Pitti Q+A: Raffaello Napoleone

Meet the man behind Italy's buzziest fashion event.
Reading time 4 minutes

Who is the man behind Pitti? Raffaello Napoleone, the bi-annual trade show's CEO, is responsible for one of the most dynamic weeks in menswear each season. Through his vision, for four days in January and June, the notion of what is possible in the infamously stuffy confines of men's fashion is blown up and re-ordered. By bringing in artists from across the industry and the globe to Florence for the fair, he has made it a can't miss stop on the fashion merry-go-round that continues to dazzle and confound. We spoke with him in the Fortezza da Basso, a converted medieval fortress and the location of Pitti each season, about the state of Pitti, what he loves about putting it on, and the week's unexpected guests. 


How is the week going?

Very well, [I'm in a] very good mood. Fortunately, the weather isn't so bad as we thought it would be!


I wanted to ask about Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, being at Roberto Cavalli last night. It was one of the more interesting moments of the week here at Pitti. What did you think of that?

I was seated very close to him. He was here for the first time for four days. The place where he was staying which I know quite well, was a private place, and the director called me and told me Tim Cook was here and asked me what was going on at Pitti. He [Cook] knew about Pitti. Which I think was probably because of Angela Ahrendts, SVP of Retail at Apple and formerly of Burberry. So we spoke, and we had never met, but he had asked about Pitti.

This is a story I like very much. It means we are much more known than I expected. We are not anymore a trade show, we are a lifestyle appointment. We have a big foundation that sets up exhibitions, publications. We deal with the best contemporary creative people; designers, architects, music makers. We hate when the majority of the images from a trade show are of the people queuing, the booths, etc. Also here, it is a medieval fortress. It's perfect because we are forced to do a strategy completely out of the concept of a trade show. We decided to turn a weakness into a strength. 

Where do you see Pitti now and where would you like to take it?

Now it is not a trade show, even though it is the core of the business, but we started 30 years ago to add all of these elements. To digitize it. We also have a company Fiere Digitale that takes pictures, about 70,000 pictures per edition.

People stay an average of 2 days, international stay 2 nights maybe 3. We are trying more and more to add all the elements, that turns our menswear, adding fragrances, bicycles. What you see that you like when you walk into a shop. We try to set up here and the fortress and here in Florence, what we personally. I'm not a fashion person. I'm not crazy about the Balenciaga shoes. 


What is the best part about putting on Pitti for you?

The positive perception from buyers, press, and exhibitors the fact that they arrive here with very high expectations and that they go back home richer than when they arrive. Not richer just in the pocket, but richer of contacts, ideas, emotions. This is what satisfies me the most.

Seeing or hearing people walking in town, speaking about Pitti, speaking about the context…I've seen this, or discovered this. It means that it is a statement of modernity, of interest, of good investment you do when you are here. The disaster is when you go back home and when you complain. Here they cant complain…or maybe they can complain about the traffic, but that's about it! 

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