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Backstage at HUGO SS18Photography Emily Malan

Voodoo, Basquiat and an M.I.A afterparty at HUGO SS18

The Basquiat-inspired collection kicked off this season’s Pitti Uomo in Florence

Pitti Uomo may be the cradle of menswear but like most places in fashion, gender boundaries are increasingly a thing of the past. Here’s what happened when HUGO opened the shows in Florence last night with a co-ed runway.

THE SHOW WAS SET IN AN ABANDONED TOBACCO FACTORY

HUGO took over the Manifatture Tabacchi, a vast 1930s Rationalist complex that has been empty since 1999. The runway ran through one of the courtyards, where Sebastien Perrin’s thumping soundtrack had blown a window during sound checks. Which seemed like an appropriate prelude to M.I.A.’s after party set.  

THE STARTING POINT WAS VOODOO AND BASQUIAT

The HUGO team had stumbled across old voodoo books that set off a series of scribbly prints that disrupted the tailoring. “Voodoo is almost like a subculture that has its own language, its own way of thinking. It’s almost its own world. This was something that intrigued us,” Bart de Backer, senior head of creative management & concept design for HUGO Menswear, told us before the show. The symbolism of voodoo also led them to Basquiat’s art and in particular his way of wearing tailoring in an unconventional way. “We’re really known for tailoring. It’s in our roots,” Jenny Swank Krasteva said, HUGO Womenswear’s senior head of creative. “But for Bart and me it’s interesting to kind of challenge that.”

HUGO’S MUSES AND CAMPAIGN FACES WERE FRONT ROW

Clara Deshayes, Anwar Hadid, Hari Nef, Olan Prenatt, Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis and Luka Sabbat had all flown out to Florence for the show – faces of a generation who embody the individualism HUGO’s new direction centres on. It was something that also echoed in the show’s cast where Paul Hameline and Selena Forrest walked. “We’re interested in people with their own mindset, who have their own point of view. They have something fragile but at the same time, they’re very, very strong individuals. Like Paul – he does his own thing,” de Backer said.

HUGO’S FIRST 1993 COLLECTION SHAPED THE SILHOUETTES

An oversize double-breasted suit with a strong shoulder from HUGO’s very first collection from 1993 became a central point for the collection but seen through a softer, more sensitive lens – like that of an artist. “We had this image of Basquiat wandering around the city, almost bent over. We took all of the construction out, almost undressed the suit. And then we moved the balance to the front to get that drapey long line,” de Backer said.

AND THE INNOCENCE OF THE 90S WAS FRONT AND CENTRE

It wasn’t just the shapes – oversize, baggy trousers and hand-painted organza slip dresses – that reinterpreted the 90s for now. “I grew up in the 90s so I’ll always love the 90s, but there’s something very simple about it and it’s quite poetic,” Swank Krasteva said, referring to the handmade feel of a lot of the canvas-like pieces. Backstage, de Backer also spoke of how the team had been working much more offline. “I have a lot of young people on our team who never knew a time without the internet,” de Backer said. “And I find it so interesting how focused they are at the moment on doing real research – going to the library, to vintage stores, finding real stuff. For me that actually motivated me. I think people are searching for authenticity.”