With today marking the start of the London Collections: Men and the 83rd edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence beginning tomorrow, it’s that time of year again as all the dominoes begin to topple on the Fall 2013 collections. Normally, I try to shy away from covering what goes on at Fashion Weeks, barring the occasional show that I attend here in New York, but Pitti Uomo is always tough to ignore. While, it’s my personal rule that I refuse to fly out to Florence for Pitti until I have a real reason to go (and the only real reason would be that it’s part of my job) that’s not to say that I don’t spend a good chunk of my days during Pitti, sitting at home sifting through the plethora of press that comes out of the trade show. Pitti is where all the heavy-hitters and up-coming brands in European menswear debut their upcoming collections, but what I really like about Pitti is that the brands aren’t targeted toward the high-fashion market that we’ll be seeing on runways for the remainder of this month and next. Instead, most brands are more interested in their legacy as a company, about building upon an aesthetic that people are familiar with. Pitti is about reinforcement, not reinvention, well, at least in the case of most brands that show there. As for the hoards of pea-cocking attendees (and hanger-ons) and the street-style frenzy that follows in their wake, well that’s an entirely different story.
One such brand that was brought to my attention at past Pitti’s and that I look forward to seeing more from at this year’s installment is Man 1924. The story of Man 1924 is one that can make the most jaded of menswear aficionadas get excited again, and it’s really all thanks to one man – Carlos Castillo. You might recognize Castillo from this shot taken by the Sartorialist a year ago, which came to be one of the definitive images of menswear in 2012, but Castillo’s personal style and the way it carries over into his brand goes much deeper than one frame. Man 1924 came to be when Castillo, at the ripe young age of 18 opened up the brand’s first store in Bilbao, Spain. For someone to open up a store and found a brand before they’re even out of their teens is no small feat, but Castillo was fortunate enough to have history on his side. The “1924” in his brand’s name is an allusion to his maternal grandfather Ambrosio Navares and the original “Man” brand that he founded way back in ’24. Castillo’s grandfather was a legendary figure in the Spanish textile trade, and that focus on pattern and feel has been passed down to Castillo, as a guiding principle of his designs. Man 1924 is set apart by their consistencies and colors, layering these beautiful tones and textures on top of each to create pieces that are as inviting as they are dynamic.
The closest comparison that can be drawn from Man 1924 is Brunello Cucinelli, and it’s not just because like Cucinelli, Castillo is his own best model. Similarly to Cucinelli, Man 1924’s entire look is very specific, and it’s in this realm of flecked earth tones, and prominent but not abrasive patterns that the brand really thrives. Castillo has a firm grasp on what he likes and what his personal style is and this is reflected throughout the entire Man 1924 catalog, but mostly the City and Sportswear diffusion lines. City leans closer to the Neapolitan business aesthetic, with soft-shouldered suits and slim cut trousers, while Sportswear is more casual and country, as exemplified by the tweeds, cargo pants, and barn style jackets that run throughout their lookbooks. Castillo, like Cucinelli, also favors layering to a point that comes dangerously close to being ridiculous, but somehow always narrowly avoids that categorization. Tossing on a herringbone sportcoat, over a forest green gilet, over an oatmeal sweater, over a striped shirt, and capping it off with red trousers and a pair of New Balance, might seem over-the-top, but the high-low, warm-cold, flat-bold, urban-rugged vibe that Castillo manages to cram into a singular look also encapsulates the spirit of his brand as a whole.
Man 1924, could be summed up using a word that I typically avoid like the plague, but I can’t help but return to when looking through the brand’s various lookbooks, and that’s sprezzatura. Castillo has found a way to the (oft-abused) descriptor for Gianni Agnelli, and other iconic Italians, and jump it over to Bilbao for what can only be described as Spanish sprezzatura. There’s a lot at play, but when it comes together it’s distinctly Man 1924, and somehow it just works. Sure, all of Man 1924’s models look like Castillo clones complete with their all-too-perfectly-unkempt facial hair, but the clothes themselves exude this air of wearability and personality that we all seem to be aiming for these days. It’s an aesthetic that is commonly looked for in Italian brands with names I can’t even come close to pronouncing (or finding anywhere in the states for that matter), but Castillo has managed to fly relatively under the radar and hit that sweet spot head on with Man 1924. While Castillo himself is no stranger to the limelight, I think this season’s Pitti is the year that his brand finally gets the fanfare it deserves.