall is lined with mannequins and carnival style music fills the air and projected on the walls are images of a celebration in full swing. The theme is clearly festivals and the bunting and petal strewn floor just add to the concept.


The knitwear on show reflects the mood of the room, with multi coloured (cultured) jacquard patterning and patchwork stitches. It’s all very eclectic and folkloric, a little bit ‘Gypsy couture’.


Nearly everything is multi-coloured and overworked in some way. The silhouettes are all layered and mismatched, intentionally creating a nomadic, tribal costume (no minimalism here).


There is a very strong hand crafted feel evident with hand manipulated textures; crochet inserts and the use of macramé and embroidery all playing their part in the artisanal creation of the pieces. It looks anything but mass produced, and the emphasis is clearly on individuality. Yarns with Lurex and metallic finishes added an antique quality to the designs making them feel like festival costumes from around the world.


The colour palette was certainly very upbeat, bright and cheerful as you would expect from a celebration  or street party. Clashing colour families were the order of the day. Highlights were neon brights of lime, tangerine and royal blue, contrasted with natural shades of ecru, khaki and cement brought to life with high shine and metallic or Lurex touches.


Visiting some of the top mills in Italy, I start to get a feel for what is important this season in terms of fibre qualities let me share my interpretation of 3 of the best in show.


florenceMillefilli is a very progressive Italian mill that excels at marketing itself and its yarns, always putting on the most creative show with really original stand concepts and yarn displays and equally as important the best after show parties! (That’s another blog trust me..)


Their theme this season was ‘cleaning’ and their stand was awash (sorry J ) with mops and sweeping brushes. Their colour palett  was a wall of coloured soaps that eager designers could have shaved into little bags to take home – genius!


florenceThey carried this concept through to their swatch displays mixing the yarns as though they were dish cloths and t-towels. I know this doesn’t sound very aspirational but I promise you it was executed in such a beautiful way. Their yarns as always were exquisite blends of cotton and linens and tape yarns being the stand out qualities; spun into terry boucles, multi-coloured caterpillar yarns, spring tweeds and summer chenille’s.


florenceSome yarns were printed and space dyed to create stripes and Ikat designs in the knitted fabric. A great optical black and white story acted as a palette cleanser to this busy story.


Knitted structures were cleverly designed to mimic crochet and lace, with transparent yarns and burn out techniques.


florenceNext on my list was ‘Lanercardate’, a mill that boasts to being 350 years old this year. Although not always a regular on my list I was drawn in by the women knitting on a carpet of colourful crochet outside their booth. As always this mill has stayed true to its roots and produces only natural fibres. Particular standout qualities were their 100% lamb’s wool/angora plied up for hand knitting and their corded cashmere in beautiful natural shades. As if my visit wasn’t memorable enough they gave me a little gift of a hand knit kit to knit my own I-phone cover. Readers note the cover was dutifully knitted, even before I hit the hotel room, with some of my own modifications of course!


florenceAnd finally Del’ oilvo showed the most innovative collection of linen and cotton blends, mixed with multi-coloured lurex thread and treated with metallic, high shine finishes, a genius move to update these summer staples.


So, with a heavier suitcase than I arrived with and a sketchbook brimming with ideas, I left Florence hoping Easy Jet would take pity on me with my bulging bags, a lot heavier on the way back than they were on the way over. Now I am patiently waiting for my yarn cards to drop through my letterbox, so I can get started on designing spring summer 2014, only  161 sleeps until Pitti Filati autumn winter 2014/15 show!


For more images from the show follow this link